Insights from Product Data Boost Competitiveness

We keep returning to the theme of the importance of product data. This report from NI summarizing recent research into using product-centric data, such as test data, in product development brings forth some data on data.

Hundreds of senior product innovators say that product data is key to staying competitive, yet more than half of the respondents recognize gaps in the way they extract value from their test data. There is also a strong correlation between advanced data strategies and increased degrees of innovation, with two-thirds of respondents believing that a data strategy is essential to optimizing the product lifecycle.

“Companies face a dual challenge of increased product complexity and shrinking time to market, causing a shift in the way products are developed. They recognize that the status quo will not work anymore,” says Mike Santori, fellow at NI. “Business performance can improve through connected product data and analytics, and this research provides evidence that test data are a strategic differentiator.”

While many of the engineering vice presidents and heads of R&D recognize the value of data in their product development, over half cited cost as the inhibiting factor preventing the transformation of their production models. The research also pointed to test being an underutilized resource with 38% of respondents saying they rarely use test to inform product design and 51% recognizing that they could extract more value from their data if they implemented test earlier in their processes.

Additional findings include:

  • 52% of companies with an integrated company-wide product data strategy experienced faster time-to-market in the last 12 months, compared to 33% of companies without this advantage
  • 55% of product innovators say that integrating test data into the product development process will be a key priority over the next 12 months
  • 40% identify integrating test data into the product development process among the initiatives that could bring the most value to their business

The survey was conducted among senior product innovators in 10 industries including semiconductor, transportation, consumer electronics, and aerospace and defense. It was produced by FT Longitude, the specialist research and content marketing division of the Financial Times Group.

Not All Tech is in Silicon Valley

Riffing on Benedict Evans’ latest podcast called Another Podcast. He is a long time technology analyst whom I’ve followed for perhaps 20 years.

He was at an upscale restaurant in Italy recently and noticed the lights on the table. Not traditional candles, these were LED lights, with a battery and USB port for charging. 

LEDs are now everywhere. Not long ago, LED screens were prohibitively expensive. Lights were rare. This isn’t a Silicon Valley phenomenon. People who make interior decorative lighting saw the possibility, hired an engineer or two, and developed the product. They had the channel to market and relationships with customers.

Some 40 years ago while I was Quality Manager at a manufacturing plant for juvenile furniture, the general manager had a vision of lights (LED would have been perfect) on a high chair tray. There would be several. Perhaps they illuminated randomly and the child could slap at them. Maybe turn them on and off. We could have hired an electronics engineer (or I could have switched roles?) and done that back then.

It wouldn’t have taken Silicon Valley. 

Think also of the company who makes Tasers. It has relationships with almost all police organizations. They thought about products. Noticed they could combine small cameras that were now ubiquitous packaged with networking, audio, rugged packaging, and sell body cameras to those same police customers.

I’ve had jobs like that in my career where I scanned the environment for ideas from other places that we could use in our market.

We have had process and manufacturing engineers in our industry for years who absorbed technology in order to solve a problem. We needed “Silicon Valley” perhaps to design and manufacture components and provide foundational software. I’ve known many chemical engineers who became also computer engineers who then became also networking engineers all in order to solve process problems.

Yet, media reports would have us thinking that it’s all about Silicon Valley. It’s not.

So often it is not about the technology. It’s all about the problem we’re trying to solve.

Hyundai Concept Cars Utilize Autodesk Generative Design

“What happens if you combine a car and a robot?” asked John Suh, Hyundai’s founding director of the company’s recently announced New Horizons Studio based in Silicon Valley. To many, the answer is easy: Transformers!

I have a new contact at Autodesk who recently shared a company blog post by Kimberley Losey telling the story of some cool concept cars from Hyundai. Designers are using generative design from Autodesk Fusion 360 to bring concepts to life. Check out the entire post. I’ll include some highlights.

What is generative design?

Generative design is a design exploration process. Designers or engineers input design goals into the generative design software, along with parameters such as performance or spatial requirements, materials, manufacturing methods, and cost constraints. The software explores all the possible permutations of a solution, quickly generating design alternatives. It tests and learns from each iteration what works and what doesn’t.

A unique mobility solution–something that drives and walks–presents immensely difficult design and engineering challenges. One of the most common amongst these is a never-ending quest in the transportation industry: create components that are lighter, but stronger, than past generations of similar components. Designers and engineers tasked with these “lightweighting” challenges frequently look to futuristic materials such as metallic foams, carbon fiber and new metal alloysalong with modern design techniques such as generative design, for solutions. These are areas where Autodesk’s tools and expertise excel, so Hyundai turned to Autodesk for input.

Hyundai’s New Horizons Studio believes that the combination of driven wheels and powered legs will result in ground vehicles with unprecedented locomotion capabilities. The studio aims to contribute to Hyundai Motor Group’s core automotive business as it seeks to expand into new markets that enhance transportation on and off the road.

“What could a car achieve if it had the ability to walk?” continued Suh’s thinking, which ultimately resulted in the walking “Elevate” concept that Hyundai developed in collaboration with storied industrial design studio Sundberg-Ferar and debuted at CES 2019. Called the ultimate mobility vehicle (or “UMV”), Elevate has the ability to transform from a four-wheeled, car-like vehicle into a four-legged, reptilian walking machine, giving it the ability to traverse terrain that’s inaccessible to even the most capable off-road vehicles. When originally debuted, it was heralded for its ability to climb walls, cross diverse terrains and approach barriers, all while keeping its body and passengers completely level.

Uses for such a vehicle include irregular-ground transport needs, surface exploration, search and rescue emergencies, and clearing the significant transportation hurdles some mobility-impaired individuals face daily.

Generative design seeks to streamline and accelerate the process of developing design ideas and getting to production. In the time a designer can create one idea, a computer can generate thousands, within the constraints provided by the designer, and present those numerous design options with the trade-offs of strength, weight, cost, manufacturing complexity and sustainability clearly illustrated early in the process. Autodesk’s tools provide options through which designers and engineers may tap the near-limitless compute power of the cloud to reduce their mundane, repetitive analysis work, freeing up their time to focus on creativity and innovation.

Creating tools for modern teams of this nature, leveraging the cloud and a common data platform to ensure everyone’s on the same virtual page: this has been the focus of Autodesk’s Fusion 360 platform since its inception more than seven years ago. Teams can explore how to save time, remove frustration and maintain details of a project from start to finish when file sharing is seamless and everyone’s speaking a common design, engineering and manufacturing language.