Continuous improvement to meet new challenges

  • 07-May-2013 04:50 EDT
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Larry Kendrick, Senior Principal Technical Consultant, MathWorks.

To meet emissions regulations and reduce fuel consumption and ownership cost, off-highway vehicle companies are developing electric drives, advanced power storage, alternative fuels, aftertreatment, operator assistance, next-gen hydraulics, and other solutions. These complex solutions depend on electronics that use control strategies implemented in software. In addition, these solutions must be implemented at lower cost and in less time than in the past. To achieve this, many product development organizations have adopted model-based design, and as a result have seen a significant decrease in development time and cost.

With model-based design, engineers develop executable models of both the control strategies and the system under control. They then simulate these models and perform rapid prototyping, enabling quick evaluation of concepts and requirements validation. Model-based design provides the capability to test designs from initial concept through design elaboration, thereby uncovering problems earlier in development and reducing the cost to make corrections.

Once a design satisfies its requirements, automatic code generation provides a quick and error-free path to implementation. Reports of savings that exceed 40% are common. Along with the savings come increased understanding, improved design and test reuse, and improved knowledge retention.

The extent of total benefits realized from adopting model-based design varies from enterprise to enterprise and within different divisions inside enterprises. Companies question the extent to which they are fully leveraging the capabilities of model-based design. They want to understand how they compare with industry benchmarks and to identify those aspects of model-based design on which they should concentrate their improvement efforts. However, these efforts are challenging without a consistent framework.

Recently, MathWorks developed a framework for determining the maturity of model-based design deployments. This framework is based on the experience of conducting onsite assessments of model-based design deployments and working with companies to deploy model-based design in production.

The Maturity Framework identifies six fundamental areas of capability that are critical to achieving a mature deployment. The capability areas (modeling, simulation and analysis, implementation, verification and validation, process/tools/infrastructure, and enterprise management), or pillars of model-based design, are process and application independent. The pillars are further broken down into process groups and attributes for the purpose of making maturity determinations and identifying specific strengths and weaknesses.

Between leaders and laggards of model-based design in the off-highway industry there is significant variability, and there are opportunities for improvement even among the top performers in the industry. Companies can use this variability to determine how to best increase their competency, based on their own business needs. For example, to increase the score for the modeling pillar, plant/environment modeling, model documentation, and adherence to modeling standards must all improve. This would result in a better capability for virtual validation, easier maintenance, and increased reuse.

While the challenges facing off-highway vehicle designers are formidable, model-based design provides a powerful mechanism for meeting these challenges now and in the future. In addition, the maturity framework provides a means for assessing the maturity of a model-based design deployment and for identifying specific opportunities where improvement will enable an enterprise to realize the full value of model-based design.

Larry Kendrick, Senior Principal Technical Consultant, MathWorks, wrote this article for SAE Off-Highway Engineering.

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