Leading the way in Simulation Driven Product Development
In September 2011, I attended the Chinese User Conference of ANSYS, the global leader of simulation software and services. I interviewed Mr. Hans-Kurt Lübberstedt, ANSYS Vice President of Asia Operations. We discussed the vision of Simulation Driven Product Development and the strategy of ANSYS globally and in China. Dr. David Street, ANSYS Asia Director of Marketing and Business development, also joined the interview.
Pei Huang: ANSYS just acquired Apache Design Solutions. Please introduce the vision and the competitive advantage of ANSYS.
Hans-Kurt Lübberstedt: Of course, it is part of the vision of ANSYS to acquire best-in-class simulation companies in certain domains that we currently don’t have in our portfolio. Clearly, our vision is Simulation Driven Product Development, which means you can use the simulation systematically as you develop your product from concept to manufacturing. If you want to simulate all aspects of the product and all aspects of environment in which the product will use, then you need both multi-physics and systems level approach. The real world environment does require multi-physics approach to simulate. The other need is systems level simulation approach as multiple components work together. When you put multi-physics and system level simulation together, it becomes a fairly complete affair. ANSYS defined this vision 10 years ago and started to put these two components of simulation together in order to realize the vision.
At the time when this vision was created 10 years ago, it was almost more a dream than a vision, because it was not very clear how to get there. Just imagine that the computing power available 10 years ago was much different than it is today. In addition, at that time the complexity of bringing multiple physics together for a single simulation looked like a very complex task indeed. Nowadays, we have many cases of our customers doing such simulations. We are getting more and more success in using complete Simulation Driven Product Development approach. ANSYS can also differentiate itself much more effectively from competitors. When you look into the simulation market, you can’t find any equivalent to ANSYS.
We truly have the multi-physics portfolio. Some vendors have part of solution, and some have two physics to combine, but true multi-physics solution is something they usually don’t have. I think the reason is that other than ANSYS, nobody has defined that vision early enough to systematically bring this to reality. It takes a long while, you can’t just go into the market and buy some companies and then provide a multi-physics solution. You need the best solver technologies and then you need to bring them together and connect them. We did it when we acquired the CFX in 2003 and also when we acquired Fluent in 2006, two of the main stream CFD vendors. So, several years ago, we had the first such components together with our mechanical products. It took a long while to bring these components into the Workbench then to connect them up. However, we can now really do multi-physics simulations. So, it is not something people can do quickly and easily.
David Street: I think in many ways, the biggest components of ANSYS vision now all being realized in the ANSYS portfolio we have today. We started with mechanical simulation. We added flow modeling, electromagnetic and now with the acquisition of Apache, down to the chip simulation. Our acquisition strategy and product development map are driven by our customers’ needs.
Hans-Kurt: Our customers are an important factor driving the direction we go. Then, on the other hand, the customer sometimes needs to be given direction because they may always not know what is possible. We are technology leader, and we will bring new technology approaches, then, introduce to the customers to help them make difference. Simulation Driven Product Development is a new idea, a new way, so we have to work together with our customers in different industries to build multi-physics solutions and collaboration process. I think that to reduce the complexity of simulation is more and more important. From the schematic system level, engineering simulation allows the designer to simulate from the product concept level. Even when you have no physical product you can still simulate the system performance. In this area I believe that a lot will happen in the next two years.
Pei: Why more and more CAD and PLM vendors enter CAE market? Please share your view about the trend of CAE application?
Hans-Kurt: First of all, it’s very clear that the CAD companies will be more and more interested in this domain, because now you have the ability to develop the model shape easily and quickly. 3D modeling is no longer a problem like it used to be some years ago. Just having good CAD models could not bring innovation and CAD modeling can’t simulate product performance. Therefore, CAD vendors will also want to go in that direction.
I believe that the CAE market will see growth figures which are much stronger than PLM in general, and the use of simulation will much more prevail than it used to be. Not only for industry leaders or very large corporations use simulation, but now we are also seeing very strong trends that even much smaller companies with relatively simple products see benefits from engineering simulation. We call it democratization of CAE because it means that anybody will want to use CAE technology to help predict with confidence how a product performances.
