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Dassault Systemes and Michael Waltrip Racing

By Jim Romeo

Kendall Pond, Dassault Systemes

Kendall Pond is a vice president with Dassault Systèmes Americas and is focused on its newest brand, 3DVIA. With more than 28 years of experience in product lifecycle management (PLM), Pond has had hands-on experience helping companies in various industries make key, process re-engineering transformations. We spoke to Pond to find out about the product’s use in designing for Michael Waltrip Racing.

Can you tell us a bit about Michael Waltrip Racing and the team’s design process for developing racing cars?
Pond: Michael Waltrip Racing designs, builds, analyzes, and tests their race cars with the end goal to have the fastest car and to win races and championships. NASCAR has a very comprehensive set of rules and guidelines, and teams like Michael Waltrip Racing will seek to build the fastest cars while adhering to the NASCAR-mandated rules and specifications. The smallest of advantages can yield big improvements in speed and lap times, so building the right car for the right track is also a race of sorts.

Can you give us an overview of any challenges Michael Waltrip Racing faced that motivated them to turn to Dassault Systèmes PLM products?
Pond: Perhaps the cornerstone of the Dassault Systèmes PLM strategy is the ability to fully leverage the virtual world in order to predict outcomes in the physical world. In other words, DS technology allows companies to conceive, design, analyze, build, and test a product before any physical part of that product is made. Let’s consider the front suspension of a racecar as an example. With Dassault Systèmes PLM solutions, Michael Waltrip Racing has the ability to conceive of a new, improved suspension design. They can model that new design with our software. They can analyze the design for function and strength. They can conduct computational fluid dynamic (CFD) studies to optimize airflow over the new suspension. They can design and simulate the manufacturing process for the new suspension. All of this can be done virtually. In doing so, the costs are much lower than in the physical world but perhaps more importantly, significantly more designs and iterations can be considered in order to arrive at the best solution.

What was the process for adopting and implementing Dassault’s product? Was implementation very involved?
Pond: Michael Waltrip Racing had familiarity with CAD tools and they were realizing some benefits from CAD. Michael Waltrip Racing replaced its CAD with the Dassault Systèmes flagship authoring tool, CATIA V5. Simultaneously, Michael Waltrip Racing implemented and deployed ENOVIA SmarTeam. ENOVIA has helped Michael Waltrip Racing not only to manage their design process but to also integrate significant amounts of other data directly related to the race car that existed in pockets throughout the company. Like most companies, Michael Waltrip Racing cannot stop the operation of its business to enable this adoption, so it has been important to have an iterative, pragmatic implementation plan with ROI “proofs” along the way.

What role did intellectual property play in the efficacy of Dassault’s product and how it adds value to the design process?
Pond: Intellectual property (IP) in a company can be considered in two classes. First, there is the IP that is easily recognized as IP—the techniques, processes, or practices that differentiate their company from another. Secondly, there is a much broader collection of IP within companies that is more subtle. It is the know-how of typically senior people regarding process, procedures, techniques, and most importantly, a knowledge of history. Sometime this may be referred to as “tribal knowledge.” Perhaps it is not at the forefront when you think of IP explicitly, but it is IP and it should be captured, cultivated, and protected. “Knowledgeware” is another tenant of Dassault Systèmes PLM solutions. The capturing, re-use, and optimization of knowledge is both easy and straightforward in Dassault Systèmes’ PLM implementations.

Does Michael Waltrip Racing‘s process involve a distributed design team?
Pond: Multiple design teams are involved across many disciplines. At Michael Waltrip Racing, you have design teams specializing in suspension, chassis, body, and drive train. All of these various design teams must work in concert.

Who is on the distributed team and where are they located?
Pond: In the case of Michael Waltrip Racing, the teams are physically close to one another in Charlotte, NC. But, as it is easy to imagine, the design teams must work simultaneously on the same car and all of their changes must recognize and optimize the changes occurring simultaneously by other design teams. All of this is orchestrated with the use of ENOVIA—ensuring that there is both awareness and collaboration around multiple, simultaneous changes ongoing to the same racecar. Michael Waltrip Racing achieves this level of productive collaboration using a local area network (LAN), but the same ENOVIA collaboration tools work identically in wide area networks (WANs) where the design teams are frequently separated by thousands of miles.

In general, what are the major benefits of this type of software for the design engineering community nowadays?
Pond: The benefits of PLM over CAD are much broader and significant than the benefits that CAD brought over drafting tables. Both the computational performance and graphics performance of PCs has evolved tremendously over the past several years. The PC evolution has been a key enabler. The real evolution has been in the PLM software. Dassault Systèmes has always placed a high emphasis on “3D for all” and today it is true more than ever. Across companies in many different industries, we have people from procurement, accounting, finance, sales, etc. all accessing “the” 3D data. Communication and collaboration is profoundly improved. The key reason is that we are so visually oriented. For example, using a Dassault Systèmes technology product called 3DVIA Composer, one of our customers was quoted, “We replaced a 4,500-word assembly procedure with a 3D animation of the whole process.” The efficiency and cost savings are enormous. Imagine the last time you were trying to follow a complex set of instructions. Perhaps it was about assembling a BBQ or a child’s toy or play set. A 3D animation would have greatly reduced the amount of time for assembly, would have mitigated errors, improved satisfaction, and eliminated ambiguity. The ability for companies to communicate in 3D is profound.

How has software for the supply chain and the design community changed over the past 10 years?
Pond: The changes have been absolutely enormous, and the challenge is that we too frequently see the supply chain and design communities using antiquated solutions and processes. Mind you, that “antiquated” in a PLM context means that a company has not exploited new tools or technologies in the last five to seven years. In the last decade, we have seen supply chains become much narrower but simultaneously we have seen the OEM ]and/or] supply chain relationship become much closer in the way that they must work together. PLM environments with robust design tools that foster rich, meaningful, collaboration are imperative.

Where would you say software for the engineering community is going over the next three to five years?
Pond: For design and manufacturing, it will continue to be a fun and rewarding journey for those people working in these disciplines. We will continue to see the strong trend of leveraging the virtual world. The virtual world will be used to conceive and design innovative new products. We will see more collaboration across multiple disciplines (sales, marketing, procurement, financing) in the virtual world to validate all aspects of the new product. More and more new products can be analyzed and tested in the virtual world and, finally, the entire fabrication and assembly processes will increasingly be performed and optimized virtually. This continued “virtual world first” shift will not only yield better products delivered to market faster and with higher quality, but it will also help companies across the world to be much greener and eliminate waste associated with failed experimentation in the physical world.

What are some of the most important, but overlooked, attributes in selecting and using collaborative software for knowledge workers in engineering design?
Pond: Unlike almost any other purchase, software purchases must be analyzed in a very important additional dimension—especially when that software is or is planned to be mission critical. Undoubtedly, the software needs to meet or exceed the needs and demands of the selection criteria. As important, if not more important, is the alignment of the company’s future design vision and comprehensiveness with the vision and investment of the software provider. Strong, visionary software providers can be a trusted partner. In implementations where there is not an alignment of vision and investment, a company risks costs associated with failure to meet current and future growth expectations. The weighting in the selection process of these forward-looking alignments with the software provider is relatively unique to mission critical software acquisitions.

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Dassault Systemes

Jim Romeo is a freelance writer specializing in industrial technology topics and can be reached at jimromeo.net. To comment on this interview, send e-mail to DE-Editors@deskeng.com.

About Jim Romeo

Jim Romeo is a freelance writer based in Chesapeake, VA. Send e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@digitaleng.news.