MAN Truck & Bus

A man sits at a table in front of a screen

MAN Digital Hub: Tomorrow´s Updates Today

On its path from commercial vehicle manufacturer to provider of smart digital transport services, MAN Truck & Bus is receiving support from its own MAN Digital Hub in Lisbon. A visit to this youthful technology metropolis.

A man sits in front of a laptop on a terrace

The roof terrace of the MAN Digital Hub in the central Saldanha district offers extensive views across the city. The hub’s product teams often gather around one of the large tables on the terrace for meetings or to exchange ideas over a cup of coffee. Anyone not wanting to work in the fresh air can retreat to a meeting room off the open-plan office or into one of several small alcoves.

July 2018 saw the founding of MAN Digital Hub as one of three technology units in the Volkswagen Digital Solutions IT Competence Centre. The workforce quickly grew to its current complement of 90 specialists in software development and operation. These teams develop software products exclusively with and for MAN Truck & Bus.

Portugal prevailed over Turkey and India as the location. Mainly because the education system at Portuguese universities is excellent in the subjects relevant to the hub. “Lots of graduates, naturally also means lots of potential when recruiting”, says Alexander Reuter, who heads the MAN Digital Hub. Other reasons for choosing Lisbon were its closer proximity to Munich compared to the other potential locations, the fact that salaries there are more favourable than in Germany and its vibrant tech scene with excellent English language skills. The Portuguese capital is seen as a new star in the IT firmament.

Digitally optimised hardware

“We are focusing on digital products and services that optimise the use of our vehicles”, elaborates Alexander Reuter. This includes a host of applications dealing with vehicle operation and maintenance, which can for instance be used to monitor battery charging processes or to book workshop appointments and activate features in the vehicle.

The developers are also working on update mechanisms that enable over the air updating of software and information in MAN vehicles, thus obviating the need for workshop visits. “Features on trucks and buses that can be activated over the air and on demand using a smartphone or laptop are an important topic for us”, states Alexander Reuter. “Online Traffic”, “Map Update” and “e4C Pre-conditioner” are three examples of such features.

There are also product teams in Lisbon working on improvements to the internal processes at MAN Truck & Bus. Alexander Reuter: “We’re assisting the sales division with further digitisation and optimisation of their processes, for example. Or there is also the software infrastructure that we’re establishing to embed the applications, such as back end systems for managing and configuring software in a vehicle, or for data transfer from a vehicle to the back end systems.”

Uncovering potential for innovations

Another significant project for the MAN Digital Hub is the vehicle data platform, which combines all data relating to the operation of MAN vehicles. “Analysis of this information enables us to uncover innovation potential for new digital services and products throughout our hardware”, explains Alexander Reuter. “Our goal is to ensure that our customers – from bus drivers to fleet managers – can always work as efficiently as possible.”

Lisbon–Munich: in constant exchange

In addition to the close daily exchange between the cooperating product teams in Lisbon and Munich, quarterly IT meetings are held to assure a smooth flow of information between MAN Truck & Bus and the MAN Digital Hub. “Our time is increasingly spent giving presentations on the hub’s current status and product introductions that are awaited with great interest at MAN Truck & Bus”, reports hub director Reuter. This year that included among others a presentation on the topic “MAN CoRE: Version Management in Engineering” and a look back at the first two years of MAN Digital Hub.

In the future, staff at the MAN Digital Hub also want to use direct exchange with local fleet managers and bus and truck drivers to develop ideas for digital products and their functionality. The corona pandemic prevented this from happening in 2020.

Learning, sharing, interacting

Collaborative and user-oriented development methods like design thinking or scrums are used when working on new services and products in the MAN Digital Hub. So-called agile enablers assist each product team to decide which methods will be most expedient. They support developers and product owners with the implementation of a product concept.

Employee experience manager Margarida Martins describes the working atmosphere in the Digital Hub as very relaxed and transparent: “Learning, sharing and interacting is the best description for our mindset”. And Alexander Reuter agrees: “We are open to the opinions of others and share our experiences – even when something doesn’t work out as planned. It’s precisely these situations that always teach us such a lot.”

Staff in the Digital Hub know they are on the right track with their mindset given the positive feedback from Munich. “We’re seeing more and more product enquiries from MAN Truck & Bus. I really didn’t expect we would have as many as 14 product teams collaborating here just two years after founding the Digital Hub. And we already have three enquiries for further digital products and five team extensions in the pipeline for 2021. “This proves how much trust our colleagues in Munich place in us.”

The photos were taken in the summer of 2020 in compliance with all hygiene and protective measures against Covid-19.

The number of project enquiries from MAN Truck & Bus is constantly rising. This proves how much trust our colleagues in Munich place in us.

Alexander Reuter
Senior engineer, director of the MAN Digital Hub

Text   Susanne Theisen
Photos   Costa Monteira

#Digitalization #Company
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