Lange enters a supermarket or Big Box store, he sees waste. A lot of it.
"About 10 percent
of the packaging in stores serves no useful purpose," he says. "It doesn't
protect the product. It doesn't improve the customer experience. It doesn't do
anything. It's only in there because no one engineered it out"
director of modeling and simulation at Procter & Gamble, it's Lange's job
to reduce waste not only of finished products but also in the process of
designing, testing and creating finished products. Lange is also chief
technologist for reliability engineering at P&G, and head of computer-aided
made a significant commitment to virtual computing in product design and
development. During a conference call with investment analysts in 2003, P&G
CEO A.G. Lafley said: "We are significantly expanding capabilities in computational
modeling and computer-aided engineering, so we can do an increasing percentage
of product and process design through virtual simulation."
In the 2008
annual report, Laffey further commented: "Virtualization is enabling P&G
brands to co-design products with consumers. The same technologies allow us to
show retailers virtual in-store displays for half the cost and less than half
the time required for physical shelf designs. Computer modeling and simulation
saved P&G about 17 years of design time in the last year alone."
the traditional paradigm of focusing solely on physical prototypes no longer
makes sense. It's a very expensive and time-consuming process and isn't the
best way to determine if a product is fit for use. "We don't build two or three
bridges and then break them to see if they work," says Lange. "Why would we do
that for products we're developing?"
One of the
big virtual success stories at Procter & Gamble was the development of the
first plastic coffee canister.
AromaSeal canister is a high-density polyethylene coffee container that
replaced metal cans in use for 150 years. The new design is blow-molded with a
proprietary six-layer barrier coextrusion that provides 12-month shelf life.
The new plastic container is dent-resistant, lightweight and stackable. A
built-in handle makes the can easier to hold.
peelable seal includes a patented, one-way valve in the center, allowing freshly
roasted coffee to off-gas in the container, eliminating back pressure and the
potential for package explosion. Because of the seal, the canister can be
filled and sealed immediately after it's roasted, instead of having to cool and
naturally off-gas prior to being packaged. The seal also helps preserve
freshness, keep air out and equalize pressure during shipping, which is important
because the coffee is made in New Orleans and
then shipped over the Rocky Mountains to the
finite element analysis, we would not have been able to develop this canister,"
sold in the plastic canister boosted Folger's market share from 15 percent to
25 percent in three years. The Folger's brand is now owned by Smuckers.
example, P&G used FEA simulation to examine fitness of a large number of
moving parts in a Braun electric shaver. Virtual simulation identified a single
piece in an early design that couldn't pass a required drop test. The shaver
was redesigned based on virtual examination.
also does significant virtual testing of bottle strength when stacked in
pellets during warehouse storage. "The bottle is a structural element in the
warehouse," says Lange. Various load cases in bottles are tested. And that's
increasingly important as P&G engineers take thickness and weight out of
bottles to reduce solid waste, and cut resin costs.
also virtually simulate tendencies of metalized labels to peel. "It's all about
materials' properties," says Lange. "You can answer those types of questions
virtually. If you go ahead and make the stuff, it's an expensive proposition."
estimates that P&G conducted 7,000 to 10,000 design simulations in 2008. That work was carried out by a group of 10
highly skilled people. "The only way you
can do that much work is through automation of the analysis," he says.
"In a physical
experiment, the test includes everything, even the things you don't know about"
says Lange. "In the virtual mode, you
know everything that's included in the test. But you don't know what you don't
know. Is one risk better than the other?"
out that virtual modeling, however, is based on testing conducted on real
materials. P&G's simulation groups include scientists who conduct tests to
build databases for the simulations. In an example outside of P&G, Moldlfow
introduced simulation of plastic flows inside mold cavities in 1974. Today,
simulations by Moldflow (now part of Autodesk) are based on tests performed on
more than 8,000 standard plastics compounds, and more than 4,000 proprietary
compounds developed for specific customers, such as General Motors.
quick to point out that the trend to virtual simulation is being driven in part
by rapidly dropping costs for super computing. In 2001, a unit of computing power
cost $1.50 in his estimation. Today, that same unit costs 15 cents. Within five
years, he feels it will drop as low as one cent.
