Vehicle design development is a multifunctional activity that involves a great number of people from different systems engineering teams with peculiar tasks that altogether leads to the final vehicle design intent. A new vehicle program requires detailed coordination, from the starting point until the program launching. The development process is established according to program complexity. A complete new vehicle with new body, trim, chassis and powertrain may require up to 40 months since the preliminary advanced studies through program approved until product launch. The process requires a large amount of investment to support personnel, prototypes construction, testing and etc. Program management has the responsibility of coordinating all activities and make sure all technical and support areas like marketing, finance, purchasing and manufacturing provide, on time, all information and deliverables required during the program development gateways. Another important program management responsibility is to define the total program budget, which is the total amount required for engineering, manufacturing facilities and tooling, supplier tooling and also launching the vehicle.
This paper describes the program management concept developed at Ford Motor Company. The basement of the management concept is the FPDS - Ford Product Development System. FPDS describes all major activities that must be performed in a vehicle development program, and is extensively documented and available online for all Ford employees. FPDS is based on three basic entities: the process - task to be developed in a particular time by a particular executor; the deliverable - the outcome of the process, and the gateway - a time mark where a number of processes must have been performed and a number of deliverables deployed. FPDS is of paramount help to program management team, since program management task becomes facilitating and assuring that all involved teams follow a pre-determined and well-documented process. It is also a powerful way to control the program by company senior management, since the program's health can be easily assessed by crosschecking the “must be” from FPDS with the actually deployed deliverables and performed tasks.