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Is Teamwork the Key to Simulation Driven Design?

References Cited

Mechanical Computer Aided Design (MCAD), Mechanical Computer Aided Engineering (MCAE), Product Data Management (PDM), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)

Back at the beginning of December, I published a post titled The Very Real Skillset Challenges of Simulation Drive Design. It identified four main areas of knowledge or skills needed to really make a simulation driven design initiative successful including. It also looked at some typical engineer roles and their ability to gain and keep these four types of skills or knowledge. While that post identified some problems, it certainly didn’t propose any solutions. I’ll be interested to hear feedback on this one. I think this might have some .

Unreasonable expectations for individuals, but for the team?

Unless you can hire and retain a team full of super-engineers with all four skills and knowledge, it’s probably going to be difficult to successfully drive a simulation driven design initiative. But that doesn’t necessarily mean this type of initiative is doomed to failure. While it might be difficult to find these skills and knowledge in a single individual, it is far easier to find them spread across an entire team. In fact, in the last post, we found more than enough of the four skills across three stakeholders: the engineer, the designer and the analyst. That makes things far more feasible from a simulation driven design perspective but also sustainable from a staffing perspective. But there might be some other consequences.

What’s individual-to-team shift mean for enabling technology?

An individual-based simulation driven design initiative is all about ease of use. Most simulation toolsets have focused on either on assistance guides, improved user interfaces or advanced adapt-for-the-novice technology to make simulation tools easier to use. These tools are also often embedded within CAD software to reduce the requirement that the user know another software application. Instead they can use one: CAD. And furthermore, training sessions, online help and more guides are geared towards addressing gaps in engineering science and the computational methods used.

However if we switch over to a team-based simulation driven design initiative, the enabling capabilities of a simulation ecosystem might look very different. Here’s a rundown on how different existing technologies could fit in.

  • Simulation Data Management (SDM): For a precedent, PDM is often necessary to track the configurations of CAD assemblies, to avoid writing over conflicting changes to CAD models and sharing amongst global teams. In this scenario, SDM could be used to ensure everyone on the team is looking at the latest and most accurate information, to enable reviews and markups and sharing amongst global teams. However I don’t think it’s every been positioned as an enabler of Simulation Driven Design. I think this type of system could be advantageous but not necessarily required.
  • CAD and Simulation Visualization: At least one stakeholder in the trio would have little experience with Simulation software: the engineer. They would need the ability to review both CAD embedded design intent, simulation model setup as well as review simulation results. Others in the trio could also use visualization tools for quick reviews instead of accessing heavier and more complex CAD and simulation applications.
  • Social Computing: An important and advantageous capability in a team-based simulation driven design initiative would be offline and intermittent collaboration. The likelihood of getting all three of those stakeholders, the engineer, the design and the analyst, into a single room for update meetings would be difficult to schedule and inefficient. Social computing tools, which are increasingly being incorporated into PLM systems, could well be a life-saver in this scenario.

I have to be honest, when I first started thinking about today’s challenges to simulation driven design, I certainly didn’t think an feasible answer would include social computing. It’d strike me as funny if, after all the buzz about social computing in other scenarios, it’s biggest benefit would be in simulation. Who would have thought?

Sound off…

I’m interested to hear your perspective. What’s your take? Is reliance on an individual to perform simulation driven design realistic or unreasonable? Do you think social computing could enable team collaboration around simulation driven design? Sound off and let me know your thoughts.

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading.

Chad Jackson is an Industry Analyst at Lifecycle Insights and publisher of the engineering-matters blog. With more than 15 years of industry experience, Chad covers career, managerial and technology topics in engineering. For more details, visit his profile.

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  • The bulk of the hardcore CAE work will remain in the hands of specialists who are unlikely to learn CAD. This = team based simulation driven design. Today, most companies taking this approach, however, end up doing design driven simulation.

    There is also a quite viable market for simulation tools targeting Design Engineers. On an engineering team of 20 people who fit that bill, you’ll probably find 3 who will actually adopt these easier to use tools. The rest will be too busy with other responsibilities or just never trust their own skill enough to maintain usage.

