By MT Bureau| Jun 22, 2021

ESI Emphasises On Results, More Than Products: Emmanuel Leroy

OEMs are facing new challenges to improve the existing technologies and develop next-generation ones for the new mobility in shorter times. Reducing market responding time along with new complexities are paving the way for virtual simulation, which displaces physical tests and prototypes by virtually replicating product development, testing and manufacturing with simulations. Emmanuel Leroy, Executive Vice-President Industry Solutions at ESI Group, explains, “We enable our customers to drastically reduce every additional physical prototype by using our solutions. In the end, only one physical prototype is required to validate the whole concept. We envision that one day we may be able to virtually certify a product from end to end.” Excerpts:

Q) How did the Covid impact the software and services businesses of ESI Group?

The Covid pandemic has accelerated the need for more digitalisation within the industrial market. It has also somehow accelerated the readiness level of our customers and made solutions such as virtual prototyping even more relevant. Indeed, we enabled the continuity of our clients’ business. The use of virtual prototyping allowed them to continue designing, testing and prototyping their products. Our human-centric approach – one of ESI Group’s four outcome solutions – was particularly used by our customers to ensure the continuity of their businesses: using virtual reality to experience the product from home.

During pandemic times, we also provided our CFD (computational fluid dynamic) solutions to help investigating different scenarios to demonstrate the effect of occupant proximity, ventilation systems and contamination avoidance unique to each office and plant environment. ESI Group developed different virtual scenario, based on its facilities in India, to optimise the return to offices and on plant – especially on a car assembly line.

How the growing complexity of part process is influencing the virtual testing?

We notice that the automotive industry is facing more and more draconian regulations, disruptive technologies, intensifying competitions and shortening response time. Coupled with these, customers are getting more demanding on quality, reliability, safety and production deadlines in the business. Indeed, end users are no longer looking for products but for results (flight hours instead of engines, number of possible kilometres instead of electric car, etc.) and they seek for committed and responsible automakers to motivate their buys. At ESI Group, we have understood these preoccupations and we have defined four primary solutions answering our customers’ expectations.

The first one is the Pre-certification and Validation, enabling gains in performance and productivity. The purpose is double: meeting certification and validation requirements like crash, safety and fatigue issues in the first attempt and then increasing productivity with predictive models and process automation.

The second outcome is Smart Manufacturing, which enables to establish the right manufacturing processes to meet the performance indicators for industrial products and processes.

The Human-Centric Product and Process Validation, our third outcome, focuses on humans by implementing an operator-centric approach to ensure the efficiency of assembly, maintenance operation and the safety of human interactions.

The last one, Pre-experience, is the most advanced solution of ESI Group. Here, our customers and the operators do not look at the product itself, but virtually experience a product, component, subsystem or system under numerous conditions and environments.

Using these approaches, we identify industry challenges from the customer’s perspective and support them in achieving their results.

Finally, as products are getting more complex, one of our strengths is our end-to-end multi-material assembly solution with modelling of different materials (steel, aluminum, composite) and manufacturing processes, covering all the product development cycle.

What will be the growth drivers for the internal combustion engine-driven vehicles business?

Safety is essential and will remain a key driver in the future. Today, the active safety is gaining traction owing to the regulations and overall trends. There is an increasing demand for smart integrated safety, which caters to both active and passive what?

Alongside there are regulations on Co2. In Europe, the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) Norm is challenging and will eventually be implemented in other countries. Regarding Co2 reduction, we focus part of our research and innovation around engine efficiency, aerodynamics and light-weighting, as we did with Bentley for instance.

OEMs are also looking to reduce the manufacturing cost and development time which are leading demand for virtual prototyping, digital twin and shifting OEMs’ investment from hardware to software. The end-to-end value and the digital continuity from the early design to the production is essential to achieve these goals.

OEMs are exploring possibilities to manufacture ICE vehicles and EVs on the same line. Being a solution provider for the smart manufacturing process, how do you see this as a challenge?

Some OEMs assemble EV and ICE vehicles on the same line and look for flexibility, while others use completely dissociated platforms. We, consequently, must find the right strategy regarding their requirements. The new upcoming challenges in CASE mobility manufacturing will bring even more complexities from components to manufacturing. We have to consider the complexity to train the operators: our virtual reality solutions are key here. We help our customers by providing training, on both ICE vehicles and EVs manufacturing processes to their team, even from different place around the world, gathered on the same interface. This solution gathers all stakeholders (from operators to QHSE officers and plant managers) around the same product. This immersive tool helps getting complementary feedbacks early on in the process.

Where do you find more competencies or comfortability — in the complete vehicle design or component design?

Clearly, we are positioning ourselves on the whole vehicle design as it gives the most significant benefit for the OEM and other customers. We are talking about an end-to-end value that we can demonstrate on full scale CAE demonstrators. When it comes to a standalone component, the complex interactions between components and environment are not well taken into account and can lead to reduced predictiveness. In this case, we come up with a holistic view of the problem itself. It is how we defined the four outcome solutions introduced earlier.

Do you think that virtual prototypes will, at a 100 percent, completely replace physical ones ?

Virtual prototypes are step by step replacing physical prototypes. Nevertheless, I think physical prototypes remain today essential to certify the product at the very end of the development phase. To give an example, in 2019 Renault succeeded a 5-star rating of its Clio 5 on the Euro NCAP safety certification test with a single physical prototype, the one needed for the consumer test. Virtual certification is a topic discussed within the automotive ecosystem, allowing to solely relying on the simulation from end to end. But we are not at that point right now.

Which is your largest market for automotive business?

The automotive industry is the most significant contributor to our total revenues. Today, Japan is the largest market for our automotive business. However, India has been an important market for ESI, and it has been growing quite well over the years.

Most of our engineering developments teams, for both our software and our platforms, are based in India.

What are the challenges in the business?

The increasing complexity I mentioned before is definitely a challenge, but it also brings opportunities to us. Our end-to-end multi-material, multiprocess solutions and chaining capabilities are key to overcome the challenges of the automobile market. Due to the ever growing content of electronics, system simulations and systems of systems techniques are improving as well. Our focus is to strengthen our collaboration with partners in the ecosystem to support the customers in solving their complex problems. (MT)

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