Leoni uses zonal architectures to reinvent the wiring system (short)

Lower overall costs, smaller CO2 footprint, and the potential for new supply chains and production processes

Kitzingen – Cost-efficiency, flexibility, and sustainability: Leoni is a pioneer in optimizing wiring systems development, production, and supply chains. The key to this is zonal architecture, which allows a higher degree of automation in harness production.

“Let's be honest: We cannot continue as before,” says Ingo Spengler, Leoni COO and board member. Even now, a wiring system consists of more than 100 control units and 1000 individual wires, and the trend is rising. “This is slowly pushing the limits of what can be reasonably handled in manufacturing and final assembly. This is particularly true given the trend towards autonomous driving and connectivity, which will lead to even more electronics and cables in the wiring system.” Spengler's conclusion: “We have to rethink the wiring system!”

The magical phrase here is zonal architecture. Researchers, engineers, and manufacturing experts at Leoni are dividing the previously large, heavy, and complex harness into several intelligently partitioned sub-harnesses. Each sub-harness is connected to a zone controller that independently performs certain sub-tasks. “At Leoni, we approach product and production holistically, starting with the very first sketch, to ensure maximum efficiency in development and implementation,” says Walter Glück, CTO of Leoni's Wiring Systems Division WSD.

The advantages for automotive manufacturers are wide-ranging. Wire harnesses for individual zones are easier to handle and thus increasingly amenable to production automation. Increased automation reduces the relative importance of labor costs, allowing manufacturing sites to once again move closer to customers’ plants. This lowers transportation costs and the carbon footprint, while simultaneously bolstering supply chain resilience to external disruptions. Automation also leads to better manufacturing quality and traceability of all production processes.

Last but not least, intelligently tailored sub-harnesses for assemblies such as for bumpers are very similar across different vehicle models, which allows them to be produced on one line. This minimizes workload fluctuations caused by volatile customer call-offs. In addition, they make final assembly of the wiring system at the customer's plant simpler and more flexible, enabling the OEM to reduce the total cost of ownership.

Greater functionality with less space and weight

The demands on wiring system are growing; an increasing number of functions and data have to be mastered in less space and with an increasingly lower weight. Leoni-WSD CTO Walter Glück: “With the zonal approach, we enable automotive manufacturers to design completely new wiring system architectures. According to our initial calculations, these new architectures are 10 to 30 percent lighter than current customer-specific wiring systems, while reducing overall costs for the OEM.”

Support for this concept from automotive manufacturers is demonstrated by the first order placed at Leoni for a zonal wiring system. The globally active customer and Leoni have jointly designed the wiring system in a way that allows the automated production of sub-harnesses.

Leoni COO Spengler is convinced: “The future belongs to zonal wiring systems. They offer so many advantages in development and production that they will become more and more established on the market in the coming years. We fully intend to be a leading player in this market.”