Simulation is more than Software

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Liebherr: Ansys as a building block of Vision 4.0

Simulation Without Limits

At many Liebherr locations, simulations with Ansys are a given, and this trend is increasing. With Vision 4.0, Ansys is entering a strategic role at the Liebherr group of companies alongside Microsoft and PTC. Wolfgang Mansk, Head of PLM Services, and his colleague Dr. Ling Li outline this vision, its implementation, and the role of CADFEM.

Digitalization, Globalization, Big Data

Vision 4.0 has it all. It represents the future of product lifecycle management (PLM) at the Liebherr Group and integrates current challenges in industry: digital transformation, global competition, big data and - already part of the Liebherr DNA - maximum customer orientation; and all this against the backdrop of an internationally active, diversified family business that serves a wide variety of markets and customers with its landscape of medium-sized locations.

However, let’s tackle things one at a time.
Hans Liebherr founded his company in Kirchdorf an der Iller in 1949, with the first product being the mobile tower crane, which he personally invented. Other divisions and locations in Germany and abroad were quickly added.

The recipe for success is the same everywhere:

  • Quality
  • Innovation
  • Customer proximity

It is no coincidence that the sites are not far from their markets. The high degree of autonomy of the segments is a conscious decision, as it helps to ensure that all customers receive unique products and services.

on all continents together form the Liebherr Group (2020).
are employed by the Liebherr Group (2020).
Billion Euros
hat die Liebherr-Gruppe im Jahr 2020 umgesetzt.

Liebherr, Ansys, CADFEM: Successful together

Many locations use simulation technologies for this purpose in development. At some location, for example in Ehingen or at Liebherr-Aerospace in Allgäu, Ansys has been used for more than 30 years with the expert support of CADFEM. 

How did this come about? Simple answer: Tests with prototypes of huge cranes or complex systems are practically impossible to carry out. However, accurate numerical simulations to ensure stability, load capacity and function are reliable alternatives. They also allow insights into the smallest details of the design and are often the key to what makes Liebherr products special in the eyes of the customer.

At some Liebherr locations, Ansys has already been used for more than 35 years with the expert support of CADFEM.

PLM: Using synergies, meeting needs

Wolfgang Mansk is familiar with simulations, having used them himself for years as an engineer at Liebherr. He is also very familiar with other IT systems for product development - CAD, databases, ERP. Today, he heads the central PLM Services department and, together with his team, is responsible, among other things, for negotiating framework agreements with strategic partners.

A big task: On the one hand, they have to take into account the different needs of the independently operating locations around the world. On the other hand, Liebherr-wide synergies must be identified, standards created, and partner solutions optimally embedded in the overall strategy. Which brings us back to Vision 4.0.

What exactly is Vision 4.0?

PLM means dynamically capturing, integrating and evaluating all information relating to a product throughout its lifecycle. Methods, processes and tools must be provided so that a precise data-based understanding of customer needs results in products and services that lead to maximum customer satisfaction.    

This is where Liebherr’s Vision 4.0 comes in, placing the Digital Twin at the heart of PLM. “Our goal is to advance the standardization of development tools so that we can achieve an extremely realistic digital twin to increase value creation at the usage level,” summarizes Wolfgang Mansk.

Simulation data is a small but important building block for implementation in the overall context, especially when you consider how and where simulation technology is currently developing at a rapid pace. The possibilities of the classic areas of application, such as mechanics and flow, are growing continuously. In addition, there are many new ones - system and process simulation, model-based systems engineering, simulation of light or material behavior in the nanoscale - and thus a lot of information that contributes to further enriching the digital twin.

The more simulation that is carried out, and the more intensively it is carried out, the more precisely the data model corresponds to the real product, and increasingly becomes its “identical twin”. An immense advantage in terms of innovation and agility - good for Liebherr, ideal for Liebherr customers.

The strategic partners: Microsoft, PTC, Ansys

The long and successful shared history with Ansys - particularly the conviction that Ansys penetrates the subject of simulation like no other supplier, continuously taking up and integrating new application areas - has led to Ansys becoming one of three strategic partners for Liebherr. The others are Microsoft and PTC. Wolfgang Mansk explains, “the partnership is designed for the long term, because not only the beginning was associated with considerable costs for the software and the training of experts.”

Dr. Ling Li has the best overview of simulation at Liebherr. One of her core tasks in the PLM team is to ensure that the solutions and methods used are continuously optimized and expanded.

“We support our engineers around the globe with software evaluations and know-how transfer, among other things, and we work very closely with our partner for Ansys, CADFEM,” Ling Li summarizes. “I have gotten to know CADFEM as a very customer-centric and solution-oriented company. I particularly like the way we deal with each other in a spirit of partnership.”

Dr. Li Ling Liebherr
Dr. Li Ling

When working with CADFEM, I particularly like the way we work together as partners.

No software bottlenecks thanks to central license pool

The commitment to simulation and Ansys is reflected in a multi-year framework agreement with Ansys and CADFEM. Such a milestone is only possible in a diversified group of companies like Liebherr with a central coordinating body. Wolfgang Mansk, very satisfied with the result, says, “the Ansys license centralization cannot be overestimated in its effect.” 

