Monday, February 27, 2012

Tools of the trade, Part 6

Last Comments on Software

In the last posting I posed the question "suppose you want to take some action - either at the design end or the manufacturing end. What tools can you rely on after you've done the background work and now want to move on to execution?"

The simple answer I gave was "This is where software tools come in."

I then proceeded to go into details about some interesting software tools that aid the designer, or manufacturer, in decision making about green and sustainable actions to take.

Shortly after that posting, I was invited to participate in a live (and simultaneously web-broadcast) Sustainability Summit at Autodesk in San Francisco.

Not surprisingly, the event was well organized and attended by an interesting mix of media, industry and students (including a sizable audience "attending" via a YouTube live link). It was interesting to hear a large corporation with a number of software tools for designers and engineers in this field, like the Autodesk® Inventor® 3D CAD software, discuss where they think the market is going and what software tools will have to allow the designer, and manufacturer, to do.

The program was comprised of a series of discussions and panel discussion starting with company CEO Carl Bass in conversation with Marc Gunther, a Fortune and GreenBiz contributor, discussing the importance of sustainability in the future of design.  Although this conversation was design centric, it had a lot of leads into green and sustainable manufacturing.

Other participants included Clean Tech Partner Burt Hamner of Hydrovolts; myself representing our lab at UC Berkeley on green manufacturing; Daniel Talancon and Vince Romanin, UC Berkeley graduate students on their Eco-Fridge design using Inventor; and Ken Sanders of Gensler on their Shanghai Tower design and other sustainable building projects.

Rather than rattling on about the meeting here, I've decided to take the easy way out and post links to the recorded YouTube presentations and discussions. That is more effective and, to me, better to hear the participants speaking about their views in their own words.

As a set up to the recording of my comments as part of the panel discussion lead by Autodesk's Sarah Krasley, I was asked to describe our "spatial vs temporal" matrix of manufacturing activities. This was first presented in the January 21, 2010 posting as part of a "low hanging fruit" series.

As a quick refresher, in case you did not see this (or since it was over two years ago!), the matrix is designed to illustrate different levels of control and flexibility in manufacturing from a temporal view (ie what comes first, second, third, and so on) and spatial view (where in the enterprise - broadly viewed - can actions be taken). I had detailed the temporal configuration as including four levels, from product design at level 1 through process design and planning (manufacturing plan) to parameter selection and process optimization to post manufacturing operations (finishing, etc.) at level 4. It was noted that the flexibility to make decisions decreases as we move away from design towards manufacturing.

This makes sense. On the factory floor we are no longer able to change the product or component design, material or other features. We may not, at level 3, be able to do much about the suite of machines we intend to use to produce the part. We most likely can adjust some of the operating parameters or, at level 4, do some finishing or alteration to overcome a problem.

The spatial domains are defined along the same lines except they will move outward from production specifics in the plant to facility design, enterprise design, logistics (or inter-enterprise) and supply chain and distribution.

The figure below was included as a graphical representation of the matrix and is worth repeating here.

The temporal axis is horizontal and the spatial axis is vertical. As one moves up and to the right in the figure one can suffer a loss of decision making capability as all earlier decisions in the product design cycle, or lower in the supply chain, effect the ability to make decisions at higher levels.  How you affect what is happening at any location within this matrix depends on what information you have about the process or system represented there, what your understanding is of what this information says about what's going on, what ability you have respond to this understanding, if needed (or leave it alone if it is performing correctly), what "levers and buttons" you have at your disposal to make a response and, finally, what means you have to determine if your response had any impact and, if so, how much.

That is, with respect to our tools discussion here, how well the software you are using to integrate across these different levels includes all the critical information, reasoning, behavioral models, visualization, etc. to support your work and decisionmaking.

So, with that set up on the summit in general and the background on my particular contribution, the links to the different presentations are listed below. They are only 3-5 minutes in length so are easily digestible (with the exception of the interview with the CEO - which is much longer.)

Warning - this was a a commercial event so it is, not surprisingly, very professionally done and has a commercial message. But, the contributors are genuine in their enthusiasm are their messages are on target and worth listening to!

The links are:

- Overview of the program and Sara Krasley interviewing the panel

- UC Berkeley students on their Eco-fridge design

- Ken Sanders of Gensler speaking about green building design

- Dave Dornfeld speaking about the temporal - spatial matrix discussed above

- Carl Bass, Autodesk CEO, being interviewed (Careful- this is a long one! 34 Minutes)

Or you can see the complete "playlist" on line.


