Reaping the Benefits of HPC-Driven Product Development

By Tiffany Trader

January 8, 2015

The high-stakes global market place with its razor-thin margins has been a boon for innovative solutions and technologies, like high-performance computing, which has been shown to confer a significant competitive advantage. Many manufacturers, especially the larger companies, are already familiar with the benefits that accrue from HPC modeling, simulation and analysis. Yet others remain reluctant or unsure how to get started or whether it’s worth the risk. For smaller outfits especially this can be a daunting undertaking. A solid strategy is essential to maximizing ROI and minimizing risk.

A new white paper from Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) positions HPC-driven engineering simulation as a potential game-changer that when correctly implemented can reduce prototyping costs and speed product development cycles and bring about the holy grail that is “future ready” products. The authors note that while this technology has been in place for some time, it is now enjoying wider deployment across all phases of product development. The paper goes on to examine the numerous benefits associated with HPC based engineering simulation while providing a framework for addressing the challenges.

TCS engineering simulation current adoption 2014
Courtesy: Tata Consultancy Services

As with any tool or technology, some companies experience remarkable dividends from an investment in HPC-based manufacturing tools and processes, with reduced costs, improved time-to-market and a better quality product all combining to drive profitability. What sets these satisfied HPC adopters apart from those that do not experience these sought-after gains? The key, according to the authors, is how the technologies are being selected and deployed. Business objectives must be carefully aligned with HPC implementation, they write, and not carried out in an “unstructured manner.”

“The multiple challenges faced in embracing simulation driven product development can be divided between the concerns of the management and those of users, with fewer observed challenges jointly shared by both,” they offer. “This is due to separate goals and non-aligned measurement of returns of these two parties. While the engineering simulation groups look forward to continuous investment in software, hardware, and talent to meet future challenges, the management team has concerns that engineering simulation requires long gestation periods before the realization of benefits.”

Computational prowess is not the whole picture. The roadmap to success, according to the TCS team, must include a focus on organizational alignment, communication with the design team, as well as process knowledge (and documentation).

As for the computing technologies and software tools, considerations should emphasize efficiency, usefulness and return on investment. The authors supply the following parameters as a jumping off point:

  • Reliability, availability, and scalability
  • Modularity and user friendliness
  • Manageability and utilization
  • Total cost of ownership (TCO)

The decision process should also take into account the numerous components involved in a large HPC system as well as the natural evolution in product development.

Once the system is in place, the next step is getting the most out of the HPC investment. This is where the business drivers come into play: differentiators like “speed to market, enhanced product reliability, and faster incremental development” are all very achievable and can have a positive impact on future investments. To support the potential for success, the authors have set out a five-fold path for HPC-based product development: standardize processes for repeatability and reproducibility; extend the HPC approach to global operations; automate routine processes whenever possible; align technologies with business goals; and when the time comes, establish a method for measuring the benefits that have accrued from HPC and then use this as a template for evaluating perspective investments.

Although there is risk inherent in any investment, the takeaway here is that developing and maintaining an HPC strategy that supports organizational and business mandates at all junctures guards against obsolescence and increases the likelihood of realizing significant return on investment.

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