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Heavy Lifting

Taking Heavy Equipment into the Digital Age

By Jane Wade

None of the following statements will come as a surprise for our readers: Worldwide, in some regions rapid, population growth is putting increasing demands on our infrastructure, the infrastructure that delivers our food, transport and power in particular.

The heavy equipment industry faces stringent regulations, that differ country to country, but are primarily concerned with operator safety and minimising environmental impact of activities.

Ever greater exploration of variable environments as we seek to gather more resources, feed, shelter and nurture a growing population globally.

Individually each of these challenges may seem like an insurmountable ask, but collectively they put the industry under tremendous pressure. Does increased digitization and deploying the digital twin offer some solutions?

Recently a group of industry experts from across the Heavy Industry supply chain gathered to talk about the challenges they faced and what role digitization played in their teams’ activities and methodologies. Gennaro Monacelli, head of design analysis and simulation at CNH (Case New Holland) Industrial; Yohann Brunel, upstream transmission manager, Poclain Hydraulics; Alastair Hayfield, senior researcher Interact Analysis and Gaetan Bouzard, industry manager, Siemens Digital Industries Software. Against a backdrop of increasing challenges for off-highway vehicle supply chain, new regulations such as ISO (International Standards Organization) regulations and rapidly tightening international emissions standards particularly Stage V for NRRM, increased electrification and lower total cost of ownership how do these businesses approach the future?

Whilst the three challenges are without doubt connected, in this article we try to approach each one to understand the unique drivers and nuanced solutions.

Worldwide population growth The worldwide population is growing by 1% each year, this puts increasing demands on available land for farming, for building and for the infrastructure such as water and power supplies in addition to the natural materials required to make this possible.

Farming needs to increase productivity to ensure a sustainable food supply, increased urbanization puts demands on the construction and mining industries. The productivity growth required of these industries faces the double threat of a lack of skilled labor, and that available may be either aging or not located at point of need. Targets To meet demand, agriculture in 2050 will need to produce almost 50 percent more food, feed and biofuel than it did in 2012. This FAO estimate takes into account recent United Nations (UN) projections indicating that the world’s population would reach 9.73 billion in 2050.

Innovation in Heavy Equipment to tackle the challenges because of population growth needs to focus particularly on productivity, also considering the total cost of ownership. It also needs to be smarter, providing solutions to optimize ground exploitation.

More stringent regulations Operator safety is paramount along with ensuring sustainable practices to support the local and global environment. Heavy Equipment has lagged other areas as it moves to electrification, but the market needs to deliver machines compliant with emissions regulations. Alternative power sources along with all round improved machine operability (considering decreasing skills in workforce) are also key drivers contributing to the increased sustainability required to obtain compliance with stage V emissions regulations.

Operator comfort is also an essential consideration for future machines, often operating in harsh, rugged environments for extended periods, operators should not be subjected to sustained noise of vibration.

Exploration of variable environments Whilst not entirely new since field conditions have always posed challenges for heavy equipment manufacturers, as ground exploitation is pushed to its limit the variability of such environments also increases. Machines needs to be incredibly versatile, operating under large temperature and humidity variations, often in muddy or dusty environments.

OEMs need to ensure operability and reliability wherever the machine operates, not just on homogenous machines but also on customized machines optimized for a particular use case or operator requirements.

Against this backdrop how do our expert panel ensure their product delivers, wherever they fit in the supply chain? The time-to-market for manufacturers remains short but the demand for reliability and robustness has increased, Gennaro Monacelli, CNH Industrial, has seen a shift in the mindset of its engineering in response to this:

‘If you want to find a solution you go in the field and test. This is no longer acceptable in terms of delivery times. Our industry has a big challenge in front of us.’

Instead, CNH Industrial look to product engineering to do as much virtual testing early in the product development, so when the design phase is released most of the issues have already been checked. Product engineering on this scale is only possible with robust simulation and test operations. It has been a huge shift in philosophy, meaning that when a physical prototype is built efficiency and reliability are already achieved. Not only does this help get a better product to market quicker but less physical prototypes also means a more environmentally aware approach.

Poclain see the benefits of this approach, ‘the capability to have a better insight into the products, to improve our learning curve when we have specific dynamics of a specific problem and to better master the performance of a product.’ That is the power offered by simulation early in the design cycle.

The skilled labor shortage is not confined to the field, as they break new ground, Yohann Brunel, Upstream Transmission Manager, Poclain Hydraulics:

‘The electrification of autonomous vehicles is already challenging everybody. We have innovative technologies to integrate, so we see that utilization and simulation can help us accelerate the learning curve. We are adopting increasingly a system approach, and to be able to spread even more simulation to more people who are non-specialists, we need these kinds of tools.’