So, people have much broader uses for simulation than before and this makes for a big market. In those large companies which have already used simulation since long before, you will also see that even here the population using simulation still grows quickly. This is because even more design engineers are able to use simulation. Design engineers have more computing power available to them and we have also worked hard to improve the user experience.
Mr. Hans-Kurt Lübberstedt delivered keynote speech on 2011 Chinese user conference of ANSYS
Pei: There are three types of CAE vendors, traditional CAE leaders, niche players which are very specialized in specific application areas, and some CAD/PLM vendors. In your view, what’s the key difference of these vendors?
Hans-Kurt: I strongly believe that simulation is a very complex affair. If you want to do the simulation in the complexity of system and environment I think you can’t just simulate as a side part of your business. I do believe that there is a space for some simulation that PLM companies and CAD companies could offer in the future, which is more a kind of specialized simulation to answer immediate questions. For example, when you design a mechanical structure, you want to know whether the structure could sustain the load, you can do it directly in your CAD system. It makes sense. But that is very limited application of simulation from our view of point, and can be done by CAE generalist. The CAE specialist will take on challenging multi-physics and systems level simulations which are at the heart of what ANSYS can do.
I believe that specialized CAE companies are absolutely necessary in order to do what we call Simulation Driven Product Development, because it is just too complicated. The other thing is a company like ANSYS has a lot of advantages because many of the techniques you use in simulation are actually shared across physical domains. For instance, if you have very good meshing technology, you can apply that meshing technology to do fluid dynamics of the structure of mechanics and even high frequency magnetic analysis. So you can use our technologies to simulate many different physics. Even some of our solver technologies can be used in one or another physics domain. There are some algorithms developed for one our solver products that are now found in other products to improve convergence and accuracy. Therefore, when you mainly do simulation as a company, as in the case of ANSYS, you can develop a lot of things by cross domain technology sharing.
David: The heart of ANSYS is simulation technology. It’s very natural that when we acquire a company that developers of different simulation software products can immediately talk to each other and cross share technology. Many of the features you see in one domain like mechanical simulation can be found in fluid dynamics and electromagnetic. For CAD companies, when they acquire simulation software, it is very hard for them to do so.
Pei: What’s your view of multidisciplinary simulation and optimization platform? What’s the strategy of ANSYS to support such applications?
Hans-Kurt: The difference of ANSYS is that we do not just collaborate across other domains and then use optimization tools to optimize among the different domains. We actually own most of the simulation tools so that we can integrate them into a complete system. The type of coupling among these domains approaches in ANSYS is definitely much tighter, much closer than for others. Others have to take solvers from various domains, which sometimes they don’t own themselves, so it is not easy to modify the inside of the code. In our case, we can couple at a deep level, and then we can use techniques from one into the other. So definitely we can optimize to do faster and more tightly coupled simulations.
Pei: I’m very interested in the EKM system of ANSYS. In your view, what’s the relationship of CAE and PLM software? How does EKM manage CAE data and process?
Hans-Kurt: First and foremost, I think it is very important to understand that EKM system in the concept of ANSYS is not a PLM system at all, and that’s not even the intention. We are not at all intending to develop a kind of mini PLM.
A customer who develops complex products needs a good PLM platform of course. They need a good CAD/CAM and PLM system, which can manage their product data. Then, they have to do simulation so they need a management tool which allows them to manage simulation data in a very effective way. You can imagine that when you want to optimize a product, you have to go through maybe hundred simulation rounds and all those simulation rounds generate a lot of data. You need also to combine all these simulation rounds to analyze and optimize. So, how do you keep track of the huge amount of data? That is not something that a PLM system is designed to do. A PLM system is designed to keep a relatively small amount of data about concrete things such as parts, assemblies, sub-assemblies, products and then the component version numbers.
