Product Validation Engineer - Jenai Alexis
This article is from the “Cummins: All Access” series, a compilation of unique, reality-based stories featuring Cummins employees. The series is designed to give a behind-the-scenes perspective of Cummins employees as they develop their careers.
Being an engineer at Cummins means you get to enjoy the benefit of both failure and success on the job. Jenai Alexis, a product validation engineer and active National Society of Black Engineers-Indianapolis Professional affinity group member, is that kind of “big picture” guy. He realizes that solving issues through failing helps increase the longevity of Cummins world-class diesel and natural gas engines
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Jenai begins his morning on a conference call with the United Kingdom team to review testing data received for his prototype component, an off-highway
turbocharger. The data being discussed comes from research completed inside a Cummins test cell, a proprietary technical facility where only select engineering employees have security clearance to enter.
“Today, we’re documenting the technical profile of a failure mode investigation. The team looks at results that show how likely component failure is to happen based on the test cell research we have completed.”
After the call, he often walks on an office treadmill to review the testing performance, gather his thoughts and move the discussion into a revised action plan for the test cell and team.
“I spend time after the meeting looking for how difficult the failure is to fix and how efficient the component must be to prevent the breakdown. I’m always challenging our designs and analysing how it can impact our customers.”
The test cell is a controlled environment where an engine is connected to a dynamometer which is used to isolate specific levels of engine performance. It helps Jenai’s team gain real time understanding of what the engine would do under conditions like thermal abuse, artic conditions or tilted angles.
“Some test cells have 45 degree maximum angle tilts, just like how construction equipment operates in the real world. That helps us visualize how fluids inside the engine circulate and if external leakage with oil and coolant can happen under duress.”
Jenai’s turbocharger is consistently accelerated to peak performance levels during testing to examine speed, temperature and pressure under the simulated conditions. The goal is to push the component systems until they fail and dissect failure elements of the systems.
“The exciting part of failure mode is solving problems. If I’m in the middle of the program then I’m documenting our data results. If I’m at the end of the program, our technical writing and design reviews are being finalized.”
If a testing failure happens, the engineering team examines the component that did not meet quality standards. A redesigned component is replaced on the engine and the testing process starts over again.
“At the end of the process, completing the product validation is a tremendous achievement. You’ve tested the turbo over and over and you’re sure the quality standards have been met and known design issues have been fixed. It’s a great accomplishment to see the whole process through.”
After a busy morning, Jenai takes a lunch break with friends at a local restaurant near the office. It’s a small place where many Cummins employees visit and he receives several hellos from engineering colleagues he knows as the group walks to their table. It’s a nice break from the day to clear his thoughts and catch up with good friends.
After lunch, Jenai spends his afternoon preparing a technical update to be sent to the engineering team in China before he leaves for the day. He has an impromptu strategy conversation with one of his local colleagues to discuss the testing requirements to be sent to China and follows up the conversation with a conference call to a prototype component manufacturer. The manufacturer is part of the global collaboration that happens across the data analysis and problem solving methodology.
“One of the highest interaction drivers in our process is where the problem-solving and information gathering is happening. That can occur here, in China, or in the United Kingdom – basically anywhere in the world our turbocharger engineering team is collaborating.”
Cummins continuous improvement cycle occurs 24 hours a day. When Jenai leaves his Indiana office in the early evening, his project colleagues are often arriving at the office in Shanghai and Wuxi to begin their day. He understands how important his program leadership is to the Company and his impact on Cummins product development lifecycle.
“I love my job because I can communicate the technical analysis in simple, easy to understand events. You really get the chance here to display your global engineering talents and show everything you can do for the Company.”