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The Role of Simulation to Create Smarter Consumer Products

Jill Powers is Director, Consumer Products & Retail for Siemens Digital Industries Software.

Organizations are looking at different ways to improve their products and processes and this is where the vision of a holistic digital twin is gaining ground throughout traditional industries like consumer goods and retail.

Simulation is an important part of the holistic digital twin in an industry with increasingly complex products, where designs and decisions should be evaluated with more realistic models. A holistic digital twin approach comprising product, production, performance and leveraging a solid collaboration platform enables a seamless transition between the virtual and the real world.

Today’s smart product and process design approach uses digital representations of the product and the manufacturing unit operations to evaluate the overall performance. Using advanced engineering simulation to create a performance twin of the product and process, companies can perform many trials for improved designs to meet process requirements and optimize operations.

Here, we tap into the expertise of Jill Powers, Director, Consumer Products & Retail for Siemens Digital Industries Software, as she reveals how the holistic digital twin helps in tearing down the walls from product design to the manufacturing process – resulting in an improved operation.

CGT: What common misconceptions do you often hear in working with your clients with regards to simulation?

Powers: Clients are often surprised with how far the various simulation technologies have evolved and the models that are able to be created. The ability to push the boundaries of design exploration in order to arrive at the best outcome in a fraction of the time is proven to our clients’ time and time again through trials or proofs of concept.


CGT: Has the process and technology become more critical during pandemic?

Powers: This pandemic is helping companies to see manufacturing in a different way. Companies say that they have learned more in the past months than what they have in the last five years.

Jay Timmons, president and CEO, National Association of Manufacturers, said, “We are going to be called upon to invent and develop new products and technologies, digitalization of American companies is going to explode, we are talking about creators and innovators coming up with technologies that we just can barely imagine.”

At the heart of all this innovation there is simulation, helping to speed up all of this development, using the virtual world to find new solutions for these new challenges. 

CGT: How can CG manufacturers start their journey to leveraging simulation? 

Powers: In order to help companies with a measured approach to the adoption of digital twins in product development, we have created a simple model with three main axes representing different areas for any company to focus on to improve core capabilities related to digital twin adoption – realism, continuity, and exploration.

  1. Realism: The first focus area for maturity is realism of the digital twin. To address increasingly complex systems and technologies, it is critical that companies have a realistic representation of their product and production to give confidence in their designs and ensure that design decisions are correct. Improved confidence in both simulation and test data can reduce the need for over-design, reduce end-of-cycle physical testing and reduce the number of field failures.
  2. Continuity: Second, to support the digital twin, it is critical that performance engineering processes are not isolated and disconnected from the rest of the organization or the PLM (product lifecycle management) process. Companies need a digital thread that connects people, projects, models and data to efficiently tackle the innovation of these very complex problems. If companies are able to reduce barriers and enable enterprise collaboration, they not only increase their process efficiency, but also get a more holistic view to make the right decisions.
  3. Exploration: Third, having realistic and integrated processes and models today is not enough. Companies must be able to deploy them so that they bring the necessary insight to make design decisions and do it quickly. A key value of digital performance analysis is that it allows for quick and cost-effective evaluations of design changes. To get the most benefit from simulation tools, companies must intelligently explore the design space to quickly understand design drivers and trade-offs and discover better designs.

CGT: What are some best practices for implementing this technology?

Powers: To ensure innovation in a productive manner, companies need to maximize the effective use of high-end software simulation solutions and advanced test systems. Therefore, as product complexity rises, it becomes increasingly important to simultaneously master various engineering and physics disciplines: Domain specialists can no longer work in isolated silos. On the contrary, these engineers need to be surrounded by professionals who have competencies outside their area of expertise. They need ready access to a global community of simulation engineers and the expertise must be delivered as part of individualized customer support.


CGT: Are there differences in using simulation for discrete versus process formulated products?

Powers: Current simulation practices have evolved in many ways through the combination of traditional analysis coupled with multi-physics providing more accurate modelling techniques. This allows CG companies to simulate their products (both discrete and formulated) and the manufacturing processes related to them. Simulation can also be applied to all segments of the consumer product and retail (CP&R) industries.

The type of analysis and the purpose of it differentiates what is commonly performed for discrete or formulated products.

Simulation for discrete products: This category of products where mechanical, electric, electronics and software meet are becoming more complex and sophisticated. This is the reason why CP&R companies are starting to apply design and simulation disciplines/strategies that are commonly used in aerospace, automotive or electronics industries.

Simulation for formulated products: Companies can use simulation to find the right product formula/recipe combination based on their requirements. With Simcenter HEEDS, thousands of design iterations can be performed to find the most optimized one. This includes product simulation for heating, cooking, pasteurization, packaging and ergonomics (package). CPG companies can simulate their manufacturing processes so that operations like filling, mixing and cooking can be optimized, including all equipment and production lines that must be designed.


CGT: What are some benefits achieved from your clients leveraging this technology? 

Powers: Krones AG in the Bavarian town of Neutraubling not only supplies beverage filling and packing systems to its customers, but also supports them by jointly planning and developing the right bottles, cans and specially shaped containers for their products. 

To reduce the development times for PET bottles and thereby give customers a competitive advantage, the machine and system builder wanted to use precise simulation models to gain a deeper understanding of the product properties desired by its industrial customers. The motivation is that manufacturers require ever shorter time-to-market for new beverages and need optimized packaging for this. 

After having used numerous simulation tools of various manufacturers in the past, the engineers at Krones are now relying on uniform tools from the Siemens PLM software portfolio (NX CAD, NX CAE and NX Nastran) for simulation of the PET bottles throughout the process. 

It is now also possible to simulate the production behavior for different wall thicknesses in the blow-molding machine, the thermal behavior, the material flow and the motion behavior in the production line using the Siemens NX tools. Likewise, the structural loading of bottles in the case of top load filling or the behavior of filled and stacked bottles on transport pallets can be simulated. 

Arno Haner, head of PET Packaging Design at Krones, said, "NX is the preferred and probably the only environment available on the market that scales simulation data from expert analysis up to the developer community."

The ultimate goal at Krones is to reduce the development time for a new bottle from the typical three to four weeks in the past down to three to four days. 

Progress toward this goal has already been made. For example, the top-load filling process for newly developed PET bottles can now be simulated much faster – with a time savings of 75%. A virtual modeling process for a package taking four to eight hours in the past now takes only one hour thanks to Siemens NX.

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