As a result,
simulations are much more fully fleshed compared to point estimates made in
past years. An example in plastics is development of stress-strain curves that
show performance of compounds at a variety of temperature and pressure points,
not just the single-point information on supplier data sheets. As the quality
of simulation improves, so does the capacity to capture more information and
test more of what you didn't before. Lange describes the simulation process in
part as automation of activities done by experts.
Started with Fortran
Lange has been
a big fan of computing power since he first punched code on Fortran cards in a
college class in 1974. "Computing has changed engineering as much as aviation
changed travel," he says. Lange received a BSChE degree from the University of Missouri in 1978. He joined P&G that
year as a Product Technical Engineer. His group is part of corporate R&D at
P&G, which receives $2 billion in annual funding-more than the GDP of some
work in simulation dates to the 1980s when the company began work on
reliability engineering - which is basically the study of why systems fail.
Lange calls that "pathology work" and it's the low end of potential for virtual
study. Reliability engineering makes broken systems work faster, rather than
designing optimal systems from the beginning, in Lange's view.
engineers studied systems used at Los Alamos,
and then developed models that could predict systems' performance. The approach
was first used on a retooling of a production line for Pampers diapers. The
tools were then used to improve product designs, avoiding $80 million in
capital costs in the 1990s.
careful to distinguish simulation work from the work done by product design
teams. "They're worried about, shape, equity and artwork. Lange defines equity
as locomotion that gets people excited.
We work on the simple things: Can we pack it? Will it break? Does the lid fit?
Are we making the most economical use of materials?"
prototypes become the confirmatory experiment later. "So instead of the
prototype being a ‘Let's see what happens'; it's ‘We expect this to work.'"
touch-and-feel prototypes, P&G makes widespread use of rapid prototyping
equipment. "Those aren't what I'm talking about," says Lange. "I'm talking
about the ones where someone says, ‘Make me three pallets' worth I can run on
the packing lines."
and simulation employees are embedded in the businesses at P&G where
designs are made. The core group works on tool sets that are used by the
power of simulation has grown, so has its deployment within Procter &
Gamble. It has evolved beyond product development into process development. In
what Lange describes as a virtual race track, engineers start with a CAD file
and simulate the progression of a bottle on a packaging line. Simulations show
the tendency of some bottle designs to bump and fall, clogging the line. Expensive
work-arounds are avoided by the line simulation. Sometimes a simple change in container design
can solve the problem.
Role of pathology
many organizations use their modeling simulation groups to perform design
pathology work. That is, to determine why designs did not work after the fact.
It's a virtual trial-and-error system," says Lange. "I only use pathology work
to build the credibility of our organization. The real goal is to conduct
analysis-led discovery. I want to develop 128 different versions to make sure
that we are optimal when we first go into production." Lange describes analysis-led discovery as
determination of the optimum space where design engineers should be working. "When you're operating in this space, you're
As a final
step, Lange says it's important that engineers involved in virtual simulation
formally quantify their savings with involvement of financial staff for
credibility. Savings at P&G are broken into four buckets: capital
avoidance, materials savings, innovation savings, and new business creation,
such as the Folgers can. Lange says his group saves about five times its costs
on average based on data confirmed by P&G finance officers.
"When I go
to management ask for $1 million for a new computer, they are taken back," says
Lange. "But I ask, how much would it cost for 153 mass spectrometers? How much
would it have cost for the molds to make those prototypes? How many people
would it take to build and test those prototypes? That computer cost is
actually pretty cheap."
modeling and simulation group operates in a 3,500 core processing environment
that includes work for computational chemistry. Lange's group likes to work on
big models. Million-element problems are not uncommon. "We are trying to use
models that are predictive, not just relatively correct," he says. That's a sea
change from the way finite element analysis has traditionally been used, he
some caveats in the outlook for modeling and simulation of engineering work.
One is the
lack of adequately trained candidates coming out of engineering schools. Lange
feels that schools are still training engineers much as they were 30 years ago
and not providing adequate capabilities in computer skills. P&G maintains relationships with 65
different universities around the world, in addition to government-funded
research centers, such as Los Alamos.
the lack of engagement of smaller companies. "The Fortune 50 really gets it,"
says Lange. "If you have 50 engineers in your company, at least one or two of
them should be doing simulation and modeling work," he says. "At some point,
you have to make a decision to do this." Some small companies, however, are
successfully using engineering service providers for modeling and simulation
Read up on all the candidates for Design News' 2009 Engineer of the Year!