- The direct shift module (DSM) – the control unit that takes care of gear pre-selection between parking, reverse, neutral, and driving (abbreviated: PRND) – increases comfort and safety
- Since 2004, Continental has been manufacturing the system in Bebra for European premium brands and is one of the leading suppliers of this technology
- The Hessian site, where the automotive supplier provides jobs to about 1,000 employees, sets itself apart with its high level of quality
Bebra, Nürnberg, March 6, 2015. Electronic controllers play a key role in automobiles today. But normally the driver hardly notices them and only becomes aware of them when they come into operation. It is a different story with the direct shift module (DSM) for automatic transmissions. When a vehicle is equipped with this control unit from the automotive supplier Continental, you notice straight away since the classic gear selector in the center console is missing. This is because the DSM is a core element of the so-called "shift by wire" system where the PRND gear pre-selection is no longer transferred to the transmission by mechanical pulses but rather by electric pulses. That means that drivers can select the gear ratio without even taking their hands off the wheel – with stalk switches or rocker switches, for instance. This high-tech system, which increases comfort as well as safety, has been produced by Continental since 2004 in Bebra, Hesse. Initially, the direct shift module was reserved mainly for the luxury segment, but in the meantime European premium manufacturers have been using it even in the smaller vehicle classes. And the production volume is accordingly high – the five-millionth DSM has just rolled off the line in Bebra.
"The future of transmissions is clearly moving towards 'shift by wire,' and with the direct shift module, Continental has set the course for the future early on," says Rudolf Stark, Head of the Transmission Business Unit, which is part of the Continental Powertrain Division and headquartered in Nuremberg. "We have continuously improved the DSM since 2004 and are now a leading supplier of this technology. At the same time, our experiences in this area are also an important cornerstone of the comprehensive expertise that Continental can demonstrate in the 'shift by wire' area today."
The direct shift module is placed directly on the automatic transmission. It comprises the electronic control unit, which implements the driver's commands in milliseconds, and a so-called actuator, which is an electric motor that makes sure the gear changes are precise and smooth. Along with added comfort for the driver (and the extra space in the center console for other equipment elements), one of the advantages of the system compared to the conventional mechanical solution is the added safety features. For instance, the DSM can automatically decouple the transmission in case of an accident.
The considerable experience that the Continental factory in Bebra has with this technology is also reflected in the manufacturing quality. One key indicators of this quality is the error rate, which is measured in ppm (parts per million) in the automotive industry, and DSM production in Bebra produced an impressively low error rate of zero for entire year of 2014. "Along with this outstanding quality, our customers also appreciate the high dependability of the deliveries. We were even able to meet all additional requests right on schedule during the past year. That is thanks primarily to the high degree of motivation and the great commitment of our employees who were even willing to work on public holidays and weekends," says Commercial Plant Manager Sven Ott.
Continental is represented in Bebra with a total of five Business Units of the Powertrain and Interior Divisions (Transmission, Sensors & Actuators, Fuel and Exhaust Management, Commercial Vehicles, Body & Security). In addition to the direct shift module, the Transmission Business Unit produces a great variety of actuators here, which among other things are also used for controlling ultra-modern double clutch transmissions. Additional Continental products "made in Bebra" range from engine electronics components to fuel pumps as well as central locking systems and even air compressors for high-comfort seats. In total, the site produces about 30 million components per year that are supplied to carmakers around the world. On top of that, Bebra is an important development site and the global competence center for several Continental products. The automotive supplier employs about 1,000 people in Bebra, 200 of which are engineers.