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Simulation Lifecycle Management Delivers Speedy, Profitable Collaboration


Dana has come across a solution that allows it to innovate in order to provide products with higher quality and greater functionality.

By James D. Sawyer
Senior Editor
Motorized Vehicle Yearbook 2013/2014

As the automotive industry has made steady, positive strides toward making a comeback from the economic downturn, building-to-specifications is no longer the most efficient way for OEMs and suppliers to work together to develop innovative technologies. With that mindset, Dana Holding Corp. (Maumee, OH) is one example of a company that has re-energized itself by strengthening its focus and emphasis on its core product portfolio and collaboration with its customers in the design and engineering of its manufactured parts. One key enabler is the use of advanced computer-aided engineering (CAE) systems to optimize and simulate product development and testing, which allows the company more flexibility in technology conception, design and process.

Frank Popielas, senior manager of advanced engineering in the Dana Power Technologies Group and head of CAE for Dana said, “Dana is not a company that just works from drawings. We get requirements from our customers and then we engineer products. If you want to sustain in the market, you have to have a relationship with your customers.

Dana is a global supplier of axles, driveshafts, sealing and thermal-management products, off-highway transmissions, and service parts.

“I think we are getting more and more to a point,” he added, “where we work with a customer where the design is not frozen yet. We are working with them at a point where no hardware has been made.” This collaboration is driven both from the Dana side and the customer side of the process.

And both sides have profited as vehicle sales rebounded. 

Dana Holding—a US-based, Tier One global supplier of axles, driveshafts, sealing and thermal-management products, off-highway transmissions, and service parts—has seen a turnaround in revenues and margins since the economic downturn. While its customers’ recovery was a major contributor, credit for Dana’s rebound also goes to an evolution in mindset that helped keep the company on track through tough times.

“We had shifted focus,” said Popielas, “from how to control costs and manufacture efficiently, to how to innovate. Obviously all these need to be integrated. But if you focus solely on costs, product quality will go down. As an engineering-driven company, we look at how to improve a product from a quality and function perspective. Innovation, supported by the right engineering tools, made our company more competitive.”


Keeping the Team Together

Many auto suppliers lost engineering talent during the recession. However, since Dana had already developed substantial in-house CAE and high-performance computing (HPC) resources, the company made a point of retaining their design engineering teams. “During the downturn, we kept our focus on CAE,” said Popielas. “We knew that, in the long run, the investment would be worth it.”

Indeed, CAE has proved invaluable to the company. Dana’s products include a vast range of gaskets, cam covers, and heat exchangers; mechanical and electrical components; driveline components and assemblies and more. Dana works in materials ranging from metals to rubber to plastics to fiber-based. Its production processes include casting, injection molding, heat treatment, forming, magnetic pulse welding, etc.

“Because we make pretty much everything around the automotive powertrain and drivetrain, our portfolio involves huge complexity,” said Popielas. “To ensure quality when designing our products, we need to look at everything that can impact them, including stress, strain, fatigue, molding, gas, oil and cooling flow, air and oil separation, thermal distribution and, of course, their complex interactions. CAE is the toolkit that supports the development of our products in the engineering space. Simulation enables us to verify and validate—virtually—product functionality.”

While real-world testing remains the ultimate proof of that functionality, Dana’s extensive use of CAE has enabled the company to do less and less physical testing. “Simulation speeds up the product development process, captures data that can be used to optimize the product and gives our engineers more freedom to innovate,” said Popielas. “Innovation is critical for us, but it still has to be cost-effective. Our CAE resources help minimize, or even neutralize, many time-consuming tasks of the past, such as creating drawings, prototyping, and going through extensive physical testing for each design iteration. CAE takes out costs across the board.”

Dana’s CAE arsenal is extensive. Among the tools are Abaqus from Simulia, Dassault Systèmes, the company’s longtime FEA solver for realistic simulation; Hypermesh from Altair, Abaqus/CAE and Simlab for preprocessing; StarCCM+ from CD-adapco and FlowVision from Capvidia for computational fluid dynamics; MoldFlow for molding simulation; and FESafe for fatigue. Isight, also from Simulia, is used for optimization tasks such as Design of Experiments.

While continuing individual component analysis, Dana has also made the step into simulating subsystems, complete systems, and global models. “As the company transitions to full systems engineering in the virtual world, we expect to add even more software codes in the future,” said Popielas.


Full Systems Engineering in the Virtual World

As the simulation process at Dana matured, the challenge for the engineering group shifted from how to accurately predict real product performance, to other pressing issues: How to more effectively connect simulation with the rest of the business and decision-making processes. How to improve collaboration with both the customer and among Dana’s global engineering resources. How to improve the management of the growing volume of data generated by the simulation process, the approaches and the IP created by the CAE analysts.

