Sitting under the hood of every new car—and many older cars made since 1990—is the engine control module (ECM). Often referred to as “the car’s computer,” it usually employs the most powerful and expensive microcontroller in the vehicle.
The ECM manages the engine’s ignition, fuel injection and emission systems. It determines where to set the throttle, how much fuel to inject into the cylinders and when to fire the spark plugs. In fact, without the ECM, a car would not be able to meet modern fuel efficiency and emission requirements.
But like all auto components, the ECM sometimes fails. When this occurs, an auto owner can replace the bad ECM with either a new one or a remanufactured one to save money.
A remanufactured ECM costs less because it requires no casting or manufacturing. Also, most of the materials required are already supplied by a failed ECM, which is completely disassembled and thoroughly inspected to identify any broken or near-broken connections.
Detroit Diesel Remanufacturing, a division of the Daimler AG family, remanufactures ECMs at its DMR Electronics facility in Hibbing, MN. These ECMs are also upgraded with new hardware or software.
Recently, DMR began using a TTC data collection system from Cogiscan Inc. to monitor the preassembly, assembly and packaging of ECMs for on- and off-highway diesel engines. The system uses proprietary hardware and software to track, trace and control module assembly—from its initial substrate bake to final packing.
“We use it to collect serial numbers, manufacturer part numbers, and lot numbers for our live and historical data,” says David Rhode, plant operations manager at DMR Electronics. “Specially designed routings validate material input and ensure [product] quality through all assembly steps. Plus, the system’s interface integrates well with our surface mount technology equipment, automated optical inspection, and X-ray, in-circuit, leak and specially designed functional test systems.”
If a product fails a test or inspection step, it is prevented from moving to the next operation until repairs are completed and it passes a retest. The system also interrupts production if incorrect or expired raw materials reside at any operation.
All raw material and component lot code data, operational route history and quality control results are associated with an individual product serial number. This enables DMR to know and report the complete as-built history for each ECM that leaves the facility.
The TTC system has benefitted DMR in many ways, including reduced lead time, cycle time, changeover time and data entry time. It also has reduced DMR’s inventory, work in progress and paperwork between shifts.
Besides ECMs, DMR designs, manufactures and remanufactures wiring harnesses and other industrial electronic components. These include vehicle body, transmission, braking system and HVAC control modules; instrument clusters; and audio amplifiers.