Since being promoted recently to head up engineering for all The Holland Group operations — including Holland Binkley, Holland Hitch and Holland Neway — Jack Gisinger has been working to integrate what had been three divisional staffs into a single corporate engineering department charged with “working as a team with a global focus.”
Engineers are benefiting from the reorganization, according to Gisinger, by gaining “the ability to share more resources, more knowledge. Previously,” he explains, “our engineering research functions were separate from one product area to another, even if we were all working in the same direction.
“Now,” he continues, “we can coordinate better, working through one R&D center and just three design centers — there's one for each main product division, suspensions, landing gear, and fifth wheels, pintle hooks and couplers.”
Gisinger says he is already “quite pleased” with the integration of the engineering teams. “Previously, we had a lot of little niches going. Now everyone has the fleeing they are part of a larger, focused group.”
He says a key benefit of this closer coordination is more effective — and more rapid — adoption and transfer of new technologies across product lines.
“In particular,” he says, “we're seeing faster application of technological innovations. For example, our new No-Lube fifth wheel uses a unique coating process that we are also beginning to transfer to our suspensions and pintle hooks for use where severe wear is an issue. Using the coating in certain high-wear spots might allow us to use a lower-strength material for less cost while not sacrificing durability. That's the kind of thing that is now easier to look into.”
Along with speeding technology transfer, Gisinger expects integrating engineering will help foster a systems approach to the components Holland.
“It's now easier for our slider and suspension engineers to work together toward more systems development on the truck side,” he points out.
“A project we had already started on has gained momentum with the reorganization,” Gisinger continues. “We're investigating the possibility of joining the fifth wheel and the suspension in a single system. Today, of course, both are add-ons to the chassis. What we're looking at is a systems approach to the chassis, suspension and fifth wheel.”
Gisinger says systemizing the chassis and components could take weight out of a vehicle and provide a means to more closely “tune” a suspension to the ride characteristics demanded by a specific vocational application.
“By viewing things with a systems approach and more centralized philosophy,” he points out, “we can more readily see and apply the potential benefits of various technologies. Unfortunately, separate teams tend to have separate focuses.
“For example, just as our fifth wheel team moved toward a no-maintenance product with the development of the No-Lube model, we are now applying the same approach to our landing gear and suspensions, examining what new ways we can use to reduce routine maintenance of these components. What we'd like to do is design a system that the customer does not even have to touch for three or four years.”
“We are innovators when it comes to our products and the technologies we work with,” Gisinger remarks. “But we must also be prepared to be integrators if other companies have valuable ideas. I also hope we will see more partnering between suppliers and the OEMs for everyone's benefit. Five to ten years from now,” he adds, “we may see OEMs integrating with suppliers to ensure the best design.”
Each month this column looks at emerging truck technology issues through the eyes of a leading engineer.
Name: Jack Gisinger, Vice President of Engineering, The Holland Group Inc., Holland, MI
Background: Gisinger joined The Holland Group in 1980 after spending eight years at Ford Motor Co.'s truck group. In his 22 years with Holland, he has held various positions, including four years as general manager of the company's European operations. He most recently was vp-engineering of the Holland Hitch Div. Gisinger holds a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Illinois and an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan; he is a Registered Professional Engineer (PE).