CAE tool providers attempt to close the data exchange gap between CAD and CAE with built-in pre-processors. Unfortunately, the overall success rates are low, ranging from 20-50%. These failures are associated with conversion, repair, or simplification processes and add a significant amount of non-value-added labor.
Third-party solutions push success rates to 75-95%. However, in global organizations, the proliferation of multiple tools, processes, and methodologies eventually erode productivity gains. This article explores best practices to help you increase your internal rate of return on CAD-to-CAE interoperability investments.
1. Use Value Stream Maps to Illustrate Labor Waste
Many CAE teams struggle to find investment capital for interoperability initiatives. By using value stream maps, non-value-added time (NVAT) is illustrated within the context of the process and quantified in terms of hours and labor dollars. If you wish to see an example, email me.
2. Minimize Downstream Risks by Classifying Data Formats
Modeling kernels all pose different risks to downstream applications. If your CAE teams consume data from multiple sources, document all import and export formats, and include any requirements that involve custom CAD packages and proprietary analsysis tools.
3. Standardize Your CAE Interoperability Platform to Reduce Costs
In cases where multiple CAD and/or CAE packages are used, acquire technology that will enable the standardization and consolidation of your CAE interoperability needs under a single platform. For instances where proprietary CAD and/or CAE packages are used, use a third-party provider to develop interfaces that will integrate with your chosen platform.
4. Stabilize the Data Before Engaging in CAE Pre-Processing
Unknown, destabilizing conditions within complex parts or assemblies can pose serious time delays for teams performing specialized analysis scenarios. Third-party data stability analysis tools can be used to predict and/or troubleshoot downstream usability failures in models used for simulation, before they happen.
5. Centralize CAE Interoperability Technologies
Establish a technical center of excellence that will centralize your CAD-to-CAE interoperability processes and technologies. For small-to-medium companies, a single application implemented as either a workstation or server solution can fill the gap.
For global enterprises with a myriad of CAD and CAE applications, a CAE Interoperability Center of Excellence can be implemented and scaled to include support for native and/or neutral formats, proprietary systems, and integrated within PLM workflows. The figure below illustrates an in-production use case:
Organizations that maintain multiple tools and technologies for interoperability should consider a software consolidation strategy. Consolidation reduces labor and hardware costs, as well as maintenance, support and training expenses. Here are four suggestions to help get you started:
1. Eliminate Redundant Applications & Processes
Conduct an inventory of your interoperability tools; classify them by use case, Engineering IT function (i.e. CAD, CAM, CAE and PLM), manufacturing function (i.e. design, manufacturing, analysis, data management), and license type (node-locked, floating, server). Determine which applications can be re-purposed and reused for the greatest number of use cases across the company. Establish technical evaluation criteria and performance metrics to aid in the elimination of redundant applications.
2. Consolidate Applications Using Server-Based Technologies
Once you generate a list of approved technologies, use an interoperability integration platform to consolidate your applications. The solution should be vendor-neutral, SOA-compliant and deployed as back office application to maximize ease of use and minimize technical complexities. In Example 1.1, an interoperability software integration platform (ISIP) is used for consolidating vendor, third-party, and customized software applications:
3. Ensure that the Technology Is Accessible
Interoperability software is often procured as an “occasional-use, on-demand” asset. Consolidating applications into a server environment also means centralizing them, which allows you to maximize usage. In most instances, point solutions that offer batch processing capabilities may be consolidated under your server platform. If the use case requires you to distribute the interoperability software to workstations, serve up these licenses from a single location.
Once your interoperability applications are centralized under one platform, you can provide global access to your solutions and a simplified user experience by using web portals in order to reduce training and administrative costs. In the example below, users submit jobs via a simple, Java-based commercial-off-the-shelf application. By this time, the server-based solution has authenticated the users’ login, secured the transmission via SFTP, encrypted the intellectual property package, and ensured end-to-end ITAR compliance.
4. Interoperability Software Consolidation as an Engineering IT Operations Strategy
The strategies used for interoperability software consolidation often lead to operational improvements. By centralizing interoperability technologies, companies not only maximize software usage; they can leverage their purchasing power for enterprise licensing and consulting, while minimizing their technical administration and support costs. Ancillary benefits of centralization include creating operating environments that are more stable, secure, and scalable. Finally, in eliminating redundant software applications, interoperability processes are consolidated and improved.