Interview #7 : Barry Wyerman from Janesville Acoustics

Seventh video interview with an acoustical consultant in the US ! My goal is getting closer ! This week, I am pleased to interview Mr Barry Wyerman from Janesville Acoustics about a whole different application of acoustics the usual ones on this website : acoustics for the automotive industry !

Tweet this interview !

Due to Janesville Acoustics policy, it won’t be a video interview, but Barry has still accepted to reply to my questions. If there are students that want to work in the automotive industry, this interview can help them ! In this interview, you will discover that engineering isn’t just about science in a competitive industry : you also need to do the most cost effective product to be chosen among all your competitors !

General Presentation

Janesville Acoustics

Janesville Acoustics manufactures fiber based acoustical products and molded fiber components for the automotive industry. It is one of the largest purchasers of recycled and regenerated fiber for these automotive applications. It has manufacturing operations in the US, Mexico, and Germany in order to serve multiple automobile customers through its nonwoven fiber acoustical products and molded fiber products. Founded in 1875, Janesville Acoustics is located in Southfield, MI.

Barry’s job in particular

Barry is the Manger of Research and Development and Acoustics. His goals are to develop new acoustical and new molded fiber products to meet customer needs, to support Janesville Acoustics customers by being an extension of their engineering function, and to validate cost reduction options for each current product.

He personnaly wants to deliver better cost effective designs and to have a better understanding of what is of value to a customer. However, he faces a simple but tricky problem : The Performance – Cost – Weight Triangle.

cost/weight/perforance triangle

No, you can’t have it all.

Why acoustics?

Acoustics was a subject within a physics and mechanical engineering curriculum that was interesting to him. He was a physics major in college and his undergraduate acoustics course in acoustics was more interesting than nuclear physics or other topics.

Oh, really ? 😀

It became apparent to him that graduate study was needed to build on a physics degree. His choice to study acoustics at the graduate level was prompted by his interest in this specialized field of science as well as the growing cultural awareness (at the time) of OSHA occupational noise exposure and aircraft noise levels near airports due to new engine designs. He studied this in detail at the graduate level at Penn State University (PA), which offers a degree in Engineering Acoustics.

His best project so far ?

His best project was to develop an acoustical carpet system for a mid-size domestic sedan for their second largest customer. This involved material testing and vehicle validation by the car maker. The project forced them to take a new approach and the success they achieved made it a rewarding experience. This was further reinforced by industry surveys that picked this vehicle as a leader in its class !

Janesville Acoustics plant

An example of the fibers used by Janesville Acoustics for their projects.

A Manger of Research and Development and Acoustics in particular

The profile of a Manger of Research and Development and Acoustics

According to Barry, the ideal candidate for an acoustical product development specialist would have 3 main characteristics :

  • A broad background in materials and engineering,
  • An expertise in acoustical testing and analysis,
  • A sense for cost effective design solutions that are critical in the automotive industry

About the last one, Barry adds :

Cost effective acoustical designs are the ones that succeed; every problem has an engineering solution but not all solutions are cost effective; those individuals who offer these solutions will be in demand.

But an engineer also needs to be a team player, but still able to take on an individual assignment, complete it alone, interpret results, and report back to the team. Finally, as Kenric said last time, we must have good communication skills.

A typical day in the life of a Manger of Research and Development and Acoustics

Daily tasks in Barry’s role require several different functions. These can include the design of a new material or product, the plan for trials at a manufacturing plant, the outline of a test program to evaluate these materials, the analysis of data, recommendations for further trials or tests, optimization studies to further increase performance or reduce cost, benchmarking against competitive products, engineering guidance to customers or colleagues, and a cost performance comparison of available fiber options.

As you can see, as a Manger of Research and Development and Acoustics, he has a role at every stage of a product conception. And since the automotive industry is very competitive, he has to take products from competitors into acount to make sure their solution is the best.

Janesville Acoustics plant

A worker is gluing fiber molds together.

Example of a project conducted by Janesville Acoustics

The initial mission

An automotive company wanted a lower weight and lower cost floor system to improve fuel efficiency of its new car without increasing the interior noise levels. Over a 6 month period, Janesville Acoustics developed prototype floor samples that were tested in the lab and in vehicles, with each prototype moving closer to the deign target for low noise level.

Challenges

The challenges were to correlate data from small samples tested in our lab to large molded parts of the same construction that were tested by the customer in vehicles. Using this information, continued improvement was made with each new design.

The Final result

The final acoustical floor design met weight, performance, and cost targets and is in production today. This also resulted in a patent for the design. With this project, the team learned that a development partnership helped achieve a successful design and that no one solution could that fit all requirements.

Janesville Acoustics plant

Molded fiber components ready to go !

Perspectives

His short-term projects

Short term projects that are underway include cost reduction of existing products using new materials to replace more costly materials and validation of new fiber materials that can replace heavier plastic parts. This is of interest to customers to further reduce vehicle weight, improve fuel economy, and achieve higher MPG.

His long-term projects

His long-term projects are to search out innovative uses of nonwoven fiber materials in new applications, in new acoustical designs, and in weight reduction possibilities for future vehicle. The goal is to develop a value proposition that is compelling for a customer to choose this design or this material over all other competitive offerings.

Janesville Acoustics plant.

One of Janesville Acoustics plant.

One more thing : Some tips for people like me

If you are a student like me and if you want to work in the automotive industry, here’s Barry’s advice for you :

  • Develop a broad base of engineering, materials science, chemistry, and physics that can be leveraged in the specialized filed of acoustical engineering.
  • Look into specialized study at the graduate level at a school that offers a curriculum in acoustics.

If you happen to make it to the end of this post, think about this interesting question Barry asks engineers :

Engineers need to understand basic principles and need to be creative in applying these principles; can they bring new ideas to the table?

One more time, thanks again to Barry Wyerman from Janesville Acoustics ! The project is under way, I will tell you more soon ! But that will be for the next post !

Thanks for reading and tell me if you spotted any English mistake =)

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