Technological advancement and innovation is part of daily life at Punch Powertrain. Its inventions and patents offer key differentiators towards customers and are the crown-jewels of its Research& Development efforts. Over the past years the company is creating and nurturing an environment for innovation. Pascal Van Troost, Global Intellectual Property Leader at Punch Powertrain, explains how the company achieves this, from exchanging expertise to inventor’s dinners.
One of its globally celebrated inventions is Punch Powertrain’s unique take on the dual-clutch transmission. Dual-clutch transmissions aren’t new – they have been a part of the technology portfolio of many established companies for decades. Yet Punch Powertrain managed to offer a revolutionary new approach to it.
Punch’s engineers linked a planetary gear to one of the clutches, which results in a mechanical ‘pre-reduction’ in front of the existing ratios in the gearbox. This makes the system more compact, lightweight and uses less gears. This entire system, designated as DT1 and DT2, encompasses 24 patents in total.
A company like Punch Powertrain relies very strongly innovation. Its edge in the market is derived from its technological expertise, which makes it a key focus point for the entire organisation.
Training and remuneration
Which means Punch Powertrain heavily invests in making the company an environment in which innovation is encouraged and protected, through several approaches. “One approach is training our people”, says Van Troost. “We want to make them conscious about what is intellectual property and how you can look at your own product from this angle. We have a lot of engineers in our company, and their core task is to solve problems. Each of those solved problems is a potential invention and even a patent. But they don’t always look at their work in this way.”
Furthermore, the company incentivizes the inventive spirit. “A few years ago we have introduced an inventor remuneration and appreciation programme”, says Van Troost. “Essentially we reward inventors. If you create a patent, you will be rewarded for it. On top of that we organise a yearly inventors dinner, in which they are the centre of attention.”
Integrating various expertise in agile teams
What sets Punch Powertrain apart as an innovation powerhouse are not only policies. Spread over different locations, the company possesses a full range of expertise on different transmission/propulsion sub-systems, as well as on different steps in the development process. A seamless integration of this knowledge and capacities enables the company to achieve highly advanced system optimization, while reducing development time and cost.
The Punch Powertrain office in France, for example, possesses deep expertise on inverters, working with Formula 1 and E on the topic. They also produce their own state-of-the-art test benches. They often cooperate during projects with other locations, like the Eindhoven site, which has deep knowledge on DCT transmissions, to combine expertise and offer an optimized hybrid DCT solution.
“Teams at different locations, with different fields of expertise, work together intensely”, says Van Troost. “Knowledge is transmitted continuously. Our operations are very integrated, which stimulates innovation.” The same software and processes are applied across sites, while teams are often composed of experts from different locations. This ensures each team and project benefit from in-depth expertise on each sub-system, while working in a flat and agile organisational structure.
“The entire development cycle happens inside the company, from the early design phases to the after sales”, concludes Van Troost. “By combining full expertise on all sub-systems, such as design, but also testing and production, we can offer a fully optimized solution to our customer, with great flexibility to their specific needs.”