Rolls-Royce Ghost

A symbiosis of emotion, legend and perfection
The body of a Rolls-Royce must meet very high standards. The challenges which have to be overcome in order to guarantee the best possible ride comfort include specific requirements for stiffness, strength, acoustics and vibration characteristics. The standard by which everything is measured is the best possible product quality. This enables the company to do justice to the philosophy of the Rolls-Royce brand and to achieve maximum customer satisfaction. As a selected development partner, Bertrandt provided support for the process of developing the new Rolls-Royce Ghost and became deeply immersed in the world of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

The editorial team spoke to Axel-Artur Poweleit (left), project leader for bodywork and equipment on the Rolls-Royce Ghost at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd. and Oliver Frosch, head of project management and project manager for the Rolls-Royce Ghost at Bertrandt AG, on the subject of a very special development project.

Collaborative model

Bm:  Axel-Artur Poweleit, the Rolls-Royce brand is a legend and the Ghost is the latest Rolls-Royce model to take to the road. The press referred, among other things, to “concentrated collaboration between engineers and designers”. Bertrandt was given the opportunity to provide you with support as a development partner during the creation of this challenging and emotive product. Which criteria did you base your decision on when choosing Bertrandt and what was your experience of the collaboration?
 
Axel-Artur Poweleit:
  The special challenge for us is living up to this automotive legend. From the very beginning, Charles Rolls and Henry Royce always wanted to build the very best car in the world and Henry Royce defined this aspiration from his own perspective, from the perspective of an engineer. Today, we remain committed to these original principles. A medium-sized company like Rolls-Royce Motor Cars cannot, of course, undertake large projects solely on the basis of its own resources. Therefore, we look for what we believe are the best partners for each project to provide support for our development teams. We are convinced that Bertrandt was the best partner for this particular project, in line with Henry Royce’s philosophy “Take the best that exists and make it better”. We ensured that Bertrandt shared our understanding of the process of developing a Rolls-Royce. Of course, only our customers can then decide whether it really is the best car in the world.

Bm: The project activities were based on a mirror image principle. What were the benefits of this approach?

Axel-Artur Poweleit: The development of the Ghost was an international project with core teams at different locations in Great Britain and elsewhere in Europe. One of the focal points for the bodywork was Munich. At the start of the project, the mirror image principle was the ideal approach to our collaboration with Bertrandt, because it ensured that both partners had the same knowledge base. As our development partner become more integrated into the Rolls-Royce processes and understood the responsibility involved, the employees acting as mirror images on the Rolls Royce side increasingly took on the role of consultants and our partner was soon able to carry out some of the tasks which formed part of the processes independently.

Bm: As a result of the process chain responsibility, Bertrandt was also your partner for technical supplier management. Can you give us some examples of this?

Axel-Artur Poweleit: Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has more than 400 suppliers throughout the world for the Phantom family and now for the Ghost. It relieves us of a huge burden to be able to work together with a partner that is also involved in the development of components and that has taken responsibility for technical supplier management in collaboration with us. Particular examples which are typical of the Ghost include the retraction mechanism for the Spirit of Ecstasy, the radiator grille concept and the panorama roof with threepart sun protection system, which is unique in a saloon of this class. These components demonstrate a high level of quality and maturity and provide excellent functionality.

From the original concept via development for volume production to the final cohesive product function

Bm: Oliver Frosch, what, in your view, were the challenges involved in technical supplier management in the areas which Axel-Artur Poweleit has referred to? What specific requirements did Bertrandt have to meet with regard to the development of the bonnet mascot, the radiator grille and the panorama roof? These components make a major contribution to the design, but at the same time must also function perfectly.

Oliver Frosch:
Bertrandt was given the task of technical supplier management. We were responsible for the process as part of the modular concept. For some system suppliers it was a paradigm shift to receive technical specifications directly from the development service provider.

Our main objective was intensive simultaneous engineering within the process chain, in order to meet the high levels of customer expectation placed on a Rolls- Royce. In the case of the Spirit of Ecstasy, for example, which is a Rolls-Royce trademark, it was essential that the retraction mechanism offered a high level of perceived quality and functioned silently and dynamically when raising and lowering the mascot, as this also contributed to its overall appearance. The result was the need for very close coordination with the process partners.

The imposing radiator grille also had to be designed to interface perfectly with the surrounding components in order to create a harmonious overall image of the front of the car. In order to highlight the depth of the grille, it was manufactured from a range of deep-drawn stainless steels. We were able to work very constructively with the new system supplier and extracted the maximum possible benefit from the physical forming parameters.

These examples demonstrate how Bertrandt can meet the most demanding technical requirements and, at the same time, take a disciplined approach and show a readiness to integrate as part of the modular structure of the work. We were also able to manage the project throughout the entire process chain by coordinating the level of maturity of the components in an intensive, focused way, while simultaneously meeting challenging deadlines.

The spacious panorama roof and the newly developed, unique, three-part sliding roof panel also presented challenges in terms of function and appearance, in particular with regard to ease of opening and closing, watertightness and look-and-feel. In order to guarantee that the roof could be integrated into the body at the specified milestones, Bertrandt decided to choose an active resident engineering approach to project management on the supplier’s site. The resulting short communication channels and the detailed change management process enabled us to meet the high quality standards required.

For the final validation of the retraction mechanism, the radiator grille and the panorama roof in the assembly process, we worked in close cooperation with our process partners at Goodwood.

