Granta Design's CES Selector Helps Manufacturers Keep Pace The Changing Materials Environment

Topics Covered

Introduction
The Importance of an Effective Materials Strategy
The Changing Materials Environment
The Shift to Formal Materials Data Management
Using CES Selector to Explore Materials and Processing Alternatives
Vision for the Future

Introduction

Dr Tim O'Brien of Fortune Brands Home & Hardware provided a case study on how they came to choose the Granta Design materials selection software solution at at Materials Strategy Open Seminar. Fortune Brands is a world leader in the home and hardware sector, with sales in this area exceeding $4 billion last year. Materials decisions can have multi-million dollar implications. And making these decisions requires consideration of engineering properties - mechanical and thermal behavior, corrosion-resistance, etc. - to be combined with economic considerations (e.g., raw materials cost, tooling cost, labor cost for different manufacturing scenarios) and, increasingly, environmental considerations.

The Importance of an Effective Materials Strategy

Dr O'Brien highlighted why an effective materials strategy is becoming more important. For over sixty years, the sector's service environment has been well understood and only moderately challenging from a materials perspective. The 'palette' of materials options has been relatively stable and described by ample, high quality data. Raw materials costs (or at least trends in those costs) have also been relatively stable. Manufacturers have managed with an informal approach to materials data (e.g., looking it up in handbooks or on-line when necessary, storing it in hard copy or spreadsheets, and relying on expert knowledge).

The Changing Materials Environment

This environment is changing rapidly. Raw materials costs are both increasing and volatile. Energy costs are rising. Global eco activism is changing consumer attitudes and increasing the focus on the toxicity and potential environmental impact of materials. Legislative responses to similar issues are imposing new constraints. From December 31, 2010, for example, the leaded free machining brass alloy that has been the core material in plumbing products for over 150 years will effectively be obsolete in California. Added to this, a “phase change” in the Chinese economy is shifting manufacturing, supply, and customer-bases.

The Shift to Formal Materials Data Management

There will be a greater need for 'scenario planning' - considering alternative product designs and materials and planning for changes in materials costs. New materials will, in some cases, become mandated - data describing these materials will often be less freely available. All of these changes, argued Dr O'Brien, are driving a shift from informal to formal materials data management.

Using CES Selector to Explore Materials and Processing Alternatives

They also demand tools to help us explore key manufacturing questions. Dr O'Brien demonstrated the use of analysis software to explore changes in the relative costs of different manufacturing techniques as the volume of the component being made increases. He is a long-standing user of Granta's materials selection software, CES Selector. He commented that, whenever he approaches a materials problem, he always has a few materials options in mind, but CES Selector usually suggests additional options. Past applications have included a component redesign that cut production costs in half and doubled performance on an important product line.

Vision for the Future

Dr O'Brien outlined a vision for how such software such as Granta Design's CES Selector should develop to support enterprise materials strategies. He sees cost as a critical focus, with a need to develop models that can combine materials and process costs and consider factory costs in different global regions. Such a knowledge base should also include different scenarios for future materials costs. If such an information resource could be easily enriched and refined by an individual company using its proprietary data, then it would provide the basis for a powerful tool that could enable rapid searches for "similar-to" materials - i.e., aiding the preparation of alternative materials strategies to meet different cost scenarios.

This article is taken from an event report on the Granta Design website.

Source: Granta Design

For more information on this source, please visit Granta Design.

Date Added: May 14, 2010 | Updated: Jun 11, 2013
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