Over the past two decades, I’ve had the good fortune to meet with product development teams in nearly every industry, attend a multitude of engineering conferences and read hundreds of case studies on engineering simulation. Without a doubt, the principle reasons driving businesses to invest in engineering simulation have been to reduce development time and costs while improving product quality.
The purple curve in the chart below illustrates the cost benefits of making design changes early in the product development cycle; the green curve represents the opportunity to innovate during the same life cycle. As the product design matures, the time commitment and investment in design decisions grow rapidly; the cost to change a decision rises by a factor of ten with each phase. Simulation reduces development time and cost by enabling engineers to verify design decisions at every stage, reduce late-stage changes and get it right the first time.
While highly beneficial to all businesses, this is essentially a bottom-line approach to improving product development. But what is now becoming clear is that engineering simulation is more than an initiative to reduce development cost and time. The highest priority for businesses across the world is shifting to top-line growth while maintaining cost control. With consumer demand for multi-functional, smart, connected products, innovation has become the source of sustained competitive advantage.
For today’s globally competitive markets, it is necessary to get it right the first time, but not at the expense of incremental product advancements and biasing design decisions toward the least risky, lower-potential solutions. This is evident in the green curve in the chart. Using simulation to systematically test and explore as much of the design space early in the development process is the key to unlock innovation while maintaining budget and schedules.
By simulating 10, 100, 1,000, or 10,000 design permutations with each design cycle, teams gain insight into risky, high-potential ideas. Stefan Thomke, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard, recognizes this opportunity and provides the same perspective in his “Checklist for Product Development Managers” in Harvard Business Review:
“Experiment early, rapidly, and frequently, with computer models and physical prototypes, in controlled and real-life customer environments.”
Nebia, a San Francisco startup company whose shower head reduces the water consumed during a typical shower by 70 percent, is just one example of an ANSYS customer who used these principles to manage the risk of productizing an innovative design concept. Nebia engineers faced the challenge of heat loss in the tiny, atomized water droplets at the core of their product’s technology. Water that was hot when it left the shower head was much cooler by the time it reached the person taking the shower. Instead of spending a week making and testing one physical prototype, Nebia used ANSYS CFD solutions to analyze the thermal effects of hundreds of thousands of variables in its shower head design.
By running large sets of simulation early in the development cycle, the team was able to compress its research and development efforts and launch a game-changing product.
I believe that the product development process is the linchpin joining operational efficiency and engineering innovation. At the end of January, we’ll be releasing the next version of our industry-leading simulation portfolio. From the beginning, ANSYS 17.0 has been engineered to inject 10 times the performance, insight and productivity into our customers’ product development processes, so they can create truly compelling products and grow their top-line.