    [side note: I don’t believe “CAD Embedded” makes nearly the difference that some would have you believe. That’s like saying a TV with a built in VCR and DVD player is better than buying separate, best-in-class devices that speak to each other equally well.]

    If you determine that there is real value in getting the other 17 team members to engage personally in simulation, it’s going to require a totally new toolset. What the mid-range CAE tools call “ease-of-use” is not nearly adequate. These people need a much lower level tool that’s as easy to learn and use as Twitter. It should be a customized “go no-go” style app created specifically for the class of products they design. Very limited input, very limited (and specific) output.

    Then, you get that CAEapp as a requirement in the product development process. That means it shows up as a milestone on your GANTT chart, etc. It’s a quick, first pass test that, if failed, escalates the case to the CAE specialists.

    Looking at it from that perspective, I do see valuable pieces around SDM and Social Computing strategies.

    • Jeff, thanks for the comment. What do you mean by design-driven simulation? Is that where the simulation is meant to be more of a validation and verification of design choices already made as opposed to using simulation to drive design choices?

      I agree that the simulation type of activity needs to start showing up more as a formal part of the design phase. And I think that points back to the what Derrek was saying. You need an engineering manager with the leadership and people skills to make that sort of cultural change.

      Have a great holidays!

  • The bulk of the hardcore CAE work will remain in the hands of specialists who are unlikely to learn CAD. This = team based simulation driven design. Today, most companies taking this approach, however, end up doing design driven simulation.

    There is also a quite viable market for simulation tools targeting Design Engineers. On an engineering team of 20 people who fit that bill, you’ll probably find 3 who will actually adopt these easier to use tools. The rest will be too busy with other responsibilities or just never trust their own skill enough to maintain usage.

    [side note: I don’t believe “CAD Embedded” makes nearly the difference that some would have you believe. That’s like saying a TV with a built in VCR and DVD player is better than buying separate, best-in-class devices that speak to each other equally well.]

    If you determine that there is real value in getting the other 17 team members to engage personally in simulation, it’s going to require a totally new toolset. What the mid-range CAE tools call “ease-of-use” is not nearly adequate. These people need a much lower level tool that’s as easy to learn and use as Twitter. It should be a customized “go no-go” style app created specifically for the class of products they design. Very limited input, very limited (and specific) output.

    Then, you get that CAEapp as a requirement in the product development process. That means it shows up as a milestone on your GANTT chart, etc. It’s a quick, first pass test that, if failed, escalates the case to the CAE specialists.

    Looking at it from that perspective, I do see valuable pieces around SDM and Social Computing strategies.

    • Jeff, thanks for the comment. What do you mean by design-driven simulation? Is that where the simulation is meant to be more of a validation and verification of design choices already made as opposed to using simulation to drive design choices?

      I agree that the simulation type of activity needs to start showing up more as a formal part of the design phase. And I think that points back to the what Derrek was saying. You need an engineering manager with the leadership and people skills to make that sort of cultural change.

      Have a great holidays!

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  • Not sure there is a topic more near and dear to my heart. In my experience, those companies/orgs that maximize the potential of simulation driven design are those that have vision and resilience to make it happen. Often, it requires an engineering leader (mgr/director) that “gets it’ and more importantly, makes it a requirement in their design teams. Easier said than done, right? So these unique eng leaders need to find the talent within their existing team or reach outside and bring someone in that either has the experience or the chops to make it happen. I am painting a rosey picture of the ideal situation. There are certainly variations and levels of degree of making this happen.

    In the end, eng teams and leaders cannot be content with status quo. Step back, look at your existing people, your existing process- is it sustainable? I’d bet 80%+ of the companies out there could improve their position in the market. 80%, that’s alot of companies. Simulation driven design can’t help all of them, but certainly can help ALOT!

    • Derrek, thanks for the comment. You’re right. Engineering leadership definitely has a lot to do with making simulation driven design, or any other similar type of effort actually work. Unfortunately, I think that engineering, more than other organizations, suffers from promotion of super-individual contributors into managerial roles. Often they might not have the right people or leadership skills to pull this sort of thing off. Hmmm… that might actually deserve its own post.

