Building Synergy Between Physical Testing & Simulation Teams

May 15, 2023 Krystian Link

Congratulations! You have just purchased your Ansys simulation software and are ready to revolutionize your product development R&D team. Your design engineering and simulation team have an iterative design process in place, but how do you ensure that same robust relationship with your physical testing and simulation teams?

The Simulation and Physical Testing Team Relationship: A Power Couple, A Delicate Balance, or “It’s Complicated”

Depending on the company and how product development is done, there are times where the relationship between simulation and physical testing teams is cultivated or actively hindered by those leading or above the respective teams. In the worst case, your two teams can be at odds with each other and resemble a sibling rivalry:

  • The physical testing team fears analysis will “take over” and outmode them, so they refuse to work with the simulation engineers and/or hide data. 
  • The simulation team feels that physical testing is outdated, the processes are antiquated, and the data straddles junk quality because of how loose tests are run.
  • Neither wants to work with the other

This is a bit of an extreme example, but there is some truth to these behaviors and psychological drivers. Either way, animosity of any degree between the two arms of your validation organization has the potential to derail timelines and budgets for product development. The simulation team is the first line of defense against repeat testing. Simulation operates in the product development cycle where costs are cheapest.  No physical prototypes have been made and no tooling has been purchased.

On top of this, the likelihood of the top design concept making it through physical testing the first time has greatly increased, launch timelines can be maintained (or even improved).  As a result, your physical testing team can concentrate on high-priority physical tests and not burn excessive time and manpower supporting repeat tests. These instances eat away at product launch timelines and bottleneck testing throughput.  That recaptured time can be spent on additional product lines with reduced padding for testing delays. 

How Does an Organization Build This Team Synergy?

  • Share Data: The more physical test data the simulation team has access too, the more robust their simulations are.  This means less physical testing is required.  At the same time, the simulation team needs to share their learning with the validation team.  As your simulation department builds simulation expertise, your engineers will be able to build up a “design memory” that can be shared with test engineers.  For example, simulation shows the “how” and “why” a design works (or doesn’t work) while physical testing only sees the beginning and the end.  That data and knowledge of what happens to a product between the start and finish of a test is critical to building up a test engineer’s understanding of a design’s behavior, allowing them to more easily recognize causes of failure and propose relevant solutions to design engineers faster.
  • Shared Authority in Design Reviews: The physical testing and simulation arms of your validation organization are uniquely capable of offering design insights, because they see a product from concept to launch (or failure).  By allowing both teams a seat at the design review table, your product is protected from risky design practices that can jeopardize launch timing and create massive delays that affect the bottom line.  A design that is halted early in the process by the validation team is a win for both teams: manpower is saved and repeat test failure fire drills are avoided.
  • Reconnects, Check-Ins, and Brainstorming Sessions: Creating opportunities to build facetime between the simulation and physical test team will only increase their desire to work together and see how interdependent their functions are.  These allow the teams to share lessons learned, to discuss design trends they are seeing from their respective lenses, and provide constructive input on how to improve their teams.

By developing this synergy, your organization will become even more effective at developing revolutionary products that not only cost less to develop, but also get to market faster.  Building a performance-driven culture that improves the bottom line of the business starts within your teams.  Invest in their relationships, it will pay dividends when your product launches on-time with quality.    

About the Author

Krystian Link

Krystian is a CFD application engineer at RandSim with over 10 years of product development experience in the automotive and manufacturing industries. His simulation experience focuses on vehicle thermal management, external aerodynamics simulations, and HVAC systems, including a publication in SAE’s Journal of Commercial Vehicles ("CFD Windshield Deicing Simulations for Commercial Vehicle Applications"). After completing his MBA at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, Krystian became even more passionate about building and implementing strategic solutions that not only address customers’ simulation needs, but also their business goals.

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