Rapid market change drives faster product development

Ben Patel, Vice President, Clean Air, Global Research & Development, Systems Integration at Tenneco
Ben Patel, Vice President, Clean Air, Global Research & Development, Systems Integration at Tenneco

Responses from Ben Patel, Vice President, Clean Air, Global Research & Development, Systems Integration, Tenneco Inc.



What economies are your primary international targets for new investments and continued growth? 

Tenneco serves the world’s leading on- and off-road commercial vehicle and engine manufacturers, and sees significant growth opportunities in the BRIC countries as well as the Mercosul countries in South America, with Argentina and Chile now adopting emission regulations similar to Brazil.  Japan also represents a good growth opportunity for Tenneco as we have recently expanded our technical center in Yokohama, established our first manufacturing facility in Osaka, and new regulations are impacting both on-road commercial trucks as well as non-road engines produced in Japan. 



What government regulations, standards or bills were passed in the past year that most affected the way you do business and go to market? 

Several recent examples of regulations that present growth opportunities for Tenneco include US Tier 3 in the US and Euro 6C for light vehicles, and China NS VI in China.  The decision to maintain the timing of the global International Maritime Organization MARPOL Annex VI standards for marine applications was also an important development.

The current U.S. EPA greenhouse gas regulations for commercial vehicles cover model years 2021-2027, and apply to semi-trucks, large pickup trucks and vans, and all types and sizes of buses and work trucks. Phase 2 standards in model year 2027 are: Class 8 tractors: Up to 24% emission reduction; Vocational vehicles: 12-16%; Commercial pickups and vans: 16%. While these proposed standards do not mandate the use of specific technologies, they help serve as a driver for Tenneco’s efforts with Waste Heat Recovery (WHR) technology. The company has a broad-based approach to WHR solutions and we are investing in technologies today in order to be ready to meet the needs of this market, so that we can provide multiple solutions for our customers to meet these regulations when they become final.



Has your company recently diversified into any new markets with its existing product portfolio?

Emissions regulations are a fundamental growth driver for Tenneco, and we expect increasingly stringent regulations around the world to continue to support the demand for new aftertreatment technologies.  


Any new products on the horizon for new markets to broaden your market reach?

As global emissions regulations expand to marine vessels, Tenneco has developed our first marine and stationary power systems and in 2014 launched our first complete marine SCR aftertreatment system.  



Are you seeing a shift toward overall part reduction and system simplification? If yes, how are you participating in this movement? 

Customers are always looking to simplify designs to lower costs and meet packaging challenges.  Tenneco’s system integration expertise is one way we help our customers reduce complexity while maintaining performance and robustness in system designs. 


Where are overall vehicle electrification and hybridization efforts taking us as an industry? Where are the technology lags that still need to be developed in order to reach the end goal?

Hybridization trends are a more near term trend than full electrification simply because cost effective full electrification is still awaiting a significant innovation in battery technology to become a mass market reality. 


What technologies on the horizon will affect your existing and future product development? To support the current focus in industry on improved fuel economy and reduction in greenhouse gases,

Tenneco is developing several waste heat recovery products to recover energy from exhaust gases.  For example, Tenneco is actively developing critical components necessary for Rankine Cycle systems, and Thermoelectric Generator systems, both of which are likely to be industrialized in the next 5-10 years.


Have you seen a shift toward smaller equipment? Is that effecting your product offerings? 

The next round of regulation in Europe for non-road mobile machinery, Stage V, will for the first time cover smaller engines below 56kW.  This creates an incremental opportunity for many of Tenneco’s products, which due to their modular designs can be scaled down to address these smaller engines.


What are the key customer requests that are most driving technology and vehicle development? How? Today customers are very focused on low cost, lightweight, and compact designs in their requirements, and these three design principles are imbedded in Tenneco’s new product development methodology. 



What material advancements are influencing your product lines?

Lightweighting is a fundamental strategy Tenneco employs to help reduce harmful emissions and increase efficiency, meeting the needs of regulators and consumers alike. The company continually seeks innovative new ways to reduce weight in its emission control products. For example, the ability to join dissimilar materials, such as steels, alloys and titanium can provide a distinct light weighting advantage in the marketplace to help reduce emissions and improve vehicle fuel economy.

In the next decade we’ll see a shift towards the use of different types of light weighting materials and Tenneco will work to integrate those materials into our aftertreatment systems. Tenneco is very interested in partnering with other research and development organizations and learning what we can integrate into our manufacturing processes to help support advanced manufacturing techniques that ultimately deliver lighter, more fuel-efficient, cost-effective solutions.



How is your company participating in the information technology movement?  

Today Tenneco engineers routinely use computational techniques and predictive software tools to enable product design because this approach ultimate leads to faster development cycles, high quality designs, and lower development costs for our customers. 


How important is automation to your future outlook and design considerations? 

Rapid prototyping is a design principle that is core to Tenneco’s innovation process.  Therefore automation tools such as 3D printing are becoming more important in product development as the cost of using these techniques continues to decrease.



What education programs do you offer or participate in to help cultivate the next generation of engineers?

Tenneco is partnering with universities throughout the Midwest to develop sustaining relationships that aid in future career recruitment in the core sciences. The company is also actively collaborating with university engineering programs on long-term industry research projects, particularly in the area of emissions technology. Some examples of our partnerships include:

  • The Ohio State University, where Tenneco is a member of the Smart Vehicle Concept Center (SVCC), which focuses on the development of smart materials and devices for vehicle use. Tenneco works with the SVCC to participate in research projects, particularly for its elastomer business.   
  • Michigan State University where Tenneco is the industry partner for a research program that will study the reduction of greenhouse gases.  
  • The University of Wisconsin and Michigan Technological University are other centers for industry research projects.



What new challenges have arisen that effect the way you design or manufacture your product? How you do business? How you go to market?   

The unprecedented speed of change in the market is driving an ever faster pace of product development for lower cost, lighter weight, and more compact systems to meet the regulatory challenges facing our customers over the next decade.     

Tenneco is successfully addressing these challenges – using our extensive knowledge of the global regulatory landscape – to develop innovative clean air technologies that anticipate the needs of our customers ahead of the stringent emissions legislative timelines they face. We continue to invest in design, engineering and manufacturing capabilities to ensure we have the right solutions in place today to meet the needs of our customers tomorrow.