      Have a great holidays!

  • Not sure there is a topic more near and dear to my heart. In my experience, those companies/orgs that maximize the potential of simulation driven design are those that have vision and resilience to make it happen. Often, it requires an engineering leader (mgr/director) that “gets it’ and more importantly, makes it a requirement in their design teams. Easier said than done, right? So these unique eng leaders need to find the talent within their existing team or reach outside and bring someone in that either has the experience or the chops to make it happen. I am painting a rosey picture of the ideal situation. There are certainly variations and levels of degree of making this happen.

    In the end, eng teams and leaders cannot be content with status quo. Step back, look at your existing people, your existing process- is it sustainable? I’d bet 80%+ of the companies out there could improve their position in the market. 80%, that’s alot of companies. Simulation driven design can’t help all of them, but certainly can help ALOT!

    • Derrek, thanks for the comment. You’re right. Engineering leadership definitely has a lot to do with making simulation driven design, or any other similar type of effort actually work. Unfortunately, I think that engineering, more than other organizations, suffers from promotion of super-individual contributors into managerial roles. Often they might not have the right people or leadership skills to pull this sort of thing off. Hmmm… that might actually deserve its own post.

      Have a great holidays!

  • John_Parry

    Where CAD embedded simulation tools have the edge is in SDM. You only ever operate on the design, rather than a copy, so problems associated with interpreting stale results don’t arise, plus the data for the simulation is stored as part of the CAD model itself, and so benefits from any PLM system in place.

    In the alternative approach you transfer geometry out of the CAD system in Parasolid format. You then lose the feature tree, which makes it harder to simplify the geometry for the analysis (if that’s something you want to do), but more critically you can’t take any changes made to the geometry outside the CAD system back, so they have to be re-created back in CAD. Another aspect of this is that the boundary conditions, etc, used for the simulation are only loosely associated with the original CAD model so changes made to the geometry can break this, so parts of the simulation model have to be re-created when the Parasolid model is re-exported at the next design iteration.

    This does not seem to me to be two separate best-in-class devices that speak to each other equally well…

    • Good points John.

      You’re right in that CAD-embedded CAE (both from a UI embedded within the CAD application as well as the CAE model and results in the CAD model) certainly does make it easier to manage as artifacts. The only real capability that you might need to add to PDM is the ability to access those results in PDM, as PDM often doesn’t recognize that ‘stuff’ is in the CAD model itself. The second scenario you describe is also very legitimate though. That is how more of the expert analysts would work as they need more capabilities than what CAD embedded CAE has to offer. Managing that scenario definitely has difficulties.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • John_Parry

    Where CAD embedded simulation tools have the edge is in SDM. You only ever operate on the design, rather than a copy, so problems associated with interpreting stale results don’t arise, plus the data for the simulation is stored as part of the CAD model itself, and so benefits from any PLM system in place.

    In the alternative approach you transfer geometry out of the CAD system in Parasolid format. You then lose the feature tree, which makes it harder to simplify the geometry for the analysis (if that’s something you want to do), but more critically you can’t take any changes made to the geometry outside the CAD system back, so they have to be re-created back in CAD. Another aspect of this is that the boundary conditions, etc, used for the simulation are only loosely associated with the original CAD model so changes made to the geometry can break this, so parts of the simulation model have to be re-created when the Parasolid model is re-exported at the next design iteration.

    This does not seem to me to be two separate best-in-class devices that speak to each other equally well…

    • Good points John.

      You’re right in that CAD-embedded CAE (both from a UI embedded within the CAD application as well as the CAE model and results in the CAD model) certainly does make it easier to manage as artifacts. The only real capability that you might need to add to PDM is the ability to access those results in PDM, as PDM often doesn’t recognize that ‘stuff’ is in the CAD model itself. The second scenario you describe is also very legitimate though. That is how more of the expert analysts would work as they need more capabilities than what CAD embedded CAE has to offer. Managing that scenario definitely has difficulties.

      Thanks for commenting!

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