Cloud-based Simulation and Collaboration in the Pandemic Context

Germany based software company shares their management efforts during COVID-19.

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Interview with David Heiny (CEO) and Jon Wilde (VP Customer Success) from SimScale. 

(Image courtesy of SimScale.)

(Image courtesy of SimScale.)

SimScale, a software as a service (SaaS) company based in Munich, Germany answers questions from the Share Your Story series.  Their service for product design includes cloud-based computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and finite element analysis (FEA) simulation on its CAE platform. From there, engineers are able to upload the CAD model of the component in need of analysis or access other simulation projects. David Heiny (DH) and Jon Wilde (JW) share their management efforts during this time. 

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected SimScale as an organization?

DH: SimScale migrated to fully virtual operations at the beginning of the pandemic. While more than half of our team is located in our headquarter in Munich, we are used to working as a global team since many members, including parts of the leadership team, are distributed—mainly across Europe and the United States. While it still took a bit of adaptation, we’ve been technologically and culturally fairly well prepared for full remote working. The same holds true for our sales, deployment, and support processes—as SimScale is completely cloud-based, we never relied on on-site customer visits and were able to handle the majority of our business virtually.

What have you heard from your customer base? How has the pandemic influenced their work?

DH: Given the diverse customer base we work with—across company sizes and industries, we’ve heard all sorts of news and feedback on how those engineering organizations respond to the crisis. Certainly everyone is operating under a much higher level of uncertainty. It’s fair to say that anecdotes mirror the fact that structural impact was different by industry—e.g., consumer products, healthcare and high tech are feeling a smaller impact than aerospace or automotive.

What measures has SimScale taken to help companies cope with this global problem?

JW: Honestly, we were already pretty prepared. Our software is cloud-based and so our customers can work from anywhere and could continue to run SimScale as before.

To try to alleviate the difficulty our customers faced of suddenly losing the co-location advantage, we offered a free temporary upgrade to our team tier. This allowed them to collaborate on the same projects from anywhere.

I think I would humbly broaden this question to our own internal staff (our team is important too). Every software we use is cloud-based so our staff have been able to work from wherever they need to and, in theory, our customers can do exactly the same. We have been able to support our customers just as we had before the pandemic began, while giving our team the freedom they need to be located wherever they choose.

Everything above was about collaboration and we have also done our best to work with our customers to help them overcome any economic challenges they faced. We endeavor to collaborate whenever possible.

Many of our free community users have run COVID-19 related engineering projects; these were also supported by our internal engineers if they needed assistance. There are some interesting public projects out there!

Were there any new features or product updates released for this purpose?

JW: Remote work and collaboration were already important to our customers and we had previously planned to release collaboration features during 2020. Collaboration lends itself very well to a cloud-based simulation tool and now our customers have the possibility to share their projects. We also have the ability to jump directly into customer projects if they ask for our help through live chat. This is one of the best features we have as it means no file sharing, no waiting, just help when you need it.

Has the situation affected the usage of your product?

DH: We’ve seen a significant rise across all of our usage tiers during the pandemic—and our customers have listed various reasons. Some organizations still have a tool stack that involves a lot of node-locked software, which they then struggled to access in the work-from-home setup. Consequently, more work had to be carried out on tools that were easily accessible, such as SimScale. We’ve seen other organizations using the slow-down in business operations to train their engineers, where a cloud-based solution comes in handy as well. Even companies that were previously reluctant to adopt cloud-based tools found themselves with limited options, and were then motivated to make the switch to cloud-based tools to keep their engineers productive and workflow on track.

What do you think will be the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in engineering?

DH: The current crisis will likely accelerate the trends around digitalization, remote work, distributed teams, and more agile IT infrastructures. These trends aren’t new, they have been around for years and are already embraced by some organizations. In a way, this crisis makes it apparent whether or not an organization has the tools, processes, and norms to operate in a remote, distributed and global way.