SIMULIA is proud to work with industry leaders as they leverage modeling and simulation (MODSIM) approaches to accelerate innovation and drive sustainability. Our MODSIM Pioneers series shines a spotlight on some of the people leading transformation in their industries. Below, we hear from Mel Creasey of Unilever, whom we caught up with following his presentation at the 3DEXPERIENCE Modeling & Simulation Conference 2022.
Tell us about yourself and your role at Unilever.
I’m a packaging excellence leader for Unilever, one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies. We’re driven by our purpose to make sustainable living commonplace, because we believe that being a responsible, sustainable business makes us a stronger, better business.
Your conference keynote presentation focused on how you are addressing industry challenges with a MODSIM approach. Tell us more about that.
Designing packaging solutions that minimize waste, maximize supply chain efficiency and consistently delight the consumer is not a trivial task. I discussed how advanced modeling and simulation approaches are proving key to supporting our teams as they look to address increasingly complex challenges and successfully balance conflicting requirements.
You have a lot of recurring workflows which seem to be predestined for automation. What role does automation play for you?
Automation plays a few different roles in Unilever. I think the first one is about making the expert engineer’s role more efficient by simplifying and automating day-to-day tasks and opportunities so they can do their job quicker and easier.
The second benefit is that automation simplifies the use of simulation. If we can simplify the pre-processing and post-processing activities, we create the opportunity to share those models with a bigger audience so we can democratize those models.
Thirdly, we can really automate our processes so we can run optimization loops or sensitivity studies, which are highly repetitive activities.
Finally, if we use automation well, it helps to standardize how we use simulation. That means that whoever is using the models will use them in a consistent way – so we have a consistent user experience, with consistent results coming from those automated workflows.
You plan to democratize a lot of your recurring workflow and as a result, the roles of your employees might change. For example, design engineers are not only creating new designs, but they will also virtually validate these designs. How well have your employees accepted that change?
We have a spectrum of design engineers, with very creative engineers at one end and technical design engineers at the other. It’s the more technical engineers who will be predominantly using, or learning how to use, simulation.
Some people are very curious, very interested to learn, adopt and embrace simulation and try it out. They can see the benefits of simulation and how it can help in their job. Other people are a bit more cautious about the use of simulation. I think they’re worried about the complexity of the job or how long it might take them. So we need to make sure we have the right support and training in place to help people make that step. The quality of the models that we build is really important, so we have to make sure whatever we give to a design engineer is going to work – that it’s been robustly built, optimized and validated, so they have a good user experience.
How does MODSIM help Unilever to reach its sustainability goals?
Sustainability is huge for Unilever. It’s at the core of our company vision and purpose and packaging is a big part of that. Plastic reduction is super important for that agenda and MODSIM is helping us to progressively optimize our designs so we can make sure we’re minimizing material usage.
A second area where MODSIM is contributing to our sustainability program is by enabling design engineers to test more variables. By being able to test more, you can refine and improve and optimize that design to the next level.
You’re doing a lot of sophisticated simulations to improve your bottle designs. Do requirements drive your simulations?
Yes, requirements drive everything we do in simulation. We have some examples where requirements are automatically driving the design process and the simulation process, but there are only a few of those examples so far. We want to do more in the future, but we’re just at the beginning of this journey.
What’s more important for us right now is the time and effort that we spend defining requirements, making sure they are well specified, clearly articulated and quantified. That really facilitates the downstream simulation process. It makes it more efficient to design, test and optimize if we have good requirements in the first place.
Thinking about the workforce of the future, what would be the profile of any new engineers so they can fit into your organization?
We still need the simulation experts. The analysts will continue in the specialized role they already play, which is a very valuable role. But as we move forward, we need those experts to spend more time on model building and automation, model validation, and creating processes and templates that can be democratized to a broader community. They won’t be doing that all the time, but I think there’s a progressive shift in that direction.
If the simulation experts are successful in doing that, our design engineers will be expected to do more hands-on simulations themselves. So again, there’s an evolution and a development curve for our design engineers where they’ll need to learn much more about the simulation process and how it works. They’ll need to understand the limitations of simulation, in particular the model that they’re working with at that time. They’ll also need to be able to analyze the results and make sense of them independently.
We can address those challenges through training, development, support, and also in terms of the profile of new engineers coming into the business. We want the lines between a design engineer and a simulation engineer to be blurred over time.
Watch the keynote presentation and continue the conversation in the MODSIM Community!
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