We need to make sure the optimization rounds of multi-physics of the whole system with maybe two hundred design cycles. You need to be able to find related data to each other in the proper way and be able to have a simulation library to archive knowledge. So, when you start a new design, you can take advantage of that simulation knowledge. That kind of question will be answered by EKM. The other aspect is to record the setup used for a particular simulation. When you do hundreds of simulations, it’s very easy for you to forget the simulation conditions that were used. It’s the knowledge of finding a prior simulation to use as a starting point of so you can build upon what you already know. The setup includes the logic, the boundary and the constraints of the model, so that engineer can fully understand. There is an interface between EKM and a PLM solution. So, the PLM system would record the knowledge base of EKM as an instance in the PLM, and the PLM would have a pointer to the EKM content for a part or for an assembly, so the engineer can go there and see what and how it was done, but it doesn’t need to be in a PLM system.
David: EKM system can keep the tag data, so that the engineer can put in the experience of the analysis for the next engineer to use. Then, other engineers could search for the simulation result to understand the thinking of this engineer when he did the simulation. In this way know-how and know-why of a simulation is captured forever. If the engineers leave or retire, their know-how is still permanently inside the company.
Hans-Kurt: For instance, if you have a recall in a car company then the failure does not always happen because something was designed wrong. But sometimes because there were some combinations of operating conditions or environmental factors that were not originally tested for but turn out to have an important influence on the product behavior. So, maybe all of the sudden, 3% of the cars will have a failure when that combination of operating conditions happens. So, the parametric variation function of ANSYS will take care of it long before, and you will find that problem 3%, and then you could avoid the recall.
Pei: What’s your view about the CAE application in Indian and Chinese manufacturing?
Hans-Kurt: In principle, the development and manufacturing of products in China is many fold bigger than India. On the other hand, India is of course famous for engineering services. They have been doing this for a long time and are very successful.
The use and expertise in India for CAE is actually quite good and strong. It’s strong for two reasons: First because they have always done engineering services and are accumulating more and more knowledge; Second, there are many multinational companies developing products in India, so they have to train Indian engineers to perform simulation. I think the basic engineering education in India is very good, so they have a quite a strong practice now.
In China, on the other hand, the needs for simulation come from another side. China has been very good at production and from this base is now moving into product design and development. As a production company, Chinese companies have absolutely no problem to manufacture with higher and higher quality. Now Chinese companies have the needs to create products. How do Chinese companies do that? How could Chinese companies design good products? The engineering simulation comes along as they need, so the need of engineering simulation in China is stronger than in India.
Although there are many companies in India using simulation the opportunity for Chinese companies to benefit from simulation is much larger because there are so many more manufacturing companies in China now doing design. I think the potential for more usage in China is much more. The revenue of ANSYS in India is a little bigger than in China now, but I think the Chinese CAE market has greater potential than in India, and we will grow much faster in China.
Pei: Do you think that enterprises should use cloud computing to analyze their products?
Hans-Kurt: I do believe that the cloud would be used in the future, but how fast it can be used for CAE, I have severe doubts. The doubts I have primarily because of the privacy of the data. The cloud guys say there’s no problem and it’s secure hundred percent, but the simulation data is the actually knowhow of the enterprise, and if you know the simulation data, you know how the product work, you can copy and make the same product. But, if you don’t know the knowledge of the product, even if you know how it looks, you may not able to copy because of the inner functioning is unknown. So, simulation data is very sensitive, and it is the central IP of a product company.
David: On one hand, there is much demand from the cloud companies to distribute analysis across the cloud; but on another hand, our experience over the last few years shows that the companies doing key analysis are reluctant to let their data go out of the company. So, in our view, using private cloud is more realistic.
Hans-Kurt: We have provided solutions for distributed analysis based on a private cloud. For example, there is a company which has worldwide engineering centers but only has two high performance computing centers where all the simulation works goes to get computed.
Hans-Kurt: We have provided solutions for distributed analysis based on private cloud. For example, there is a company which has worldwide engineering centers but only two high performance computing centers, so that all the simulation works goes there to compute.
David:For a number of years, ANSYS has offered the facility from our own computing center. We have this huge cluster and we provide this facility to some SME and even large companies who need extra computing capacity. They can use our facility remotely.