The advice from this panel suggests frontloading simulation and virtual testing helps to model many of the engineering complexity early, ensuring few surprizes at the later stages. Using tools that bring powerful physics into the hands of non-specialists at the CAD (Computer Aided Design) stages breaks down some of the silos and enables a more seamless information transition.

Breaking those silos is essential for complex equipment design, by shifting left and improving data and model sharing using tools designed with the user experience paramount. These tools allow non-exploratory experts from the domain to tap into the capabilities of the digital twin. Consider the complexity of electrification, everything is interconnected; the cooling loop, the battery, and the cabin comfort for the operator, the demands are all interdependent and connected. Considering each system in isolation simply will not work.

CNH Industrial have developed this inclusivity even further with immersive technology, in the virtual reality realm. This has enabled them to involve even more knowledge and opinion at the design stage, machine operators and dealers can virtually test the cab before any prototypes are built. It led to some unexpected outcome…including repositioning the water bottle holder.

Achieving a seamless workflow between the engineering disciplines is quite a challenging, as Yohann explains:

“Yes, this is a challenge. The main tool that we use to gather different physics together, different domains, is 1D simulation. We use system simulation to do that. It enables us to cover different physics. It is enabled us to cover different level of details and then the program is to ensure the numerical continuity between models of each component, simplify the model that we need at system level. For the component level we need fine sense to have connection between the design parameters and the characteristics we need a more physics-based model. A system model we are more interested in the characteristic itself, so we can have a model based on data or something. We must ensure that we have continuity between them to be sure there is no disconnect between the model of the component and the model of the system. This is really a big challenge for us.”

How do the experts see the role of testing in the development of Heavy Equipment? This area threw up two interesting answers, the expected answer was that we do less tests and whilst overall that was the case it was more nuanced.

Poclain changed the way they use tests, they build in elementary tests on components to test the parts they have, confirming or defining the important parameters for the area to be considered. ‘We only do necessary tests to validate it and as soon as we have confidence in the model we can iterate and avoid test and fail with real tests on real prototypes.’

CNH has also used simulation to build smarter tests, having started at 5% virtual testing they have now reached 55%, with a target of 80% in five years. A key area for CNH is occupant safety and rollover tests of cabs are essential but also expensive, time-consuming, and potentially wasteful with cabs being destroyed in the process.

‘We were about 85% the correlation, but we discovered that correlating exactly, not only simulating, not only the cab, but also the station, the testing ship station and moreover materials, we reached the 95% correlation. This is the target that is important for us, so we do not need to destroy a cab. When we go to the final testing lab, we can just have one shot and do not have any further cycles.’

Smarter testing with simulation has resulted in more effective and quality data acquisition testing, and less destructive testing with the associated environmental and cost benefits.

Drowning in data Doing more simulation, more virtual testing, more immersive testing, and more physical testing results in more data. Data is also acquired from the field in live operations from sensors on the equipment. The volume of data can be vast, more is not always better. CNH are seeking better ways to use this data, to join up a seamless workflow that makes use of available data throughout but does not needlessly collect it.

There is one area where the data from virtual testing has proved invaluable not only in reducing costs but also time to market, homologation and ensuring the many machine variants all meet the required standards and certification. CNH has a close eye on their CO2 emissions from these tests, ‘When we build a prototype, we produce a lot of CO2 emission and then we destroy it. WE are analyzing this to not only save money but also emissions.’

Alistair Hayfield has seen the data challenge with many clients, ‘it’s actually pretty costly and difficult to store, warehouse and transmit all of the found data. OEMs need an approach where they are selecting the best or most relevant data to work against you own model.’ But used well that data offers many opportunities particularly for automation. Using the data in automation can be key to bringing the machines to market faster, and in a cost-effective way.

Does increased digitization and deploying the digital twin offer some solutions? The heavy equipment industry is now firmly on the digitization journey, using simulation earlier in design, a greater use of virtual testing and immersive technology along with using more data to gain insight for future improvement.

And whilst all the experts agreed they have not yet reached the destination of the full ‘digital twin’ they are all benefitting from the increased digitization they can realize from using simulation and test. They are adopting a hybrid approach, shifting from real tests, real prototypes, real field-testing to increasing the role of virtual and immersive. This is a journey that has only just begun but is already taking on those huge challenges that the industry needs to overcome to deliver the world we will be enjoying tomorrow.