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Six Stages of Optimization Maturity

November 22, 2010 by Bob Ryan

There are common stages that most companies pass through when improving their product design process. Each new level promotes greater efficiency and predictability of their process, as well as higher performance and innovation of their products. It is possible to skip one or more steps to reap faster rewards, but the most important thing is to keep moving higher. Which stage represents the optimization maturity of your organization?

Stage 1. Physical prototyping: build and test
Optimization maturity modelA trial-and-error approach to building and testing a myriad of hardware prototypes makes it too expensive to consider many design alternatives.

Stage 2. CAD-assisted design
Computer-aided design (CAD) software tools improve design drawing communications, but do not reduce physical build and test iterations.

Stage 3. Virtual prototyping
Math-based analysis models such as FEA, CFD and MBD reduce design time and cost by replacing early stage physical prototypes with intuition-led virtual iterations.

Stage 4. Feasible design, then local optimization
Manual iterations based on virtual prototypes produce an acceptable design that is then optimized locally to achieve incremental improvements.

Stage 5. System optimization
Throughout the design process, manual iterations are nearly eliminated in favor of broad exploration using automated math-based optimization of design concepts, yielding much better solutions faster and at lower cost. Optimization is viewed as an important step in the process.

Stage 6. Continuous innovation
Automated math-based optimization is the foundation of the process, upon which other steps are built. Successive intuition-assisted optimization studies drive the discovery of new design directions and the optimization of existing ones to realize innovative and game changing designs.