The Case for Simulation

August 3, 2023 Krystian Link

Manufacturers of all sizes are looking to reduce costs and time to market. Simulating designs in a virtual environment instead of physical testing delivers both. So why aren’t all companies making the move to simulation software?

Most of the objections we hear are based on a “comfort” mindset. For example: 

  • “We have always done it this way.”
  • “If it’s not broken, why should we fix it?”
  • “Why should we sink money into simulation if we don’t have huge warranty claims?”

Thinking about the market today, being “good enough” is not good enough. Competition is fierce. Even companies that produce lower-quality products pose a threat. Manufacturers can no longer rely on legacy customers to pay premium prices if a product isn’t moving at or exceeding the pace of the market. Investing in your product development cycle is required. 

Here’s a quick summary of how product development has evolved over the years:

With the “Design and Launch” method, individuals come up with ideas and pioneer the design process on the fly. As they design products, they become specialists in the field. And, as the number of specialists increase, centers of knowledge may form. Typically, this type of product development relies on tribal knowledge and doesn’t have central databases, standard processes, or common procedures. This method is highly risky because company attrition results in significant “brain drain” (losing a lot of the tribal knowledge) as well as the actual and reputational cost of launching a product that does not meet customer expectations.

Building a prototype and conducting physical tests creates a feedback loop between the physical test and design teams, so issues can be addressed before getting a product into a customer’s hands. There are additional costs to this type of validation, as it adds product development expenses such as labor, prototype materials, and prototype tooling. Although this method is reactive, the benefit of knowing what a product will do before launch is often seen as worth the cost. 

Simulation moves from reactive to proactive product development when an engineer can run a simulation, identify areas to address, and make design changes in CAD prior to prototyping and physical testing. No physical materials are required, and the mindset changes from “I think this will work,” to “I am confident in this design”. Engineers can also identify potential risk areas in a design. So, if a product does fail, engineers know where to look, saving time, money, and stress that rework often creates.

Combining physical testing and simulation is the pinnacle of product development. With this robust product development cycle, engineers deliver designs they have tested thoroughly. This results in a physical test organization that isn’t overloaded with frequent repeat testing, allowing them to focus more time on high profile projects and products. By shortening the overall development timeline, costs go down and products are on shelves sooner, giving the manufacturer an edge over the competition.

Cost and Time Savings – An Example 

The image below represents a basic physical test timing and cost walk on a product without simulation support. This considers the various sources of cost -- including salary, overhead, material, and timing. We see that three physical tests cost $51,600 and took 18 days.

Three physical tests cost more than $51,000 and take 18 days 

In the second example below, simulation was used in the design stage and only two tests were needed. Although the upfront activities included a few more days of work and incremental costs, the savings at the conclusion of testing was a 29% reduction in overall validation costs and 39% reduction in time spent on the project. The total project cost went down to $36,800 and 11 days (about 1 and a half weeks).

Watch this recorded webinar to learn more. Contact us to start a conversation on how your company can leverage simulation to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

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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