Software bottlenecks are a thing of the past. The large, simulation-experienced sites can easily intensify their applications, and any challenges for new areas of application (e.g., exhausted software budgets) have been removed. For the young and fast-growing sites in Germany and abroad, the focus was and still is on expanding production capacities so that customers can become productive as quickly as possible. As a result, the financial options for development tools at these sites were limited. The central license pool opens up new opportunities for these sites, which, as Wolfang Mansk confirms, are being used. Mansk states, “we recognize that expertise is being built up at all locations and that new simulation topics are being tested as well.”

We recognize that expertise is being built up at all locations and that new simulation topics are being tested as well.

Wolfgang Mansk, Managing Director PLM Innovation Services, Liebherr

Uncomplicated training

This is where the other framework agreement comes into play, the Liebherr-wide learning subscription with the Ansys specialist CADFEM. It is actively used by both newcomers to simulation as well as by experienced users who are opening up new areas of application. “We have highly motivated engineers who want to continue their education,” emphasizes Wolfgang Mansk. “As the use of simulation expands, the expertise of engineers will also become increasingly differentiated, and this requires the appropriate further training. The learning subscription gives all interested parties very easy and permanent access to new knowledge.”

Ling Li adds, “such a learning subscription can only be realized in combination with a good partnership, as we have with CADFEM. Since the CADFEM instructors have been known as proven and accepted experts for decades, we only hear very good reviews regarding the quality of the training courses.” The learning subscription also includes the growing range of multilingual eLearning formats. Liebherr’s engineers are very happy with this modern, flexible form of training, because they can decide where, when and at what pace they want to learn. 

Dr. Li Ling

Such a learning subscription can only be realized in combination with a good partnership, as we have with CADFEM.

Ansys at Liebherr now and in the future

The most diverse applications of structural mechanics have been part of the repertoire of Liebherr engineers for decades. This is clearly seen in products such as cranes and other construction machines. Data has always been collected and systematically reused – for example in in-house Ansys applications – which, fed with empirical values, automatically accelerated the preliminary design at an early stage. Structural-mechanical simulations with Ansys Mechanical are also part of the daily routine of computation engineers for detailed design, the inspection of safety-critical areas, and damage analysis.

But what are the fields of application that have been and will be taken up in new ways?

Flow analyses

Flow analyses have increased significantly in the last two years. CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) results were important even before that, but the analyses were usually outsourced to external service providers. With the new agreement, software licenses and know-how are now available in-house. This makes you independent and flexible. In addition, the range of applications has been massively expanded: hydraulics, flow behavior and aerodynamics, as well as air conditioning in driver’s cabs are all now analyzed and improved with Ansys Fluent. And the digital twins of the products are fed with new, self-generated data.

Even the air conditioning in the driver’s cab is analyzed in advance using flow simulation and optimized for various weather scenarios. Machine operators are very pleased with this

Kinematic and process engineering simulations

If you think of processes such as earthmoving or mixing technology, it's not difficult to recognize the enormous potential of kinematic and process engineering simulations at Liebherr. Precise analyses instead of gut feeling. When evaluating the corresponding simulation tools, Ansys Motion (multi-body simulation) and Rocky DEM (particle simulation), the great advantage of a coordinating body again becomes clear:

Ling Li took the interest of several sites as an opportunity to organize corresponding training courses and a technology day together with specialists from CADFEM. “In this way, we are in dialogue with our users from the very beginning, and we learn how the solution should be further developed in our interest in order to derive even more benefit from it in the future,” she explains.

Live simulation

Live simulation with Ansys Discovery and with Creo Simulation Live (CSL), the integrated Ansys solution from PTC, has a special position. This is not about another physical discipline, but rather about the use of simulation by a completely new group of users: the design engineers.

Liebherr developers in Colmar, Alsace, were the pioneers. “We organized live simulation workshops at other sites with CADFEM and our colleagues from Alsace,” reports Dr. Ling Li. “This allowed us to show how development processes are optimized using shortened simulation and change loops, and how live simulation provides valuable input in early phases of development during concept and design.”

Live simulation in early stages of development during concept and design provides valuable input.

Dr. Ling Li, PLM Innovation Services, Liebherr
Embedded Software

A completely different area of application is the safety or mission-critical software applications, also known as embedded software. They are subject to strict certification and approval regulations. Systematic errors must be demonstrably excluded, which considerably increases the effort for process, development and verification, but is made easier with the Ansys SCADE software. At Liebherr, more than 100 users across all locations use Ansys SCADE to create the appropriate embedded software. Here, too, all participants have benefited from workshops and the exchange of technical experience.

These are just four examples. Other initiatives relate to other topics, such as simulation in 3D printing, as well as electronics, acoustics or lighting simulations. All are based on Ansys solutions, which facilitate their coupling and merging in a harmonized data model.

Liebherr IT Services GmbH

Author: Alexander Kunz
Images: © Liebherr
Published: June 2022

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