PLM Technologies Driving Automotive Industry

Nov 14, 2012

By Patrick Waurzyniak 
Senior Editor

Digital design, visualization and simulation technologies are driving automotive manufacturing innovation more than ever before as the auto industry wrestles with increasingly complex systems and ever shorter time-to-market pressures.  Pat Waurzyniak

At the Autodesk Automotive Innovation Forum held yesterday by CAD/CAM and product lifecycle management (PLM) software developer Autodesk Inc. (San Rafael, CA) at the Michigan State University Management Education Center in Troy, MI, automotive thought leaders shared their latest ideas and technologies that are helping automakers improve product development programs.

The event’s speakers included Patrick Le Quément, former senior vice president of Renault Corporate Design, who offered a look back at his 40 years in automotive design, and Kenneth B. Amann, executive consultant for market researcher CIMdata Inc. (Ann Arbor, MI), who addressed the state of PLM in the automotive industry and Autodesk’s expanding role in the automotive design and simulation world.

“In 2011, the automotive industry invested over $5 billion in PLM-related software and services, and this is something we expect to continue,” said Amann. New cars are becoming computers on wheels, he added, with most cars today having at least 70 processors. “The Chevy Volt has more than 15-million lines of computer code, more than that of an F-15 fighter.”

Managing increasing product complexity poses significant issues for automakers as vehicles continue to add technology while customers’ demands for vehicle personalization also increase, Amann said. Postponement is becoming more important, he added, as builders apply software to make the final configuration. Other trends Amann cited include a greater focus on visual appeal that puts demands on mathematical, aerodynamic and aesthetic disciplines; improving collaborative design, decision-making and product visualization across the global supply chain; improving manufacturing agility; the need to innovate faster and more cost-effectively; reduction of costs through virtual simulation; and more complex regulatory and customer compliance requirements.

With today’s collaborative tools in PLM and the increasing importance of social media, automakers are leveraging many new approaches to product development, including the use of cloud-based systems like Autodesk’s PLM 360 and Simulation 360, Amann noted. PLM systems also are collaborating more now with other established business systems like enterprise resource planning (ERP), he said. “PLM is not eliminating ERP, but it’s touching it.”

The forum’s three technical tracks included topics covering how automakers can leverage better design through simulation, a digital factory track, and how modeling technologies affect the industry. In the digital factory session, Autodesk technical experts outlined the company’s 2D and 3D solutions for factory design and layout that help automakers manage the increasing complexities in factory visualization and simulation.

Dealing with product complexity and managing inventories is key, as automakers dealt with 110 new models in 2012 alone, noted Travis Evans, Autodesk application engineer. Business challenges include balancing profitability, risks, and processes. “About 95% of factory layouts today are done in AutoCAD,” Evans said.

With the enhanced Autodesk Factory Design Suite 2013, Evans said automotive users can take advantage of resources including a rich library of content—machines, robots, conveyors, and other factory elements—with the content contained in Autodesk’s desktop libraries or in the cloud. The Factory Design Suite syncs AutoCAD with bidirectional associativity between AutoCAD and Autodesk Inventor, the company’s 3D design package. New tools in Factory Design also include asset chaining and asset variance, Evans added, with drag-and-drop capability with 3D factory design and simulations. “The idea is to spend more time innovating, and less time drafting,” stated Evans.

Autodesk also has improved the visualization and animation capabilities in Factory Design, Evans noted, with an enhanced rendering engine that allows users to easily create images of the factory flow and use sophisticated animations that show it in action. A new tool added last May, Factory ModZ, features a physics-based engine that links with Inventor. “With this tool, the user can see how it interacts with his job description,” Evans said. “Animating it and seeing that process is important.”

KETIV is a business consulting firm that helps people build better products by providing tools, training, and support to facilitate informed decisions in the earliest stages of development. Our clients are changing the world through innovation, clean technology, and sustainable design. Founded in 1983 as one of the first AutoCAD resellers in the country, KETIV is a leading Autodesk solutions partner, and an authorized Mentor Graphics distributor, delivering comprehensive CAD/CAM software and services. KETIV has California offices in Fullerton, Burbank, and San Jose and offices in Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington, and Phoenix, Arizona. An award-winning and recognized leader in our field, KETIV serves businesses across the country and around the world.

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