Did you know that today a standard smartphone has enough processing power to have handled all the computing requirements of the first moon landing in 1969? I came across this comparison recently and at first was as surprised as you probably are right now. After giving it some thought, however, I realised that it was not so shocking after all – simply because I see how the performance of computers is developing almost on a daily basis. As Director Engineering/Validation in the Automotive Original Equipment Business Unit at Ludwigsburg, I work alongside experienced simulation engineers. Smartphones would be of no use here, but thanks to high-performance computers and extremely specialised software, we are able to predict the behaviour of individual components right through to entire systems – without the product even existing.
I’ve been doing this job for over a decade, but I am just as fascinated by my work now as I was on my first day. The fact that a lot of developments have taken place over these past ten years has something to do with it. One thing’s for sure, ever since computers have existed, products have been tested, modified and optimised virtually – long before actual production. This shortens development times, lowers costs and increases the quality of the product. The quantum leap we have made since the start of the new millennium alone is noteworthy, however. The intake manifold, through which an engine takes in combustion air, is a good example to cite here. In 2003, it took a computer around five days to simulate air flow. Today, it takes around two hours. This time has come down because the software used keeps on getting better and more powerful – our simulation’s predictions are around 90 percent accurate nowadays, for instance.
Technology is just one aspect of this progress, however. An individual’s understanding of how to use the technology is also crucial here. Comparisons can be made with the role of a chef: even the best ingredients do not guarantee a perfect meal if the chef is no good at their job. In order therefore to ensure that our employees who work in simulation – and not just those at Ludwigsburg but everyone working at locations with relevant facilities worldwide – can do their work in the best possible way, we train all our employees ourselves and attach great importance to continual further training. This is not only important because it is not possible to study simulation engineering as a vocational field, but also because extensive and in-depth training is required before you can simulate the very complex correlations correctly. That’s why we provide training in Ludwigsburg using customised training programmes which take into account the individual’s own professional background as well as their later work. A key focus here is to ensure that our simulation engineers do not work ‘by the book’ but instead have their own ideas to bring to the table.
I see this investment in training paying off every day. Life at MANN+HUMMEL is not just about the extensive expertise we have available. Every day also presents further evidence of the commitment and spirit my team bring to the development of new products. Of course, teamwork across divisions plays an important role here: no matter how good a designer’s work, for example, simulation manages time and time again to find small yet key aspects with potential for improvement, which are then discussed collaboratively and reviewed for feasibility. At this point, even the smallest of changes have an effect on aspects such as flow behaviour, pressure loss, mechanical loads, acoustic performance, and much else besides. Furthermore, our results also give us a new basis on which new design or (later on) prototype proposals can be made, which in turn helps us to refine our analysis methods. It’s ‘give and take’ in other words – an exchange as we work towards a common goal. Collaboration between all the departments involved, from design to prototype to sales at the end, is the only way to achieve extraordinary results with such regularity. Even today, I still take pleasure every time I see a new car on the road for the first time and know that it contains a highly innovative MANN+HUMMEL product in which we played our part.