The Human Factor – A report from the 2016 Material Intelligence seminar
Published on November 22, 2016 by Grant Cole
Published on November 22, 2016 by Grant Cole
The 2016 Material Intelligence seminar (and associated 5th North European Granta User Group meeting) was hosted by Rolls-Royce in Derby, UK, earlier this month. One (perhaps rather obvious!) message came through to me loud-and-clear: when you’re trying to figure out how to get the best from a technology, nothing beats hearing from those who are already doing it. Amandeep Mhay, project leader of the enterprise materials information management project at Rolls-Royce, shared experience of rolling out this program over 12 years. A phased approach has grown usage from a few tens of engineers in one business unit to thousands enterprise-wide. The system collates, tracks, and qualifies vital materials information, and makes it available in a controlled manner. Its homepage is one of the top ten accessed web pages across Rolls-Royce and cost benefits are estimated at £6.9m per annum.
One theme that came out in discussion of this presentation, and also in the breakout session on Materials Data Management, was the human element to making such projects work. For example, engineers tend to hold on to data and not share it, often past the point where it becomes embarrassing for them to do so. Those engineers may use this data in preference to approved, consistent, corporate data, while their colleagues may be missing out on useful information. Some seminar attendees had applied ‘data amnesties’ to resolve this hidden problem. Another human factor was the natural tendency to bury results from ‘failed’ material tests. In fact, tests that don’t complete often contain useful data points, and we can also gain useful information if the reason for failure is captured. We need a systematic approach to capture such knowledge and mine it.
Also discussed were the importance of knowing which tests are in progress, even if they have not yet produced results, and an interest in Additive Manufacturing. During these early days for AM machines and properties it is important to capture and link as much relevant information as possible. The group was also given a lively presentation by Jeremy Mansfield of Doosan Babcock, with many tips for handling data on its journey from raw specimen data to design allowable data.
A breakout session on Materials Selection heard from Tim van Erp of SABIC, who presented a case study on performance and cost when considering new plastics for an application related to large machinery. He showed how CES Selector has been used to tackle this problem, with its Hybrid Synthesizer assessing a possible sandwich thermoforming approach and its Part Cost Estimator used to model cost. These tools provided valuable insight, when combined with a good understanding of the part production steps. This latter point was reinforced in discussions: the group agreed that material selection should not be a ‘black box’. Data and tools complement (rather than replace) materials expertise, saving time, providing new ideas, and helping to identify and assess trade-offs.
The final breakout session focused on Applying Materials Information—particularly in engineering and business processes such as simulation and restricted substance risk assessment. Andrew Haggie of Jaguar Land Rover shared the experience of creating “one source of the materials truth” for CAE engineers. Discussion around this topic focused on the challenge of bridging the gap between test data and the simulation model and the need to understand how ‘safety factors’ had been applied. There was more discussion of those human factors, with organizations sharing experience on how materials information programs often have to be led by ‘pushing’ a new system out to analysts who may resist a process change. Careful implementation and a focus on what the end-user needs eventually results in ‘pull’, as those users realise the benefits of being able to get the data they need, quickly, consistently, and reliably.
The whole event reminded us that implementing software technology is as much about the people that use it as the technology itself – whether that’s in the detail of ensuring that a tool fits an individual’s workflow, or in the wider sense of learning from experience gained elsewhere. At Granta we’re committed to enabling this process through events such as this one, through our Consortia projects, and by embodying expertise within our software and our Implementation Services team.
Many thanks to Rolls-Royce for hosting the day, and to all who attended.