Raj Sohmshetty
Group Leader - Advanced Steel Technology, Manufacturing Research Department, R&A Engineering
" In advance of the 4th Lightweight Vehicles Manufacturing Summit 2017, Raj Sohmshetty, Group Leader - Advanced Steel Technology, Manufacturing Research Department, R&A Engineering, Ford gives us an insight into his thoughts about the conference and his presentation. "

1. Please tell us a bit about your background and your current role?

I have over 24 years of experience in automotive product development and materials & manufacturing research. I have a Masters in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA. Most of my career has been with Ford, so you can say that I am very loyal and love the company I work for! The earlier part of my career was in product development and CAE and later I moved to materials and manufacturing functions. I am currently a Group Leader for Advanced Steel Technology Research in Ford Research & Advanced Engineering in Dearborn, MI.

2. What has been the most interesting project you’ve worked on?

At Ford R&A, our goal is to anticipate industry trends and company needs, identify new technologies, evaluate and bring them to implementation readiness. So, any project that fits this general philosophy is of interest to me. With that being said, the projects that have most impact to the company tend to be cross-functional and cross-departmental efforts. For example, a recent project that my team worked on aims to improve material utilization in stamped assemblies. We helped in building a set of software tools and processes that are now used across the company globally to set material utilization targets, track status, share best practices, identify opportunities for offal reuse, and do this not at a part level but at the entire body structure level. Given that Ford buys billions of dollars of sheet metal every year, a small incremental improvement in material utilization leads to significant cost savings to the company.

3. What steel technology are you most interested in at the moment?

Like perhaps most of the other OEMS, our focus currently is on 3rd Generation AHSS and Press Hardenable Steels. We also recognize that future automotive structures are going to be increasingly utilizing mixed material technologies, so enabling mixed material joining along with forming of increasingly higher strength steels is of interest to us.

4. What role do you see steel playing in the automotive lightweighting going forward in comparison to the other materials?

An important role! Despite the trend towards mixed material body structures, steel will continue to be used in strength critical applications by default unless an alternative material is justified based on business or technical need. Selection of materials for automotive structures is a complex process involving trade-offs of function and weight saving goals not just at a vehicle level but at corporate level.

5. Without revealing too much, can you please tell us a bit more about your presentation at the next Lightweight Vehicle Manufacturing conference in Detroit?

My presentation at the conference is on an emerging topic – utilizing machine learning in manufacturing feasibility assessment. Automotive engineering teams routinely collect large amounts of data and use it to address the immediate project goals but little effort is made to leverage this data for building predictive models. Machine learning is increasingly playing an important role in almost everything around us and I believe there are untapped opportunities for leveraging this technology for guiding design teams with upfront manufacturing feasibility assessment. My team has been dabbling in applying machine learning to joining feasibility assessment and I would like to share some of our observations and results.

6. What are you most looking forward to at the event in Detroit?

I am looking forward to learning from other presentations and panel discussions as well as to networking with industry professionals.

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