Democratizing CAE: Lessons learned from an enterprise practitioner

The recent NAFEMS 2016 Americas Conference featured a rich mini-symposium on democratizing CAE. A highlight of the mini-symposium’s concluding session was a presentation of lessons learned from an enterprise practitioner, Glenn Valine, Director Engineering IT at GKN Driveline North America, Inc.

Last year we reported on GKN Driveline’s journey to democratize CAE with SPDM (Democratizing CAE with SPDM at GKN Driveline). “Our approach,” Valine described at the time, “was to create a virtual tool kit—one of three web portals inside a bigger system. This is the application that contains our standard calculation tools, both empirical and numerical.”

Source: GKN Driveline

GKN Driveline’s Virtual Tool Kit contains a broad collection of tools ranging from basic spreadsheets containing dimensional stack-ups, to the state-of-the-art computer-aided analysis solvers. “These GKN best-in-class tools were carefully selected and mutually developed with our worldwide experts to represent globally accepted standard methodologies and recipes within our Driveline engineering enterprise,” Valine explained. “They were not developed at a single site and mandated, and as a result adoption has been extremely positive.”

The standard tools can be accessed globally by the appropriate Driveline engineering staff registered within the system. In addition, GKN’s global CAE experts have direct access to the underlying engines of the tools, enabling them to evolve and extend the tool capabilities for subsequent use cases. “And then further to capturing the standard calculation tools within this tool kit,” Valine said, “process automation has enabled us to make CAE simulation available to the non-specialist users in a targeted and safe way. We called this democratizing CAE with SPDM.”

Lessons learned

Speaking at NAFEMS 2016 Americas, Valine presented key lessons learned:

1. Democratized CAE are not bolt-on’s to your existing Simulation group’s Way-of-Working:

  • They are part of a spectrum of approaches to augment simulation opportunities in your company.
  • They are about the role in your business, not simply changes in software technology (credit to Joe Walsh).

2. Engineer Analyst has a new important role:

  • Define, commonize and validate your worldwide processes/workflows before you start.
  • Your Experts need to be available for the duration of the project, deployments and non-Expert support.
  • The Engineer Analyst (Expert) is a new role that participates within a global team of Expert Analysts to:
    • Synchronize worldwide CAE knowledge, recipes and processes.
    • Lean up processes and drive new developments in one common direction.
    • New capabilities, efficiency, productivity will result.
  • These are the underpinnings of Democratized CAE!
  • You will likely realize that your existing Ways-of-Working/recipes are not robust and/or repeatable for process automation. Once you address this, you’ll have a much improved manual Way-of-Working as well.

3. Now how do we get to Democratization?

  • Identify your target user community—Product Development, Application, and/or Test Engineers.
  • Agree on a globally available delivery platform/application—Thick  / Thin / Web / HTTP / Tablet.
  • Present a user interface in the terminology that they already speak.
    • Design an intuitive front end/user interface and process that mimics the non-analyst way of working (i.e., resembles the physical domain).
    • The easier it is (e.g., less mouse clicks), the more likely the Democratized user is to become a self-starter.
    • Don’t make it too easy—offer enough technical capability, robustness and correlation to deliver accuracy/insight in order to expand the use of simulation in the product development process.
  • Consider bundling your Democratized Tool App’s into a toolkit.

4. Don’t underestimate the organizational challenge:

  • In a multi-site/multi-national operation, people will resist to keep their local way of working.
  • These business transformations will challenge some users; however, the overall effect will be positive for the organization once fully adopted and supported appropriately.

You could address this challenge by…

Formation of a Global Engineering IT group:

  • Experienced product development and process engineers, that are IT-savvy.
  • To handle your enterprise engineering Ecosystem of applications:
    • PLM/PDM, CAD, CAE, Democratized Tool App’s, etc.
  • Provide a bridge between the Experts, your external partners and your Corporate IT Group.
  • To translate your Expert knowledge and make it accessible through appropriate means to a broader group of users:
    • e.g., into templates for process automation.
  • Keep your Tool App’s relevant, as your product designs and processes evolve.

Your Corporate IT Group handles systems hosting, IT infrastructure, etc.

It is vital to have executive sponsorship for enterprise standardization projects, because…

  • Democratized CAE are medium- to long-term enablers of intrinsic value within your engineering organization, versus short-term cash generators.
  • Some key benefits and business value:
    • Non-Expert engineers can use complex analytical solutions, for standard use cases—safely!
    • Simulation process automation manages inputs and outputs.
      • Solutions are handled using input templates (ease-of-use) developed by Expert Analysts for non-Experts.
    • Each process step contains embedded rules and logic for the tool or use case (i.e., knowledge capture and reuse).
    • Global teams can manage interpretation of predictions—as required.

Our coverage of the Democratizing CAE mini-symposium will continue.