The Lockwood Report

INTEGRATION TAKES A NEW TURN
 
Well, I’ve been waiting for this one. Cummins and Eaton have combined forces to produce a powertrain package that will combat the idea that only fully integrated manufacturers can link engine and transmission efficiently. 
 
At the TMC annual meeting in Nashville, the two companies unveiled a new engine/transmission combo, saying it’s expected to deliver a 3 to 6% fuel economy improvement, lower preventive-maintenance costs, and total lifecycle cost improvements. The new product combines an Eaton Fuller Advantage Series automated mechanical transmission with new Cummins ISX15 SmartTorque2 ratings. You’ll be able to order it soonish, I think, and it will be in production this fall.
 
You may remember that I came away from last year’s Mid-America Trucking Show thinking hard about this very subject. It began when the idea of "virtual integration" — as opposed to simple vertical integration as practised by the likes of Daimler and other OEMs to one extent or another — arose during a Cummins dinner. One of the engine-maker’s executives was discussing the future of an independent company like his in a truck-making world increasingly given to deriving major components from in-house sources. 
 
I wrote about it in this newsletter last April, the 11th to be exact.
 
One of the key questions in this mix, I wrote back then, has to do with how well an independent component can mesh with others, especially in electronic terms. For its part, Cummins people said last year that it’s perfectly possible to engineer engines so that they mate "perfectly" with an Eaton or Allison or whatever other transmission electronically. And with the truck at large. 
 
Would all such companies share details of their proprietary software so that a ‘perfect’ conjunction is achieved? Of course, said one Eaton guy in response to my question. 
 
The opposite situation, of course, is evident in Volvo’s XE13 integrated powertrain and the Mack Super Econodyne equivalent. Both capitalize on intimate knowledge of in-house componentry to provide customers with improvements in fuel economy. Daimler is able to do the same, of course, making everything from the engine on back.
 
I didn’t see why a similar trick couldn’t be pulled off by independent component makers working together. Why not?
 
Fast-forward to a couple of days ago when the Cummins and Eaton folks were talking about their long standing collaboration. And they’re not blowing smoke. I know some of the engineers involved here pretty well, and they really have been closely aligned over the years.
 

Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to Trucknews.com.


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