The changing competitive landscape forces industries to review existing development processes. Adopting a virtual engineering process and realizing the digital twin vision would make it possible for companies to improve both products and efficiency. A solid understanding of the technical challenges and requirements of the final process is required to achieve this vision. Transitional challenges are as important. Does the organization want to change and how?
A full transition to virtual engineering is a comprehensive process but adds huge benefits for the business. Sadly, awareness about the business impact of adopting a modern development process is still low in many companies, making it hard for virtual engineering to become a top priority. In many small and mid-sized enterprises, computer-aided development initiatives are driven by sole enthusiasts rather than by the organization. As with all business transformations the change needs to be a pronounced part of the company’s overall strategy to become successful.
The importance of good communication around the strategy can’t be stressed enough. A few years ago I helped a company looking into new tools for product lifecycle management. After successful implementations of CAD, data- and document management applications, top management decided that they wanted to get up to speed with simulation. The request ended up on the development manager’s desk. He was terrified! He did not know anything about simulation. Nor did his team managers, or their team members. More importantly, he could not see what was in it for him. Change initiatives disturb the business, delays product releases and create uncertainty in the organization. He was already low on resources and did not get any help from management - ”Better to continue business as usual”.
Another issue was to identify the purpose of the initiative. After a brief assessment of their development process, we managed to help him create a list of applications where they could benefit from simulation. The list covered a wide range of applications: structural, thermal, controls, fluid dynamics etc. But they still couldn’t specify where to start, they did not know what they wanted to achieve.
Focus and outcome of a virtual engineering initiative will look different depending on what you are looking for. Tool selections, scope, and processes will not be the same if you are improving quality to reduce the need for post-sale support and maintenance, as if you are looking at reducing the time-to-market. The breadth of the simulation concept became an obstacle for their change process. When starting a change process, clearly communicate the need for change and the consequences of staying at status quo. Make sure that there is a way to measure the success and celebrate your wins!
So who is fit to drive these transformation efforts? A sole enthusiast or development manager can’t make the change on their own. Appointing a position responsible for screening development methods and increasing awareness is often a good start. Build a lead team that drives the change and a supporting team that can support the process. Make sure to involve all stakeholders. For virtual engineering, this normally includes people from engineering departments, IT and cross functions.
Change initiatives are important! The development process needs to be in a constant change to remain innovative and maintain the customer’s trust. Virtual engineering should be a core strategy in all companies aiming at success!
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