Granta's latest Materials Strategy Seminar took place near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on December 3rd, following the 5th meeting of the Materials Strategy Consortium. Even the freezing Chicago winter weather did not deter a hard core of attendees, who learned about the latest materials strategy technologies and appreciated the opportunity to share their experiences.
The Consortium is a pre-competitive group of companies working on an ambitious project to create software tools that:
- Optimize materials decisions during design, helping to meet strategic objectives such as lower cost, reduced environmental impact, or improved global manufacturing
- Reduce the number of materials and/or suppliers across large, multi-business enterprises, while enabling materials and process innovation
- Integrate tools to support these goals with the PLM, CAD, and CAE tools already used for design and engineering.
The seminar began with a “round table” session in which each participant described their materials strategy challenges and any experience in implementing software to address these challenges.
Particular highlights were the presentations provided by Consortium members Dr Bob Rivett from Emerson Electric and Dr Tim O’Brien from Moen. It was interesting to compare the goals of these organizations. Emerson’s objective is to drive the development and implementation of material rationalization strategies, enabling designers to specify preferred materials from preferred suppliers. For Moen, the rapidly changing business environment is the key challenge – raw materials and energy costs are volatile, while changing consumer attitudes and associated legislative responses are imposing new constraints regarding the toxicity and potential environmental impact of materials.
Both are fundamentally concerned with providing assistance in making cost-effective material and process decisions. Emerson’s solution, targeted at users distributed worldwide, is being implemented using the web-based GRANTA MI Enterprise Materials Optimizer software. Moen uses the desktop PC application CES Selector to support a core team of materials experts. Participants were interested in the respective capabilities of these tools and their implementation.
These themes were explored further during software demonstrations. Granta’s Dan Williams first covered the foundations for an effective materials strategy –
- Getting all materials data in one place
- Managing and analyzing data as it changes
- Deploying approved information and tools to the people that need it
In a typical best practice approach all of an organization's in-house data is consolidated, together with relevant external reference data, in a single materials database, enabling its analysis and use. Tools can then be applied to search and query data, to compare materials, and to deliver up-to-date and approved materials data for analysis in Excel or use in CAE software.
Dr Patrick Coulter then showed the capabilities of the new CES Selector 2008. Seminar attendees were shown how the new graphical tool makes it simple for users to derive the powerful Ashby performance indices used to select candidate materials.
Dr Arthur Fairfull then showed the Enterprise Materials Optimizer – an enterprise-wide tool to identify lowest cost materials and process combinations. This technique combines engineering, economic, and environmental considerations, and helps ensure consistent decision-making across the business, rather than simply improving individual decisions.
Attention then turned to the topic of integrating materials systems with engineering software so that engineers can identify suitable candidate materials, or generate reports of the characteristics of all the materials used in an assembly, without leaving their familiar CAD, CAE or PLM environment. This is particularly pertinent from the perspective of eco design in the context of restricted substance legislation – users need the tie-up between what materials are used where (as defined in the Bill of Materials in their PLM system) and the detailed information on these materials, such as any substances they may contain that are restricted by legislation. Guided by Consortium members, Granta currently has significant R&D activity in this area and demonstrated the generation of restricted substances reports (such as are required by REACH) via integrations between the materials database and several CAD and PLM systems. The same technology can be used with regard to preferred materials classifications, and this was illustrated with a Pro/ENGINEER example showing how the user could generate a report on the preferred status of each of the materials in an assembly. Such reports can target the use of the Enterprise Materials Optimizer in determining alternatives to unapproved, obsolete or less cost-effective materials.
Overall, the seminar was very well received - attendees were looking forward to the next meeting somewhere warmer!