Part 1: The Reporting Process
The term “democratization” is defined as “The action of making something accessible to everyone”. In today’s world, technology has made more and more information accessible to practically anyone who has a connected device with a browser. While each of us has access to more information than we can imagine, knowing what to do with that information is often limited by our training or expertise in that particular field. Without the necessary skills to understand the data, the results may be misinterpreted putting at risk any subsequent decisions.
As an example, today we frequently have direct access to our medical information online. If you’ve ever had tests taken, you’re generally able to access a summary of those results before the doctor has contacted you to review. These test results contain an enormous amount of information but without the medical background one can only speculate as to what those details are telling us. It’s clear that access to information alone does not ensure the understanding to make decisions based on that data.
Driving this need for data accessibility for manufacturing companies is the increased complexity of today’s products and processes coupled with the limited amount of time and resources to deal with this complexity. Costly and time-consuming physical testing is being dramatically reduced in nearly every industry and is being replaced with demands for extensive digital testing. In the automotive industry, as an example, vehicles are evolving from highly mechanical to software and electronics-driven innovation platforms. This complexity makes it nearly impossible to physically validate the exploding number of use cases that must be explored and places a much greater demand on digital simulation. This results in the need for greater collaboration and sharing of simulation data among design and development stakeholders throughout the extended enterprise.
The availability and accessibility of this simulation data is now, more than ever a critical need among manufacturing companies. To add to the complexity there are added challenges associated with sharing and collaborating on the data. In years past in-person reviews of critical product data were a common practice where stakeholders and experts from all development areas were engaged to provide insight into the data. This made it not only easier to share data, but more importantly it allowed for discussion and clarification of the meaning of the data, conclusions to be drawn, and critical product decisions made.
However, with the globalization of product development over the past several decades combined with the impact of Covid19, many more employees are now working from remote locations. The result is an increased need and desire to democratize simulation data to a much wider audience beyond the CAE specialists. But how do companies share this data today and how do they make it meaningful to those who are not expert CAE users?
While the world has evolved into a digital 3D process in nearly all stages of product development and manufacturing, the simulation world has for the most part remained 2D. A recent study by CIMdata titled “CAE Productivity and Effective Engineering Design Collaboration are Critical to Digital Transformation” examined how CAE data was being leveraged in companies today. When asked what tools and methods were used to document, communicate, and share CAE data the results showed that nearly 90% of the respondents used static, 2D images generated in PowerPoint, Microsoft Word, or as PDF files.
Generating CAE reports is the responsibility of the highly skilled CAE analysts within these companies. We discussed earlier the transition from physical testing to digital testing which is placing greater demands on simulation. Since there has not been an equivalent increase in analyst resources it is imperative for companies to find ways to increase the efficiency of these valuable resources. Examining this issue further the CIMdata study looked at how much time analysts spend creating sets of 2D PowerPoint slides for these reports. Of those companies that tracked this information, analysts were spending from 10% to more than 35% of their time generating these reports.
Because of the nature of these 2D static images which make up a company’s simulation report and the lack of simulation expertise throughout the company, it’s often hard for others in the organization to fully understand the impact of these results on their product’s performance.
Furthermore, the static nature of the 2D images limits further interrogation of the results requires manual interpretation to identify any potential key locations in the product. In most cases the lack of clarity in these images causes other stakeholders to request changes and updates to these reports which requires the already taxed CAE analyst to generate a new set of images. These updates inject more inefficiencies into the simulation process causing delays in critical decision making. The amount of rework these updates required along with the additional time spent to perform the update is spelled out clearly in the following CIMdata numbers.
In addition to the inefficiencies related to the use of 2D, static CAE reports, the lack of clarity or the inability to interrogate these images poses an even more critical risk. These reports now rely on manual processes for locating critical hotspots that may be occurring in the product. The opportunity for missing areas of concern grows considerably with the increased quantity of simulation data being generated and studied to understand these more complex products.
Up Next: Part 2 – The Solution