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For better automotive wiring harnesses: SPREAD visits COFICAB in Portugal

This is what happens when an engineering intelligence startup meets with one of the world’s leading automotive wire manufacturers

min read
Left to right: João Simões, Elke van Meegen, Hans Wölz, Teresa Forte, Daniel Metzinger, Philipp Noll, and João Cardoso

Wiring harnesses — the electrical systems that manage a vehicle’s communication signals — are among the biggest drivers of innovation (and thus complexity) for the auto industry. I’ve spent over a decade working on them during my time as an electrical engineer in Mercedes’ R&D department.

Since my time in R&D, I got connected with COFICAB, one of the world’s leading wires and cables manufacturers for automotive electrical systems. I’ve since gone the startup route, joining SPREAD to work on optimizing wiring harnesses and reduce a vehicle’s carbon footprint.

Recently, we got the chance to meet with COFICAB and visit their manufacturing plant and R&D Center of Excellence in Portugal. They showed us everything from research to design, to manufacturing, to the expedition of high-precision copper wiring systems.

We’re super grateful to be able to visit with an organization that has such in-depth expertise in such a complex field. While getting to know the COFICAB family better, we were impressed by their deep knowledge, cutting-edge tools/machinery, and company culture that focused on people and promoted a strong internal family — the Coficabians.

In our discussions, we learned that sustainability is a big focus, which COFICAB approaches with an open mindset. Such shared goals and beliefs are a strong basis for future collaboration.

They walked us through all processes, from the copper reception to the finished goods expedition, which obeys a strict control plan to guarantee the best possible product for their customers.

"Did you know that, for some vehicles, the length of copper wire inside one car can reach 5x the height of the Burj Khalifa?"

We discussed exactly how we, at SPREAD, are helping automakers reduce their carbon footprint: by doing exactly what is defined and required, without using excess copper in the design process. Every ounce of raw material we prevent from having to pull out of the ground, or being extra weight on a car, is a benefit to the planet. To this end we focus on one of the biggest manufacturing industries in the world: the automotive industry, and the wiring systems that are behind every screen, panel, and light in your car.

The automotive industry is under pressure to improve sustainability and reduce costs. But currently, companies along the value chain are approaching this problem individually. We won’t have a significant impact at a global scale unless we find a way of collaborating with transparency, accountability, and solution-mindedness.

A key element of collaboration across companies, industries, and generations of technology is standardization. As we focus on standardization, we build upon decades of rules-based wiring processes that are the foundation for finding the most efficient use of copper within a vehicle. It is important to us that the highest level of competence is used when bringing these all together, including at the wiring manufacturer level, to bring the best to our customers, and their customers too.

There is a huge potential here. A sustainability-driven collaboration between companies like SPREAD and COFICAB would create a win-win-win scenario for all stakeholders along the automotive supply chain; from the developers of engineering software to the automotive OEMs, the wire harness manufacturers, down to the wiring manufacturers themselves.

Going vertical can lead to the discovery of otherwise untapped value, and opportunity to make significant improvements on the industry’s sustainability efforts. Working more closely together simply makes sense. We’re a startup that develops software for optimizing wiring usage, and the market leading wiring manufacturer with a global reach.

But why would COFICAB want to partner with SPREAD? Because wiring harness design has remained relatively unchanged for decades; until today. There’s a lot of untapped and wasted potential to make this ultra-complex, essential part of any innovative machine a lot more efficient & sustainable than it is now. And that’s what we want to change.

We are always aiming to be better tomorrow than we are today: from gas guzzlers to electric cars, from coal plants to wind farms, and from a throwaway culture to a circular economy. Striving to be better tomorrow than today is not just human nature, it’s humanity’s nature, and we’ve found our specific, joint purpose in that.

So that’s what we discussed in just one short afternoon while walking through a factory in beautiful Portugal. Imagine what we can achieve with a long-term collaboration!

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