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Cummins Steers Towards Analysis-Led Design
There's a tried and true development process for most complex mechanical products, including the diesel engines and power generation systems produced by Cummins Inc. Engineers painstakingly run through multiple build-and-test hardware prototype cycles to verify key design factors like performance, stress, and fatigue life. The process is extremely time consuming, not to mention, expensive. As a result, engineering can only put a limited number of designs through their paces before settling on the best of the lot to release as commercial products.
While the traditional test-first engineering process served Cummins well for decades, the company hit some obstacles in the early 2000s when faced with looming deadlines for lower emissions targets, which accelerated the pressure to condense development cycles. The company designs and manufactures fuel systems, controls, air handling, filtration and emission solutions, along with electrical power generation systems that are deployed in such applications as trucks, construction and mining equipment, recreational vehicles, and agricultural machinery, among other use cases. With emission standards in a constant flux and due to increasing customer demand for myriad engine configurations and other requirements, Cummins' physical test cell infrastructure wasn't delivering enough bandwidth and design dexterity to help the manufacturer hit all of its varied design targets.
Even with an extensive network of over 150 test cells located in technical centers across the globe and with a staff of experts and engineers dedicated to testing physical prototypes, Cummins was still far too limited in its ability to handle design exploration in a timely manner. Because the physical test process demands investment in expensive tooling and other costly hardware, Cummins engineers would typically find themselves boxed into a limited design space, inhibiting their ability to innovate and effectively iterate until they achieved the optimal design.
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by Bob Tickel and Wayne Eckerle