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Five Critical Principles On How To Effectively Manage Simulation Data

By Paul Lalor, Product Manager, SIMULIA Simulation can save significant amounts of time and money in product development. In today’s economic climate, quick product turnarounds and cost-cutting techniques are imperative, but if simulation results aren't managed properly, it could hurt your organization.

Simulation was introduced to the manufacturing world as a way to save significant amounts of time and money in product development -- and the earlier manufacturers bring simulation technology into the design process, the more costs they’re likely to cut. In today’s staggering economic climate, quick product turnarounds and cost-cutting techniques are imperative, but if the simulation results are not managed properly, it could be further hurting your organization.

Traditionally, simulation technology lives outside most organizations’ product lifecycle management (PLM) systems and tightly managed business processes. Also, the tools and data are often controlled by small groups of experts with the results stored on local hard drives, making it inaccessible to others. This leads to repeating analyses unnecessarily or the loss of valuable simulation results.

For simulation to be an integral part of the product development cycle, the associated simulation processes, authoring tools, data and resulting intellectual property must be managed, shared, and secured as strategic business assets.

In order to address these issues, corporations need to start looking at simulation as a valued corporate asset and incorporate a business strategy that will bring order to simulation, such as Simulation Lifecycle Management (SLM). This is similar to PLM as it ensures data integrity, traceability, and collaboration throughout the simulation lifecycle.

SLM assists organizations in leveraging their simulation assets more effectively and reaches a new level of efficiency that shortens development cycles, reduces waste, and improves product quality while fostering a collaborative and innovative culture.

However, incorporating SLM alone isn’t enough; in order to maximize the time and cost savings potential, there are five critical principles that need to be followed:

1. Improve Intellectual Capital
The purpose of simulation is to accelerate a company’s confidence and contribute to its intellectual capital in a product or process design in order to satisfy engineering targets. This intellectual capital is characterized and captured as a performance attribute, a record of a given design’s ability to achieve an engineering target as predicted by simulation, physical testing, or legacy know-how of the proposed product/process design. Often, multiple simulations are performed to determine if a proposed design satisfies an engineering target or a set of engineering targets. By managing these performance attributes, organizations can easily associate them with the appropriate products, processes, simulations, and engineering targets.

2. Employ Standards
Simulation data has intrinsic value to the company -- and the development and capture of best-in-class simulation techniques is essential to expanding its use and impact. Standard operating procedures that govern successful, reliable, repeatable methods for performing multiple types of simulation must be retained as valuable company assets. These standards enable the reuse of methods so that they may be leveraged, improved, and optimized in the future.

3. Retain the Right Data
Some simulation data is not retained at all. Either this data is relevant only during the execution of the simulation and can be discarded shortly after completion, or the data sets are too large to manage using conventional approaches. In the latter case, which is very common, sufficient simulation data is extracted and retained such that any discarded information can be reproduced at a later time if needed.

4. Improve Time-to-Market with Collaboration
Product development involves a number of different teams working together to make design trade-off decisions based on a variety of performance parameters, such as strength, weight, vibration and durability.  No product or process is created in isolation, and simulation typically impacts a wide spectrum of product and process design functions.

Often, the design changes suggested by the simulation results of one individual or team can be at odds with the direction suggested by other individuals or teams, whether they are simulation-related or not. Time-to-market will be a direct function of the efficiency with which a design team reconciles any conflicting constraints.

Cross-functional collaboration is possible by giving everyone in the development process access to the most current simulation results in a central, collaborative work environment.  This enables innovation and instills quality into product and process design under tight time constraints.

5. Add Accuracy and Repeatability
Integration of a diverse set of simulation applications and subsequent process automation creates a unified simulation environment that facilitates toggling between various systems to complete a task. Essential, best-in-breed simulation capabilities from relevant outside resources must be integrated with simulation data and processes.

Once all of the necessary resources exist in the same environment, simulation experts can link them together in automated workflows. Automating key processes adds accuracy and repeatability to simulation, which in turn improves quality and reduces time-to-market. It also allows the simulation community to expand to design engineers, freeing up the time of simulation experts to develop the next generation of robust simulation methods.

Simulation is sure to play a growing role in overall product design and manufacturing environments due to shorter product lifecycles, higher material costs, and the expanding role of international regulations.

With the increasing volume of simulations being performed, organizations are leveraging realistic simulation on a regular basis and need an effective tool to manage, share, and secure their simulation assets.

By implementing SLM and following these five principles, organizations can gain control of their simulation-generated intellectual property and transform the typically siloed information into a valuable corporate asset.

Paul Lalor is product manager for the SIMULIA brand of Dassault Systemes. For more information visit