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The Mopar Difference – Beyond the “Black Box”
When electronic control modules (ECMs) first hit the market in the early 1980s, mechanics often called them ‘black boxes,’ because most had no idea what was inside these magical, mysterious boxes, or really understood how they worked.
Today’s ECMs are monumentally more complex: Multiple processing units, giga-bytes of memory, high-speed CANBUS connections to ABS and safety modules are all included inside ECMs. And if you’re in the business of remanufacturing these systems, unless you have the factory specifications and latest software revisions, the ‘black box’ is probably still a mystery.
But if you have a direct line to the engineering teams, technical designs and proprietary software from the factory, you have a distinct leg-up on the competition when it comes to remanufacturing today’s incredibly complex ECMs.
That’s The Mopar® Reman Difference
The FCA US LLC technical headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, employs a team of experts who work directly with FCA US powertrain engineers to design a remanufacturing process that utilizes the latest manufacturing technologies and specifications. The two teams are so closely related that they share reliability and performance data between them. They even share facilities.
“We’re not the jack of all trades, we’re the masters,” said Mopar® Reman Product Line Manager Darin Potonac. “We have the inside track on all factory specifications, the latest software and hardware upgrades, as well as the latest manufacturing processes.”
In comparison, Potonac says, aftermarket remanufacturers use reverse engineering to guess at the component and software versions, as well as any statistical failure data and assembly processes.
In the latest release of the Global Powertrain Engine Controllers (GPEC) I & II, Mopar actually uses the same supplier with the same assembly and testing processes as the new parts, so they’re actually coming off the same assembly lines as the original ECMs.
“The new systems are sealed units and that’s a really critical process during reman. We use a robotic system to reseal them with new covers,” Potonac said.
Mopar Reman requires each ECM to pass vigorous temperature, vibration, water and software tests – the same tests they needed to pass when they were new.
The Power Behind Big Data
One of the major differences between the factory Mopar processes and aftermarket remanufacturers is data – big data. It’s something Mopar is able to mine from every unit that comes into the system. They merge it with the field service data FCA US keeps on every vehicle on the road, which helps determine statistical trends and technical issues.
“We mine a lot of data from these systems and compare that to our internal data to make instant decisions on what parts and software upgrades that particular unit might need, or even to rebuild it at all,” Potonac said.
That data also goes back to powertrain engineering and — working with the Mopar Product Quality Engineering (PQE) Team — the PQE team designs component and software updates, as well as what the company calls MRPs or, mandatory replacement parts.
“It’s a great feedback loop between powertrain engineering, our O.E. suppliers and what we see in the field,” said Mopar Quality Control expert Ralph Rulli. “If there’s any statistical evidence of a systematic failure we can nip it the bud.”
Rulli’s team also operates a toll free tech support center that provides free product support to repair facilities.
“We don’t just toss these products over the fence and tell them to go for it, we back them up. Even the do-it-yourself customers,” Rulli said. “And, we’ll call service managers direct, who might be having a specific issue and provide a specialist who can help them give the best service to their customers.”
“You can learn a lot from the technicians out there fixing the vehicles,” he added.
While their complexity might intimidate many, today’s ECMs and associated systems are statistically more reliable and more robust than ever. They’re the heart of a network of systems that must work in perfect harmony or the entire system can fail around them.