Bm: Axel-Artur Poweleit, your chief designer Ian Cameron summarised the concept of the Rolls-Royce Ghost as “forward- looking, modern, elegant and dynamic, with the unmistakable features of the luxury brand”. On the basis of what he has said, it would be interesting if you could describe a specific example of the development process and I have one in mind: the side frame and the coach doors. Were there special development requirements in this area?

Axel-Artur Poweleit:
The coach doors have become a defining feature of the current Rolls-Royce portfolio, including the Phantom family and the Ghost, since we reintroduced them for the Phantom saloon. In addition to the impact that they have when they are opened, they also make it much easier to get into and out of the car elegantly. The technical implementation of the doors was a major challenge for our joint team, right from the beginning. The design, the dimensions of the car and the technical constraints placed on the side frame from a steel drawing perspective had to be brought into line in order to allow the side frame to be manufactured in one piece and the coach doors to pivot. The process suitability of the side frame was called into question several times, but the desired result was achieved because of a combination of high levels of expert knowledge, simulation tools and hardware validation.

Bm: Oliver Frosch, can you describe the internal development and validation of the project at Bertrandt using the example of the side frame and coach doors? It would also be interesting to hear about the specific procedure in terms of process and project management. To what extent did Bertrandt have overall responsibility?

Oliver Frosch:
In order to meet the objectives, the mirror image organisation that has already been described involving the Rolls-Royce employees and Bertrandt was set up and the teams worked together using a unique process which was specific to the project.
 
The process management function involved redesigning processes on the basis of the specific conditions at Rolls- Royce and the exclusive manufacturing concept. These processes were then put into practice using the modular approach alongside the design of the components. Subprocesses from the BMW Group were also taken into consideration.

The one-piece side frame and the coach door concept were developed using a newly designed tool process of this kind, which allowed the developers to take full advantage of the benefits of dimensional stability at the joints and to meet the high-precision surface and watertightness requirements. The members of the team worked closely together on the development and validation of the components as part of the bodywork process chain, taking into consideration the criteria specified for the vehicle as a whole.
 
Alongside the Spirit of Ecstasy and the radiator grille, the coach doors are another iconic Rolls-Royce feature. The challenges faced by the developers included the tolerances for the procedure of closing the front door after the rear door, because of the position of the hinges of the coach doors on the C-pillar, the importance of ease of entry to the rear of the car and a continuous door holder concept, together with the high quality automatic locking process. In addition to the design and close coordination with the suppliers, we took on responsibility for testing, electrical systems integration and preparation for sign-off.

Bertrandt’s project management function was responsible for the coordination and operational management of bodywork and equipment within the project. The company’s role was evaluated by means of regular acceptance procedures involving the process managers at Rolls-Royce. The mirror image organisation enabled the interaction between the Rolls-Royce procedures and Bertrandt processes to be constantly synchronised and improved. However, the decisive factor in the success of the project was the high level of motivation shown by every individual member of the project team.

Summary

Bm: Axel-Artur Poweleit, the Rolls-Roycem Ghost has been in production for nine months at the Goodwood plant. When you look at the Ghost today, it represents perfection. I would like to ask you to focus on the joint work on the project from the same perspective. In your view, is there potential for improvement in this area?

Axel-Artur Poweleit: Perfection is one of our defining corporate values. Henry Royce highlighted this with the call to “Strive for perfection in everything you do”. This is the benchmark for our day-to-day work and, of course, for the car itself. Every Rolls- Royce must represent perfection. At the end of the joint project, we carried out an analysis of the collaboration and a process partner survey. Both produced very good results.

Bm: Can I ask you what, in your opinion, makes Bertrandt stand out? Would you recommend Bertrandt to other organisations?

Axel-Artur Poweleit: Our motto of “desire and perfection” was the guiding principle behind the project. It is an accolade in itself to be part of the development team for a Rolls-Royce and to provide the necessary high levels of performance. We have achieved this on the Ghost project with Bertrandt, our internal process partner, and with our suppliers. In my view, this means that Bertrandt is qualified to work on new projects.

Bm: Oliver Frosch, when the project reached its peak, up to 85 Bertrandt employees were involved in the development of this prestigious car. What was your impression and that of your colleagues of working on the project?

Oliver Frosch: For all of us at Bertrandt, being part of the process of designing a car for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars was highly motivating and a clear demonstration of the company’s trust in us. Both the internal Bertrandt processes and the new skills we developed because of the large number of employees involved were constantly adapted to the requirements and expectations of our customer using accompanying continuous improvement processes.

The partnership and cooperation along the entire process chain of the Rolls-Royce departmental and project organisation and within the Bertrandt project team has contributed to the creation of an elegant car which meets the highest standards. At Bertrandt, we are pleased to have been able to provide services for Rolls-Royce. On behalf of the Bertrandt management team, I would like to thank Rolls-Royce Motor Cars and Axel-Artur Poweleit for the high level of trust which they placed in us.

Bm: Axel-Artur Poweleit, could you finally tell me about the highlights of the car from your personal perspective?

Axel-Artur Poweleit: For me, the highlight is simply the overall appearance of the Ghost. I love the proportions of the elongated front end of the car, the elegant lines of the sides and the carefully proportioned, narrower rear end. It is a pleasure to travel as a passenger in the back of the car which gives a feeling of security and comfort. At the same time the panorama roof and the view through the windscreen create a sense of openness and light. But the best thing of all is to drive the Ghost yourself.

Bm: Thank you very much for giving us these interesting insights into the project and into the exciting world of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.