Nov 18 2014

Simulating Success in the A&D Manufacturing Industry

digital manufacturing can be used to simulate final product in aerospace and defense manufacturingAdvanced composite materials make up most of the wing, fuselage and tail for the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, plus a high percentage of the primary structures in other major aircraft in development. One look at Boeing and Airbus ideas for future commercial aircraft — blended wing bodies, structures that mimic bones, shape-changing flight surfaces and energy-capturing interiors — and the expectations for composites are clear.

Advanced composite materials are being developed to enable such products, some of which are not feasible with today’s materials. Manufacturing and especially development costs are barriers to such expanded applications, however. One reason: The decades-old building- block approach to certifying composites for use in aircraft requires thousands of costly physical tests.

Replacing at least some of these physical tests with virtual simulations (digital manufacturing) is emerging across the composites manufacturing spectrum as a promising method of documenting the effectiveness of new composite materials, advanced design tools and manufacturing processes faster and more cost-effectively. Few predict that computer-based simulation will eliminate physical testing altogether. But many see a future where simulation and computer-aided analysis play a significantly larger role in streamlining development cycles and reducing costs.

“Simulation tools can guide understanding of uncertainty in design and also how it propagates.”

Flattening the Pyramid

One example of virtual testing’s promise comes from the first spacecraft fuel tank designed to disintegrate upon reentry. The carbon-fiber composites design is made by Cobham Life Support in Westminster, Maryland (USA), for the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Global Precipitation Measurement Satellite. Thanks in part to extensive use of computer-aided design and testing, Cobham’s development program met all of NASA’s targets: cost, schedule and a host of demanding technical requirements.

Cobham’s process reduced the number of destructive tests by 50%, saving roughly $500,000 over the 38-month program. “Our testing and analysis worked hand-in-hand to improve efficiency,” explained Robert Grande, business manager for Cobham. “We fed real material properties from tests into the models and then used physical testing to validate the results as we iterated the design. Because our test results matched our analytical predictions, from subcomponents to pressure burst and fatigue testing on the full tank, we completed the full qualification by the time we finished the design.”

“Simulation tools can guide understanding of uncertainty in design and also how it propagates,” stated Dr. R. Byron Pipes, John Bray Distinguished Professor of Engineering, Purdue University.


This article is an excerpt, originally published in Dassault Systèmes’ Compass magazine, and was used with permission. Read the full article here.


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Nov 13 2014

Lessons for Manufacturers in Product Design from Modern Warfare

learning_product_design_from_modern_warfareIndustrial companies are often perceived as lumbering giants that have difficulty responding to competitive pressures and capitalizing on market trends. Design cycles can last years—not just for developing new products but also for making upgrades to the existing portfolio.

Why are many industrial manufacturers so sluggish? In my experience, these companies have traditionally relied on a top-down, linear process that moves projects through design gates, also called stage gates. The approach is often slow and bureaucratic, and its mechanical nature can stifle creativity.

Fortunately, there’s a better way. Industrial companies can take a page from the fast-moving world of software design and adopt a sprint-and-scrum approach. This iterative process relies on short cycles involving rapid design evolution and revision. The sprint is a period of concentrated effort, such as engineering or coding a module, by individuals or small teams. At the end of each sprint, stakeholders from the key functions come together for the scrum, where they review progress and clarify goals for the next sprint. The intense nature helps bring the organization together toward a common goal, and avoids the tedium that can set in with a long stage-gate process.


Lessons in Product Design from Modern Warfare—In Pictures

Click here to view this slideshow.


Leaders of industrial companies might worry that this approach won’t suit their complex needs. But a review of recent history shows that sprint and scrum predates the software industry, and has been used to develop many of the most complicated designs in human history. Consider the following examples:

  • The Supermarine Spitfire, which was the main Royal Air Force fighter aircraft during World War II. At the outset of the war, the British realized that to be successful in the Atlantic theater, the aircraft would need significant improvements. Between 1936 and 1945, it changed engines, its loaded weight doubled, and its maximum speed increased by 90 miles per hour. The rapid evolution of the plane was possible only because of its iterative design and testing approach.
  • At the start of the Cold War, Andrei Sakharov began designing the first Soviet thermonuclear device in 1949. After the device failed early performance tests, Sakharov and his team made two quick design iterations, resulting in “Sakharov’s Third Idea,” which led to a successful detonation in November 1955. The entire design cycle with three iterations was completed in only six years.
  • In the United States, the Saturn V rocket program started in 1961 with the seemingly impossible goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. To meet the timeline, the rocket’s three stages and instrument unit were developed in parallel by four companies, each of which further compressed schedules by using parallel testing and development. Saturn V rockets were ready for use as part of the Apollo lunar missions just eight years later.


People may argue that the speed of such efforts was possible only because of enormous budgets and the sense of urgency imparted by war. And it’s a valid point: Over the last 1,000 years, large-scale warfare has proven itself time and again to be the single biggest catalyst for economic and technological innovation. But a closer look reveals that the decision to iterate these projects quickly and decisively—essentially, to sprint and scrum—was what largely enabled their success.

