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.