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CAE Is Design

By Anthony J. Lockwood

Everyone seems to agree that CAE’s critical role in the design for manufactureprocess and in the survival of your company is beyond question. Some pundits sayit’ll be an $8 billion industry by 2014. Yet compared to MCAD, PLM (product lifecyclemanagement), and a thousand other acronym-heavy solutions, upfront and concurrentCAE commands far, far less mindshare in the trade press and in many manufacturingcompanies.

The reasons, I humbly suggest, lie in culture and the lack of evangelicalismin upper management (and, truth be told, because CAE is hard stuff). Of the two,culture is the more difficult issue to solve, making it the roadblock we mustremove.

First things first: Process is not IT. IT—and I’m not insulting it—is infrastructure.Process is how you do things: communications, best practices, workflows, etc.IT is the process enabler. In turn, MCAD is the vision enabler, and CAE is theintent enabler. PLM is the glue that holds MCAD and CAE together.

In many organizations today product design engineering is essentially a digitalversion of yesterday’s serial process: draw, build, test, break, learn something,back to the drawing board, repeat. In this process, CAE generally means analysisafter the build stage. While all this is now digital, it remains an analog processat heart.

Now, pick your CAE—CFD, FEA, whatever. You’re talking about mathematical abstractionsof analog problems. To many of us, this is the stuff of shamans. As such, it iseasy to compartmentalize and, if not overlook, then downplay.

But technology, to say nothing of ROI, is forcing traditional design and analysis—EEstoo—to converge. Thus, you can analyze and design simultaneously. Yet, upfrontand concurrent CAE remains an outsider, not quite embraced by PDM, loosely correlatedwith TandM, and poorly recognized as a strategic business asset.

The technical hurdles—data interoperability, integration, and data management—arelegion, but they are being solved as you read this. Not changing as quickly isthe mindset that educates and nurtures a workforce of designers who don’t do analysisand analysts who don’t think design, to say nothing of trade press dorks likeme and management who just don’t get it.

Dump the old thinking. CAE and MCAD can now drive each other. Upfront and concurrentCAE is as much a part of product development as MCAD. Vision and intent must beone from the start, and we can start doing it today. That’s the message that youand I must preach to management and our coworkers.

Anthony J. Lockwood, tlockwood@helmers.com

About Anthony J. Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood is Digital Engineering's Editor-at-Large. Contact him via de-editors@digitaleng.news.