Taking a sprint-and-scrum approach will bring most industrial manufacturers into uncharted waters. But I’ve seen firsthand how effectively the process can accelerate design and lead to better results. It reveals risks early on, it minimizes project management overhead, and most importantly, it energizes staff by showcasing achievements and fostering open communication.

As their competitive pressures mount, industrial companies should take note. It’s time to remove the shackles that the stage-gate process can place on design. Whether they are shooting for the moon or just looking for a way to quickly reset their product’s cost positioning, the sprint-and-scrum approach will help companies get there.


This is an adapted piece from strategy+business magazine. To read the full article, see “Warfare, Software, and Industrial Design.” Reprinted with permission from the strategy+business website, published by PwC Strategy& Inc. © 2014 PwC. All rights reserved. PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see for further details.

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Nov 11 2014

5 Steps To Building A Safety Culture In Your Manufacturing Plant

safety_manufacturingMaintaining a safe work environment in your manufacturing plant is vital for your employees’ well-being and continued productivity. Accidents cost you money with a loss of trained workers, reduced production and increased insurance premiums.

Here are five steps you can take to integrate safety as a core company value.

1. Embrace a Culture of Safety

Safety really starts at the top. You can preach as much as you want to about a safe working environment, but if you do not back this up with actions, your words are meaningless. You also need to make each worker responsible for safety. Having one person acting as a safety manager is fine, but all employees must feel involved.

EHSToday states that the best way to increase safety is by leading. It is also important that all managers or supervisors are on board with the safety program. Too often, in an effort to increase production, short cuts are taken in safety. Your team leaders must understand that everyone will gain more in the long-term by avoiding accidents that increase costs and slow production.

2. Continuously Evaluate Your Plant

You know technology changes rapidly. This also means that your equipment and operating procedures are changing along with it. Even minor changes in how machinery is connected to computers can leave you with a safety issue. A loose connection could electrocute someone.

As manufacturers increasingly adapt mobile solutions to manage processes, communicate or seek approvals, be sure to explain the importance of being aware of your surroundings and to not try and multi-task while walking on the shop floor. There are simply too many potential safety issues that could wipe out any productivity enhancements from your technology investments.

You have the opportunity to observe your employees. If you notice a staff member not working safely, find out why. The answers will help you to achieve your safety goals.

3. Talk to Your Employees

You already know that you have to train your employees in safety procedures. This has never changed. What you may not be doing is talking to them. Take the time to talk to different operating groups or teams. You need to ask what can be done to improve the safety of each individual job.

The workers that are operating the equipment in your plant are the ones that are familiar with the hazards. They probably also have some good ideas on how to make improvements. You may find the shields for machinery no longer function properly and need replacement. Workstations may be arranged in ways that do not contribute to comfortable working conditions. Ergonomics is part of overall safety and a comfortable employee is more productive.

4. Use the Good and Remove the Bad

Technology has made plant safety easier and more difficult at the same time. The old method of using a hand-held radio with earmuff-style headphones was not a great method of communicating with workers, especially equipment operators. Now you can just send a text to your operator when you need him.

The problem? Texting, or reading text messages, while driving or operating anything is a bad idea. The situation becomes worse with smartphones that can play your favorite videos. You need to establish clear boundaries for your employees when it comes to cellphone use.

5. Keep Your Safety Culture Growing

It is not enough to start a safety program and turn your back on it. Unfortunately, some individuals will prefer the seemingly easier way of doing business. Once you move onto other subjects, your safety priorities get swept in a corner.

Another tip provided by EHSToday is to not hold safety meetings or safety training. Hold on — this does not mean what you may think. Eliminate the word “safety” from your meetings and training sessions. You hold production meetings and manufacturing training. Safety becomes a critical component of your daily business — not just the thought for the day.

If you cannot convince your staff of the importance of safety, offer them this example: An outbreak of E. coli at a plant in Alberta, Canada has left more than 2,000 workers without jobs. This does not even touch on the number of consumers that became ill or the other costs the manufacturing plant may face. One mistake really can shut down everything.

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Nov 06 2014

Driverless Vehicles Driving Manufacturing – Part 2

Autonomous driving will impact automotive manufacturingI began this topic in my last post with a commentary on a recent partnership announcement between Dassault Systèmes and AKKA Technologies (read Part 1 of this post here). The goal for this partnership is to offer high-end engineering services and solutions to help the global automotive industry. Having already explored the complexity and technology required to move this concept forward, my focus now will be to take a closer look at the safety and customer acceptance issues that must also be overcome.

Safety and Regulatory Compliance

Safety and regulatory issues will obviously be an important concern for manufacturers once driverless cars are on the market. The manufacturing industry will need to focus on accurately recording process and part information (including code options) to quickly identify and resolve problems as they arise.