For sure, there is other software on the market that addresses many of these same issues. You should check that out on your own.

Finally, next time we'll revisit the leveraging discussion.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tools of the trade, Part 5

Software to the rescue

In part 4 of this series (Back in December … it has been a busy start to the year!) I introduced the idea of the "design to production pipeline."  This was to illustrate the design to manufacturing continuum and show a strategy whereby the designer, looking into the pipeline from the design perspective, could see the follow-on steps and requirements for successful production. Although the process is rarely actually serial, it is clear that some things come first, like design, and others come later, like actual production. These days there is (or should be) a lot of iteration between the determination of the final design specs and the establishment of the process plan for manufacturing.

The point is, there needs to be an inclusion of green or sustainable requirements in the specifications of the design (like material selection, for example) and on to the manufacturing stage (like insuring efficient conversion of materials in to the product).

We have been discussing the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit. In case you've missed the past three posting you can find details on the toolkit in an line Start-up Guide. This toolkit is well suited for organizing your strategy. But, what if you want to design or manufacture something and take green and sustainable principles into account?

Suppose you want to take some action - either at the design end or the manufacturing end. What tools can you rely on after you've done the background work and now want to move on to execution. This is where software tools come in.

As usual, it is not simple.

If you are a designer, and are beyond the function expansion stage and into more elements of the detail design, you are invariably led to consider some of the commercial software that is on the market for including sustainable (or at least green) constraints in the design.

As a green or sustainable manufacturer you usually have three basic "levers" you can adjust to optimize the production of a product or component - process technology, energy source and material. That is, you can improve the efficiency of the process in terms of energy or material consumption, you can reduce the embedded energy in the materials or use cleaner sources of energy, or you can introduce processing technology (remember the wedges?!) that are better suited to converting materials into product.

Let me state, at the outset, that I am not selling any particular piece of software! But, I am aware of some interesting developments in software that can get the designer (or manufacturer) moving in the right direction. And these offer insight (view down the pipe!) during the design process. This can be the design of a product or component, design of a machine used in production, or design of a factory.

First is material selection. Some time back we had a series of postings on "less is more" (see for example one on "how much less is less?"). In that series I mentioned software from Granta Design and their CES and  "Ecoselector" software. This particular software allows the designer (or manufacturing engineer) to consider energy (embedded and processing) and recycling potential along with other material properties in the course of designing a product or component.

The Eco Audit Tool is specially designed for this. It is an add on to Granta's basic material selector software that assists in meeting environmental objectives in engineering and design - objectives such as limiting the carbon footprint of a product, reduce the product's energy usage, limit wastes and emissions, or specify the details of its disposal at end of life.

First, Granta is clear about the components of the life cycle. In the figure below from the website linked above we can see the the different life stages of a product from material production through manufacture, use and end of life as well as the items tracked (energy, feedstocks and transport) and the environmental stressors. Stressors are the outputs of the cycle that impact the environment - e.g. greenhouse gases, particulates and waste.

Granta software makes an early analysis about where in the life cycle the major impact is seen (recall our discussion of use vs manufacturing phase impacts?). In the figure below, also from Granta, an example showing a product for which the use phase dominates in terms of energy consumption.

Then, in the lower boxes in the figure, different strategies are listed to minimize energy consumption. For the use phase these include minimizing weight, heat loss, electrical loss and systems losses. One can imagine this applied to an automobile where high strength to weight materials will offer enhanced fuel economy or, as a system, the powertrain is designed to reduce losses in power transmission. One can also envision this in the design of a machine tool for production for which the ability to idle machine components when not in productive use can save energy.

Interestingly, Granta has a link to Autodesk Inventor software. Or, perhaps better said, Autodesk Inventor has a link to Granta! This is shown on a clever (if not a bit commercial) Youtube video on how the CES software works and how they link into Autodesk for materials in sustainable design.

The Autodesk® Inventor® 3D CAD software, according to Autodesk's website info "offer[s] a comprehensive, flexible set of software for 3D mechanical design, product simulation, tooling creation, and design communication."

More on Autodesk and the Inventor software next time along with other commercial products that address this (like Solidworks design tools) and lifecycle assessment software for a deep dive in the impacts of the product or process.