Simulation as a core technology in research
“Research, development and innovation are the foundations of Germany’s prosperity and competitiveness” reads the data portal of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). In other words, Germany can only hold its own in the international economic environment if it produces innovative products and services on the basis of which successful business models can be built. It is therefore only logical that federal spending on research has increased by 85% over the past 12 years to 16.6 billion euros in 2017. Together with the expenditures of German companies, the research funds add up to more than 100 billion euros at last count.
The federal government’s research priorities are currently grouped under the heading “High-Tech Strategy 2025”. In many cases, this involves the development of new products and processes for better health, sustainability and climate protection, mobility, security, and the innovations summarized under the heading “Economy and Work 4.0” through the introduction of new digital technologies and smart services. A good example from the area of sustainability and climate protection is the development of fuel cells and suitable manufacturing processes. Recently, the state of Saxony launched the research project “AgilPlanBZ” for this purpose. In this project, suitable methods and tools are being developed to enable the planning of manufacturing systems for the production of fuel cells. Simulation plays a crucial role in the evaluation and optimization of manufacturing plans. Due to the highly dynamic environment, which is mainly characterized by continuous advances in fuel cell technology and a volatile market, the planning framework can often change. In this context, the simulation model becomes an alternative tool and testing ground for the development of manufacturing concepts. Simulation must quickly and reliably provide the basis for decision-making by providing key figures of the future manufacturing system, identifying possible bottlenecks and comparing process alternatives.
The fact that it is not possible without simulation is also shown by the European research project “DigiPrime,” in which a digital platform for the circular economy is being set up to reduce the hurdles in the exchange of information between the various systems of the players in a value chain. This should enable new business models for the sustainable use of materials from high value-added products, even for companies from different industrial sectors. Simulation determines the efficiency of value chains and thus becomes a core technology of this digital platform.
In the last 6 months, 4 new research projects with SimPlan participation were started. This means that SimPlan is now currently involved in 9 projects and invests a six-figure amount in these projects itself every year. In addition to the use of simulation technology in the projects, an important reason for SimPlan’s involvement is its extensive expertise not only in the application of simulation, but also its now 28 years of experience from industrial projects in a wide range of industries in Germany and abroad. The combination of research and development in the field of simulation and the implementation of concrete industrial requirements makes SimPlan a unique and innovative partner for all projects involving the construction of simulation models, virtual commissioning or the creation of digital twins. The history of SimPlan shows how successful the BMBF’s strategy to strengthen the innovative power of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular, as laid out in the research program, can be. SimPlan now sells software developed in-house, for example for data analysis and graphical evaluation (SimAssist) or for the digital creation and simulation of value streams (SimVSM), which arose from research and development activities of the simulation expert.
For more than 20 years now, SimPlan has also been involved in training students in simulation. The seminars offered together with several colleges and universities enjoy a high demand. In addition to theory, students are given a large number of practical examples and practice their application to realistic problems. The transfer of knowledge to the students is permanently enriched with the latest findings from the research projects. This closes the circle between the acquisition of knowledge and its transfer to future employees in the German economy.
The use of simulation technology for the evaluation of innovative new production and logistics processes, business models or traffic and transport systems will continue to increase in the future, because on the one hand the technology is becoming more and more flexible and thus usable for a variety of use cases. On the other hand, more and more processes are subject to changing framework conditions and are very complex due to the large number of parameters, making simulation the only technology for evaluating and optimizing these processes. SimPlan cautiously expects an annual growth of 20 to 30% related to the penetration of the technology in development and planning projects. Therefore, the simulation expert looks to the future with great confidence and plans further significant growth in personnel and sales.