More specifically, manufacturing driverless vehicles require a much higher level of genealogy and traceability in the process because when something goes wrong in the autonomous world, it’s not a minor blip—it has the potential of being a catastrophe. If there ever is a problem, the data available to support the build of a vehicle, what went into it, and who did what—you can’t wait around for three days to get that information. It needs to be available immediately because you have to ascertain the scope of the problem so that you can address it in the timeliest way possible. From an autonomous vehicle standpoint, everything will need to be done at a much higher level of responsiveness than previously required—both in production, and then having the information available post-production.

Here is where it makes a lot of sense for partnerships to be established in the manufacturing world. Engineering and Manufacturing will need to work closely together to overcome the significant challenge that lies ahead in the world of autonomous, self-driving vehicles. Here is a glimpse from the Minority Report film as to what might be possible in our future, albeit a future that might be a century from now!


Consumer Acceptance

The automotive manufacturing industry has embraced the autonomous vehicle future, but consumers may still be skeptical. The biggest challenge with consumers will be convincing them that driverless vehicles are safe. Consumers are quickly getting comfortable with vehicles that can drive down long stretches of highway in clear conditions, but safety and capability concerns quickly emerge when thinking about autonomous cars that can maneuver within densely populated urban environments.

There’s a big difference of driving a mile on a freeway vs. driving a mile in the city. There’s so many more objects that have to be identified and dealt with. This includes vehicles running perpendicular to you, traffic signs, traffic signals, parked cars, pedestrians, and then you’ve got the city construction crew that just decided to close the lane because they’re going to do some pothole repairs this morning. That’s typically not going to be on a pre-digitized map of any type.

Regardless of the fact that driverless vehicles aren’t exactly in the mainstream yet – driver-assisted   functionality is routinely available in the luxury segment and rapidly moving down into other segments. The transition will certainly be gradual over time. But, given the importance of maintaining innovation and establishing demand for new models, I wouldn’t be too surprised to hear of new, related announcements in the not so distant future. This is a “sexy” topic, as Tesla has shown. Therefore, the manufacturing industry must stay one step ahead to show that these ideas can not only be built, and but can be done while adapting to new engineering designs, new production process as well as a whole new level of tractability and genealogy requirements that will certainly be daunting to those without robust systems to accommodate!

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Nov 04 2014

Driverless Vehicles Driving Manufacturing – Part 1

autonomous driving carsI just read an interesting announcement on autonomous connected vehicles. Dassault Systèmes and AKKA Technologies have announced a long-term partnership aimed at promoting innovation in the self-driving connected vehicle market. Their plan is to offer high-end engineering services and solutions to help the global automotive industry.

Interestingly, Tesla Motors recently unveiled new automated driving assists in their Model S luxury electric cars. Think auto-pilot rather than autonomous as driver input is still required to get from point A to point B. According to CEO Elon Musk, the systems use radar, sonar and cameras to navigate around obstacles and traffic signals.

Here is a video highlighting this recent announcement:

As the idea of everyone using driverless vehicles to get around gets more popular, the automotive manufacturing industry has to adapt in response.

In light of this news, it’s interesting to take a look at how vehicles today rely on electronics, and how this will increase with driverless vehicles.

Vehicles today have a far greater level of complexity than ever before. They have a tremendous amount of electronics in them already—and not just the infotainment system. We’re talking about everything from sensors in the brakes, in the wheel hubs, to engine modules, to the radar buried up in the grill for collision avoidance.

There is already a tremendous amount of technology in vehicles today. But this is going to take complexity to a whole new level – starting with new product introduction and continuing through the lifecycle of these vehicles. There will be even more control modules doing many more complex processes within the vehicle. Think about tuning up a car in the old days – it was primarily focused on just mechanical things. Tuning up a car today requires a computer doing an extensive diagnostic, with hundreds of potential “fix it” codes tied to various systems that might need adjustment. There’s nothing mechanical about it. A good laptop is more important to a tune-up than a wrench today!

Manufacturing Complexity

The manufacturing industry must ready itself to support a new level of synchronization across these complex systems. Not only must new driverless systems be integrated into design, engineering and manufacturing requiring considerably more details and coordination across the vehicle, but the potential for “error” now carries with it far greater risk. One can only imagine the headlines when the first auto-pilot or autonomous vehicle is involved in an accident.

In other words, manufacturers need to accept a much greater responsibility to synchronize the right control modules with the right programming to the right vehicle based on what the customer ordered. Unlike putting a wheel on the vehicle, you can’t visually tell the difference in option programming between one control module and another, so there has to be a far greater level of synchronization and control in the core code. Identifying option programming within the manufacturing Bill of Material (BOM) is the most obvious way to handle this. Then, you will have to be able to validate test results against expected results based on the BOM selections.

In my next post, I’ll explore this topic a bit further, taking a look at the safety implications as well as the customer acceptance challenges that lie ahead, before self-driving cars actually become a part of our future.


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