To address these needs Dana turned to Dassault Systèmes and the Simulia Simulation Lifecycle Management (SLM) solution. Dana engaged in an in-depth evaluation of SLM to measure capability to their specific needs, and began deploying Simulia’s SLM in the summer of 2012. Based on Dassault Systèmes’ V6 platform technology, SLM enables a company to define and manage simulation methods, models and procedures (scenarios). “When you get into virtual engineering, in order to not waste your investment you have to have a tool in place that manages data, process and development,” said Popielas.

Historically, CAE at Dana was the purview of individual experts who would select from among multiple software tools to perform everything from design data preparation to simulation execution to results analysis, storing both inputs and solutions mostly on their local hard drives. This made collaboration difficult, and coordinating larger projects a major challenge. Communication about design changes was also an issue, with the experts sometimes running simulations on outdated data files. The situation was further complicated by Dana’s growth strategy of dispersing teams globally in order to keep closer contact with their geographically diverse customers.

“An individual product validation can involve thousands of gigabytes of information over time,” said Popielas. “When you generate as much data as we do, especially in the form of such complex simulations, you need to be able to assess what you have, know where it came from, and track it over time. SLM is enabling us to do all of that.”

As they began deploying SLM, Dana took a bottom-up approach that helped the process evolve logically. “This was not a top-down, enterprise-wide deployment,” said Popielas. “We considered all the different processes we wanted to connect via SLM and looked at where it made sense to start.”


Creating Guided Templates

An important aspect of the implementation process has been the creation of guided templates within SLM that capture best practices and standard method for simulation work on core products. A next step Dana is working on is to create fully automated templates. “These standardized templates are in the front end, with data loaded by non-CAE engineers and simulations running in the background,” said Popielas. “Our users don’t need to have knowledge of the specifics of the CAE software they are using, just access to a menu of proven shortcuts that help them accomplish their goals. If additional information is needed during the course of a product validation, they can use SLM to quickly locate input from our physical test labs. This automation enables future full virtualization of engineering as it is being implemented in all areas.”

As deployment proceeds throughout Dana, Popielas said, “SLM is helping us manage everything so much more effectively. We can easily store data and find it again, literally saving weeks of searching. SLM is not just archiving, it’s an environment where you always have working access to all the information you need.”

A sampling of the different CAE software programs Dana uses for simulation during the design and development of its products.

In the future, SLM’s open platform will also allow the Dana team to share and exchange relevant data—among themselves, with their customers, and with their own suppliers. “Our user base is very diversified,” said Popielas. “We need to be able to work with any software tool out there. Within SLM we easily generate connectors through which we can line up to the different software packages, which can be CAE tools, a PDF, or even an internally written script, anything with an executable.”

SLM process management capabilities make such teamwork smoother by providing consistency and repeatability. “We’re seeing 20–25% time savings over our previous methodology,” Popielas said. “We can more readily identify the ‘sweet spot’ for cost-versus-performance that generates profitability.”

As all this complexity runs automatically behind the scenes, what the Dana teams appreciate most is the visual interface everyone works from when accessing SLM: Live Simulation Review, which is based on Dassault Systèmes’ 3DLive platform. The user sees an on-screen turntable, on which sit 3D representations of the various jobs in progress on any given part or assembly. By clicking on a particular image, the user can identify and navigate to all relevant simulations being worked on by whoever is involved in that particular aspect of the product’s development. As the user performs whatever tasks are required that day, all changes (and their history) are updated automatically, and are accessible to everyone authorized to access the project. Remote teams can all be on the (user secured) Live Simulation Review in order to collaborate, in real time, on model development. 


Collaborative Computer-Aided Engineering

“This is where I think SLM is the leading technology on the market,” said Popielas. “The methodology goes hand in hand with what I like to call ‘iCAE.’ The understanding of the importance of collaborative computer-aided engineering is deepening as the use of simulation becomes increasingly widespread throughout industry. If you want to draw a lot of different disciplines into the engineering space together, you have to provide a virtual environment that is visually intuitive. The ability to collaborate this way is a key reason why we went with SLM.”

Full implementation of SLM at Dana is expected to be complete in the near future, and the company’s engineers are already anticipating how the software will enable them to further their exploration of the potential of iCAE.

Upcoming enhancements include deploying templates into engineering spheres such as manufacturing. “We want to integrate manufacturing steps into simulation,” said Popielas. “Understanding the physics of the production process will further improve product quality, as will optimizing the layout of manufacturing stations.”


This article was first published in the 2013/2014 edition of the Motorized Vehicle Manufacturing Yearbook. 

Published Date : 11/20/2013

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