Make your testing group demand upfront CFD usage

I had a major “Gee, why didn’t I think of that?” moment today. I’ve been working with a large customer that has owned CFdesign for about a year with very little usage. After a series of technical audit interviews with all the trained users and management folks, it became clear that upfront CFD hadn’t failed them… it simply hadn’t had the opportunity to take root in their process.

None of these typical implementation culprits were in play:

  • All Engineers have excellent CAD skills
  • All Engineers are smart enough to handle CAE simulation tools
  • All Engineers had been given good, initial training
  • None of the Engineers had stumbled or failed in their 1st few uses.
  • All Engineers had easy access to network licensing
  • All projects have significant thermal issues that can be assessed with upfront CFD
  • A significant amount of time & money is being spent on physical prototyping and testing in the lab

Upfront CFD isn’t being used at this company because it is not officially required as part of the engineering process.
(See If it ain’t in your process, it ain’t getting done)

Normally I suggest the customer add a specific gate or milestone for upfront CFD to their GANTT chart or official product development process. In this case, a few of the functional groups didn’t really rely on Microsoft Project or any other formal system. I was trying to suggest that this VP demand that those groups adopt a GANTT chart process. (Though, I wouldn’t want to be the guy demanding that of people who don’t want/need it!) Luckily, this VP had a better idea:

Well, we’re still spending a ton of time & money on lab testing and physical prototyping across all groups… even though we could reduce that if we actually used the upfront CFD tool we bought. I’m going to mandate that the test group will not test any physical prototype unless an upfront CFD simulation has been done first.

Wow! The truth is, some engineers see Microsoft Project as a management-wasting-my-time-I’ll-fill-it-out-after-the-fact kind of activity. So, even if you put an upfront CFD milestone on that sheet, they won’t take it to heart. I think this approach of having the test group mandate “analysis before physical testing” could be a powerful way to quickly embed upfront CFD into your engineering culture.


  1. Brent Gregory · ·

    As a long time CFD analysis engineer I echo these comments. Finding an engineering group who still does not have confidence in this technology still proves to be difficult. The fact is it was a mature technology 10 years ago and Large OEMS have invested huge amounts in order to expedite their design processes. The end users need to start working with providers to help give them an edge when negotiating with the OEM regarding equipment and operating issues. CFD can provide great insight to problems and put operators in the know regarding the way their equipment operates, whether it is as complex as combustion or as straightforward as simple aerodynamics.
    Brent Gregory