Continental is among the leading automotive suppliers worldwide of brake systems, components and systems for powertrains and chassis, instrumentation, infotainment solutions, vehicle electronics and tires.

The Automotive Group of Continental has a presence in more than 170 locations. As a partner of the automotive and commercial vehicle industry, it develops and produces innovative products and systems for a modern automotive future.

Continental Automotive Singapore was established in 2007 in a seven-storey office building along Boon Keng Road. Singapore is now an R&D hub for Continental.

A new business unit set up here last year is Body and Security in the Interior division with a current staff strength of 64.

The Body and Security unit involves R&D management and system and requirements engineering for producing components of a car body, such as wipers, central door lock and seat control units.

Among the pioneers in the Singapore office is Mr Lew Swee Tat, PMP (Projec Management Professional), 39, a technical project leader. He says: “In Singapore, we are developing Body Control modules and Seat Control Units. My main responsibilities include planning and scheduling, as well as monitoring and control of the complete development phase.”

He manages a cross-functional project team of 24 engineers in Singapore plus other remote locations from project kick-off to finalisation, over a period that typically lasts two years.

More than just software

He switched from a software engineer to a project manager and leader about eight years ago and experienced a steep learning curve.

“In project management, it was more than just software. I have to interact with many cross-functional teams such as the purchasing, mechanical, electrical, software, testing, quality and production teams,” he says.

“It took me more than a year to understand how project development works.

“Now, I can tell you that a project is like a jigsaw puzzle. You will need to identify the pieces (work-packages) of your jigsaw puzzle (end product) and put them together piece by piece together with your team.”

Mr Lew, who graduated from the Queensland University of Technology, Australia, with a Bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering (second Upper Honours), took up the PMP certification.

“Two-way communication with the team is also important to keep them involved. Remember, if your team fails, you fail too. Teamwork counts,” he says.

Execution needs teamwork

Planning takes up the bulk of work in the beginning phase of the project. First, his team has to understand the project timeline and analyse the technical requirements from the customer to determine the effort required for each work package. This will enable them to estimate the effort and resources required.

After the planning and scheduling are accepted by the key stakeholders (customers and internal management), the project goes into the execution phase, developing the mechanical housing, the electrical design and software functions required.

In this phase, Mr Lew manages, monitors and tracks the progress of the project. Intensive testing has to be done to guarantee the quality and reliability of the product.

In the closing phase, all relevant data is analysed for “lessons learnt” and estimates are refined for the next project before the team celebrates the success of a project.

Learning to prioritise

The biggest challenge on a daily basis is prioritisation of work.

“Sometimes, you have two big issues escalated on the same day. We are racing against time.

“One of the ways is to delegate the task to the next best person to work on a possible solution,” he highlights.

“Despite all the challenges, it will definitely be rewarding near the end of the project where you see your ‘baby’ (product) born and go to mass production.”

The company is actively recruiting inspiring engineers to develop products in the Body Control domain.

Key qualities necessary to excel in his line of work include good communication skills, a positive attitude and leadership skills to induce good teamwork spirit.

“Don’t be afraid of challenges as you will find satisfaction in the process. Making mistakes is part of the learning process as long as you don’t repeat them. Also, never give up, always stand by your team and strive together for the common goal,” he says.