Fiat Counts on LMS for Speed and Efficiency

Time-effective design and testing enabled by LMS Test.Lab at the car-maker's multiple facilities.

Time-effective design and testing enabled by LMS Test.Lab at the car-maker's multiple facilities.

By Jennifer Schlegel

Fiat, which has improved the quality of its vehicles over the past decade by focusing on innovation and efficiency, found itself facing an ambitious release schedule of 20 new vehicles from 2007 to 2009. To meet that schedule, Fiat realized it needed to change the way it developed and designed cars.

Fiat Counts on LMS for Speed and Efficiency
LMS created this uniform on-the-road testing system especially for Fiat. The LMS SCADAS Mobile front-end is not only compact enough to slide right onto the dash of the Fiat 500, but its seamless connection with the LMS Test.Lab software also lets technicians and engineers set up automated test runs on-the-fly on their laptops.

One aspect of that change was to chisel weeks off the testing process. To successfully design and test cars like the Fiat 500 and the new Bravo in a speedy 18 months without compromising quality, Fiat altered certain aspects of its vehicle development chain. Starting in 2003, its noise,  vibration and harshness (NVH) engineering team migrated to LMS Test.Lab. The resulting configuration—a platform of 12 laboratory (including a dedicated fixed system in the wind tunnel) and 16 mobile field test systems (including a pilot project on the production line)—stepped up NVH engineering productivity while raising process automation and data management standards at the same time.

Fiat Counts on LMS for Speed and Efficiency
A Fiat 500 suspension and durability test rig model. The different colors correspond to different actuators at each of the four wheel positions.

To extend engineering capability and productivity in this engineering discipline, Fiat decided to convert its entire range of LMS CADA-X test solutions to the next-generation LMS Test.Lab platform.

“After executing Fiat-specific test processes using LMS Test.Lab,” says Giovanni Toniato, NVH manager at the auto company’s engineering and design department, “our NVH specialists reported a considerable increase of 25 percent in testing productivity and an impressive improvement of ease of use, both for laboratory and field testing applications.” 

With integrated report generation features including LMS Active Pictures in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint presentations, as well as customized templates and system-integrated formats, Fiat managers can access critical testing data and results without having to depend on a technical expert to extract or interpret any of the data for them.

“Thanks to a number of floating licenses, several key managers can access the vital LMS Test.Lab data they need right from their desks,” says Toniato. “They can also integrate a dynamic visual into a presentation or report. This immediate access to essential information saves valuable time for every team member and prevents unwanted bottle necks.”

Fiat Counts on LMS for Speed and Efficiency
An FE model of the body in white. The colors represent the different body sections.

Seamless NVH Data
To streamline the system for all the different labs, design centers and R&D locations, the local team at LMS Italiana customized the LMS data acquisition, management solution to meet Fiat’s precise needs. Besides standardizing templates and customized printing capabilities, it also included adapting the system to specific archiving rules and integrating a customized acquisition procedure so that users could easy match various procurement numbers with specifications from a dedicated list. Several dedicated modules were also customized locally to further close the gaps between the required specifications, the data acquisition process, and the actual testing process itself.

  Part of this system integration includes a dedicated solution at Fiat’s renowned Balocco proving grounds. Several LMS SCADAS front-end portable units combined with LMS Test.Lab Mobile software solutions are used. Because of built-in mobility, rapid test setup, online monitoring,  immediate visualization, and onsite report-generation capabilities, LMS Test.Lab Mobile cut the routine testing process from weeks to several days. In a crunch, the test team can opt to run tests on the track in the morning and analyze and document the results onsite in the afternoon.

“Traditionally, Fiat test drivers at the Balocco track not only perform the instrumental test, but they also integrate it with a subjective test,” says Toniato. “It can be challenging to prepare an error-free and easy-to-use procedure that lets our people concentrate not only on measurements, but also on their subjective impression.” 

To eliminate variables, like typing errors and miscalculations, LMS Italy created an easy-to-use on-the-road system that guarantees that every single measurement is done exactly the same way, matching the same parameters in the lab and on the track.


Optimizing Durability on Virtual Prototypes

At Fiat, the increased speed of vehicle development as well as the market demands for reduced emission levels and better performing,  lighter-weight cars point to the need for new ideas and innovative tools that can be easily integrated into the internal methodology and processes to drive new vehicle development and specifically anticipate fatigue life prediction.

There were several key technological factors in Fiat’s choice to use LMS Virtual.Lab Durability as a reference standard, such as intelligent filtering to reduce CPU time, strain life fatigue and stress life fatigue approaches, and implementation of gradient effects in fatigue life prediction.

On the graphic user interface side, LMS Virtual.Lab Durability is flexible when it comes to interchanging various linear and nonlinear FE data. Furthermore, it makes it easier to remesh the spot weld areas for the stress-based finite model approach.

“Working with a single open-platform system facilitates the work of all Fiat test operators, who regularly deal with varying NVH test assignments, covering classical modal, dynamic stiffness, transfer path,  acoustic response, and sound quality measurements,” says Toniato. “Through this open environment, we succeed in providing the freedom that is required to efficiently capture and perform any test assignment.”

  According to Filippo D’Aprile, the director of vehicle architecture and integration in Fiat’s engineering and design department, “the migration to LMS Test.Lab really paid off. We’ve been able to tailor it to Fiat’s broad user community with floating versions for our experts and locked-parameter versions for general usage. Our entire organization can now benefit from the same software for the lab and proving ground measurements, which significantly streamlines the process. Our experts only need to use one system. This cuts our training time and cost.”  

Besides the numerous solutions in the front-end of design,  Fiat is currently using a LMS Test.Lab solution in a production line pilot program in their Cassino, Italy, plant. Configured to match the exact NVH parameters in the lab and proving environments, the system re-measures various NVH parameters of cars as they come off the production line to guarantee overall quality.

“Thanks to our successful partnership with LMS, we’ve started to integrate LMS Virtual.Lab modules into our testing structure. We find the noise and vibration and correlation modules can really accelerate our processes. We also opted for LMS Virtual.Lab Durability as a CAE department standard as well,” says Toniato.

  By deploying LMS Test.Lab and teaming up with LMS to further streamline its NVH test processes, Fiat has succeeded in raising test productivity. At the same time, LMS Test.Lab allows Fiat’s NVH specialists to gain a deeper insight into underlying technical phenomena, providing validation at various stages in the development process. It has become an essential aspect of the company’s ability to develop high-performance, comfortable and appealing vehicles that people want to drive.

More Info:
Fiat Motors


Jennifer Schlegel works in the marketing department at LMS International. Send comments about this article to [email protected].

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