Picture of Pei, Hans-Kurt and David
Pei: ANSYS just appointed Mr. Chuck Yuan as the greater China general manager. He is a very famous professional in Chinese IT industry with very good reputation. Does it mean that ANSYS will pay more attention on Chinese market?
Hans-Kurt:Hundred percent yes. We have definitely the need to prepare our sales force for strong footprint in China and much better than in the past. As you know, we have successful cooperation with PERA Global for many years, and we have no reason not to continue that cooperation. PERA has put us in a good position in the Chinese simulation market with our fluids and mechanical products. Then, on the other hand, we came in with the ANSOFT acquisition which had a direct presence selling the electromagnetic products in China, and that’s fine. Except that both of these two companies, PERA and our direct ANSYS office, have primarily sold only in their respective physics domains. Neither organization has been able to sell our overall multi-physics simulation solution. Therefore, now that ANSYS has a multi-physics portfolio as our No.1 competitive advantage, we need to be able to have strong presence to effectively offer this wide portfolio to customers in China, and that requires strong direct presence of ANSYS China too. We start to think how to go forward and how to develop this new market, so we need a person who knows the software industry here, who has done it before, who knows the customer network, who also understands what are the issues and the complexity of building an organization in the way to really take the leadership position in the market. Chuck has such experience, so we are very fortunate and happy that he has decided to join us.
Pei: Please share your view of the cooperation of PERA Global and ANSYS China.
Hans-Kurt: Our cooperation is important in order for our Chinese customers to understand what we do. Both ANSYS direct sales and PERA Global should sell our whole portfolio. We believe that the full simulation suite sets us aside as one of our unique competitive advantages. If our channels do not sell that competitive advantage by selling the whole solution, we actually do not use something that we have in our hand. When we compete against other vendors, which have only mechanical or fluid simulation software, we can convince the customer to work with us by helping them finish the whole simulation job in the future, and they can build a complete simulation system with us, and that’s what we really want to do. In order to do that, PERA and ANSYS need to sell the product portfolio, so we are working with PERA very closely to build the capability on both sides to sell the portfolio. We call it China TOPS (Total portfolio sales). That has started n the 29th June, 2011.
So right now, ANSYS China could sell ANSYS software directly, but of course I also need to qualify this statement. We don’t want to create misunderstanding in the market. Therefore, we are starting to do this in a very controlled and careful way. We have selected certain accounts for PERA, certain accounts for ANSYS direct sales where each of us can sell the portfolio. We also created a collaboration structure, when ANSYS direct sales find certain mechanical simulation opportunities in other accounts, they will let PERA follow and vice versa, when PERA find some electromagnetic simulation opportunities they will let ANSYS direct sales follow. So, we can both sell the portfolio. In addition, we help each other.
It is very important to understand that PERA Platform, Workbench and EKM are not the same thing. PERA Platform has a very ambitious goal to build a complete product development platform, means that you not only do the simulation work, but also you do all the works to structure your product. PERA wants to innovate the workflow of product development through the PERA Platform. That’s fine, but it is not what Workbench or EKM wants to do. We just want to do the simulation and simulation management. EKM is simulation centric and used to control simulation. Our Workbench is a simulation platform, not a whole product development platform. That’s exactly what we want to limit ourselves to in order to be more effective. We are not going to pretend to be a PLM company sometimes, nor are we going to offer geometric creation sometimes. We are very happy to import any types of geometry, such as CATIA, NX, PRO/E, SolidWorks and CADENCE, etc. It does not matter to us, as long as they can provide the model to simulate. PERA has imbedded Workbench in their PERA Platform, and they are going to integrate EKM too.
We think the PERA has done a very good job. They have done much to position ANSYS. The good news is that our long term Chinese partner is also the CAE leader in china. It’s wonderful. We will work together and also go direct and control the destiny of how we grow together. We have built a very good relationship with the executives in both companies.
David: This year, we have done a number of activities which are totally in partnership with PERA. This ANSYS Conference is a perfect example. So, our partnership with PERA is getting stronger.
Hans-Kurt: China is so big, so we need very good competence. ANSYS will help Chinese manufacturers to innovate through Simulation Driven Product Development, together with our Chinese partner.