Why Best-in-Class Manufacturers Simulate as They Design




In a difficult economy, small- to medium-sized organizations face tough competition as they strive to provide customers with increasingly sophisticated products. As product complexity grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to evaluate design alternatives or to predict how individual components will interact under real-world conditions without compromising budgets and deadlines.

So how do  SMBs overcome these challenges? According to research from the Aberdeen Group, best-in-class manufacturers gain competitive advantage through use of simulation technology. Simulation tools offer engineers the insight they need to make the quick—and correct—decisions that will optimize product designs while also balancing cost and quality.

For example, see how this manufacturer of aircrew training equipment uses design simulation to test the boundaries of aeromedicine:

Key Benefits

Simulation tools provide engineers with insight into how product designs will perform in the real world. They also increase quality and innovation by allowing quick, real-time comparisons of multiple design iterations and variations.

“In the real world, a variety of factors impact how a product will perform,” reads a report from Aberdeen. “[Engineers] can use the results of simulation analyses to make trade-off decisions to truly optimize the design, maximize innovation, and boost profitability.”

According to Aberdeen, its best-in-class SMBs are:

  • 21% more likely to use simulation for informing trade-off decisions when determining optimal system architectures.
  • 55% more likely to use simulation tools that look at product behavior at a system level, which offers better visibility into how the components will interact with each other.
  • 42% more likely to evaluate multiple physical forces simultaneously.

The following chart illustrates these findings:

Best Practices

To leverage simulation testing most efficiently, Aberdeen recommends its use early and frequently in the design cycle. More specifically, the following chart lists the design cycle phases in which the best-in-class manufacturers find simulation most useful, as compared to their lower-performing competitors:

Basically, the best-in-class differentiate themselves by using simulation in a wider array of early development stages. That’s when design options are most flexible. Applying simulation tests during these stages ensures that manufacturers get designs right the first time. Plus, it allows them to optimize their designs for cost and quality.

 

When used in this manner, simulation tools also help decrease development costs by reducing the need for physical prototypes. Aberdeen also has a couple of final guidelines for further improving virtual prototyping:

  1. Conduct simulations throughout the design process for better product insight and better decisions. Focus on validation, identifying problems, as well as optimization.
  2. Understand real-world behavior by conducting system-level simulations while evaluating multiple physical forces. This creates a more complete virtual prototype that truly assesses a product’s function in its operating environment.

At the end of the day, “The result of these actions will enable new product development teams to bring new levels of innovation to their products which will ultimately lead to greater product profitability,” says Aberdeen.