Reporting back from the 14th NAFEMS World Congress, Caterina Moro and Matteo Nicolich, from Esteco, ask where engineering simulation technology is heading?
Nearly 560 simulation professionals gathered in Salzburg on 10-12 June to answer this complex question, share their experiences and build a common understanding of the trends that will shape future engineering practices.
Co-simulation, data interoperability and re-usability, inter- and intra-organisational collaboration, high-performance computing systems, vendor-agnostic integration solutions and engineering skills nurturing were the main keywords of the 14th edition of the NAFEMS World Congress (NWC). The event offered four days of keynotes, parallel thematic sessions, courses on the most relevant simulation disciplines, and resulted in a lively networking platform completed by the exhibitions of many leading CAE vendors, and the perfectly targeted social events.
Keynote sessions opened with the speech by R. Sundermaier from Volkswagen, who brought an enlightening example emphasising what Tim Norris, NAFEMS CEO, said during the introductory speech: ‘great manufacturers are putting simulation at the centre of their business organisation’and grasping incredible revenues despite the economic downturn. Sundermaier explained that turning product development into a simulation-oriented process allows for a modular production platform that provides the required responsiveness and flexibility to stay competitive. Data re-usability and interoperability among all departments enable co-simulation, and help overcome current software limitations to the potentially unlimited hardware capabilities. Yet, the benefit of concurrent simulation and of data sharing considerably impacts not only the relationships inside single departments and organisations, but also the cooperation practices with strategic suppliers. This facet was emphasised by F. Popielas from Dana Corporation during his speech about the role of simulation in the delicate management of component integration along the entire supply chain. In fact, promoting the exchange of engineering competencies with core suppliers is of tremendous importance for capturing more added value from OEM and supplier consolidation trends; simulation solutions support manufacturers in managing joint projects for the development of systems and sub-systems design.
Nonetheless, shifts in organisational and working culture are far from being completed – while companies are slowly moving towards collaborative paradigms, a subtle resistance still prevents the adoption of technologies which would structurally enable such changes. This cultural barrier also applies to the development of multi-disciplinary simulation and optimisation projects, as explained by H.Hasselblad from Volvo. Experienced CAE professionals still tend to rely more on a trial-and-error simulation framework instead of trusting the improvements obtained thanks to software solutions that automate the search for better options. Hasselblad showed how a fine-tuned optimisation process is able to suggest modifications to the whole analysed system that correspond to the results of a ‘manual’ optimisation counting on personal skills and experience of engineers. Time and resources savings could already be there, but are delayed by the slow-paced rearrangement of working practices.
1st SPDM | Simulation Process and Data Management Conference
Beside the parallel tracks of NWC13 covering all facets of design disciplines, a special emphasis was given to the growing domain of simulation data and process management, with the 1st International SPDM (Simulation Process and Data Management) Conference held in conjunction with the NAFEMS World Congress 2013.
In his opening talk, Mark Norris from Infosys offered a comprehensive picture of SPDM advancements and introduced the term ‘SPDM 2.0’, identifying the current trends addressing the integration and configurability issues when approaching a SPDM project. Such solutions are evolving from customisable to configurable systems, eligible for vendor-agnostic integrations with the PLM platforms and simulation codes already being adopted by companies.
The case studies included in this insightful session testified as to the shift towards more open architectures, responding to the compelling needs of manufacturers when managing simulation processes. These needs include transferring and sharing data among departments and suppliers , reusing data and models for different projects, and verifying models compliance to a variety of procedures and regulations. The speeches given by Airbus, Rolls Royce, Ford, BWM, GM/Opel offered practical examples of the prototypes and solutions often elaborated in partnership with software vendors. Among these, the Airworks case study, dealing with energy efficiency improvement for a wind rotor, introduced the benefits of using a distributed execution framework for managing collaborative design processes, the newly released EES – Esteco Enterprise Suite. Further challenges arise from the need for highly skilled teams capable of providing ongoing services and support, the complex organisational changes, and the significant effort required by large IT projects in terms of time and funding.
The delicate topic of the distributed execution of simulation tasks still lingers as we strive to find a set of established methods, standards, and tools. There is still much space for improvement in this domain and only the technological solutions that would identify best practices for the management of distributed execution could open the way for an efficient exploitation of the computational capabilities offered by the IT market today.
High-performance computing emerges as another core theme deeply interrelated with engineering simulation. A full session of the conference was dedicated to this topic. Gaining know-how on the efficient implementation of such systems guarantees access to huge computational resources. HPC frameworks require rational management of a number of application-specific issues: secure access, distributed job execution, and the visualisation and extraction of large amounts of data generated by simulation software need a new set of capabilities.
NAFEMS launch PSE certification Scheme
Lastly, it is worth mentioning that NAFEMS dedicated this year’s edition of the World Conference to the launch of the PSE - Professional Simulation Engineer designation and scheme. This initiative sets the standards for the formal recognition of the skills and competences of simulation engineers. CAE professionals can choose between a web-based tracking and measuring framework, and an independent onsite certification provided by NAFEMS committees. These tools for multi-level tracking and certification could help large companies meet their expectations during the recruitment process, and enable talented simulation professionals to be found in a shorter time.