How did Multidisciplinary Design Optimization Benefit Ford’s Designs?

Ford uses SOMO to create enterprise level MDO work culture.

DOE and optimization strategies.
DOE and optimization strategies.

What is SOMO and Multidisciplinary Design Optimization 

Multidisciplinary Design Optimization (MDO) brings together experts from various domains and disciplines to produce a high level product optimization. 

 “ESTECO software like SOMO support a collaborative MDO workflow,” explained Matteo Nicolich, Product Manager at ESTECO.

“You put all the simulations, data and models together into one optimization workflow that you can run using Design of Experiments (DOE) and optimization strategies. SOMO is a platform used to enable real collaboration. Instead of team meetings, you can manage the whole process within the SOMO platform. The idea is to let people work concurrently, to parallelize the work, and autonomously, so teams can make their own decisions. SOMO allows for knowledge gained by this this concurrent and autonomous work to be shared instantly,” he added

However, the benefits don’t stop at the design of a product. Yan Fu, Technical Head at Ford Motor Company, is an expert on using MDO thinking on an enterprise level, or EMDO (Enterprise MDO). She said, “EMDO at Ford represents a significant cultural shift that we are promoting at an organizational level to change our engineering design philosophy. SOMO is the key technology we adopted to effectively support and accelerate this transformation.”

“When an expert leaves the company or is absent from work the entire project can run into a bottleneck. The collaboration at an enterprise level guarantees the pooling of domain-specific know-how that would otherwise live inside the minds and computers of the experts themselves,” continued Fu.

How does SOMO and MDO Work? 

The MDO workflow starts with a selection of domains to be studied. This will include project objectives, inputs, outputs, constraints, and formulations. These global parameters are typically decided as a team.

To limit the optimization computations, typically one objective is chosen. However, multiple objectives can be selected if it is necessary.

“For automotive companies like Ford, the main objective is to typically reduce the car weight for improved manufacturing costs and fuel economy. But at the same time, you will have to ensure safety, and NVH as a constraint to the objective,” said Nicolich.

 Fu explained that each of these constraints and objectives will require an expert in the field. She said, “These experts understand regulations and requirements and are knowledgeable of the enabling technologies within their attributes. Attribute models and requirements are then integrated together in a MDO perspective.”

These experts can control the access other team members will have to their data, simulations, and reports. This ensures that complicated workflows like simulations will work within the SOMO platform regardless of the team member’s level of expertise. These other users can then use the information in their own optimizations.

However, concept of reducing the car’s weight while maintaining the safety and design constraints is not as easy as it sounds. Fu mentioned that in a pilot project using SOMO, “the final workflow included 7 models, 113 variables and 34 responses. In the past, it would have taken us a month or more to collect all the models, formulate the MDO problem and build the workflow. Now, with SOMO … engineers can do their own work and publish the latest models so the MDO team can build the top level MDO process right away … As an example, running a single model simulation for one safety mode, takes about three hours using 32CPUs, while the optimization execution of the whole vehicle optimization takes about 8 days.”

Best Ways to Use MDO

Distributed Execution and Queues

Distributed Execution and Queues

As systems are getting bigger they are able to handle more complex and computationally expensive MDO analysis. This is true of Cloud-based MDO tools like SOMO. They can operate in a distributed execution to ensure results are achieved faster as large computing resources are exploited for the analysis.

But this should not imply that you should start with a complex MDO. In fact, “Complexity can be a limitation,” warned Nicolich. “As the project grows in complexity more objectives and variables will be added to the MDO. The MDO will take longer to solve as more variables and objectives are added.”

To solve this dimensionality issue, ESTECO technologies provide a full set of features to perform pre-analysis on individual parts of the problem to help reduce the dimensionality of the overall MDO. “It is best to find out which variables have the smallest influence on the overall design. This will be a good starting point to find parameters that can be left out of the MDO analysis,” Nicolich suggested.

Additionally, Nicolich explained that it is beneficial to use MDO as early in the design cycle as possible. He said, “Using MDO with early concept designs can help point a design team in the right direction. This will reduce the total design time. This is especially important for the automotive industry where the design deadlines are getting much tighter.”

Project Versioning ensure data is never lost and everyone is working on the most up-to-date model.

Project Versioning ensure data is never lost and everyone is working on the most up-to-date model.

It is also important that the automotive companies track and document their design cycle. Using SOMO from the start of the cycle will help to maintain these documentations. Teams will be able to trace the design changes and decisions. This is done by SOMO’s project versioning capabilities. The versioning tool will also help to ensures knowledge isn’t lost, that the whole team is using the most up to date models, and that data can be used on a later MDO project.

“Starting a new MDO project with the information of previous MDO projects puts a lot of knowledge in the palm of your hand. It ensures you will never have to reinvent the wheel,” mentioned Nicolich.

Ford has found that performing an MDO though SOMO has brought quite a few advantages to their operations. For instance, Fu said, “As vehicle design is a continuous evolution, one of the key advantages is the ability to access the latest and best attribute models in real time on a collaborative online platform. As the model comes with optimization constraints and objectives, the MDO expert can integrate all models at once, taking into account all requirements of the single disciplines.” 

Accessing SOMO on the Cloud

Web-based Cloud access

Web-based Cloud access

 “The benefits of accessing SOMO on the Cloud is that everything is accessible through a web browser or mobile device,” said Nicolich.

He added that, “the simple browser interface promotes non-experts to participate in the optimization process allowing for deeper collaborations. As the technology spreads through the company to newer departments you can have everyone leveraging the workflow to create a true EMDO, like Ford is doing.”

The Cloud interface allows users to setup an optimization run, check results during runs, cancel runs, change constraints, and get up project information.

To combat the reservation some industries have on third party cloud services, SOMO is designed to integrate into a company’s existing Cloud. This means that SOMO is layered into the company’s natural security system. This will ensure that the IT department will not have to worry about additional security issue.

For instance, Ford employees access SOMO through their own security system and the company has complete control on the program’s security. Ford employees must use their Ford logins to access the program.

Fu explains that the benefit of this cloud access is important to the design process. She said, “Cloud and mobile technologies enable 24/7 access to all systems, improve efficiency and shorten geographical distances. Therefore, this technology enables control on the MDO process, improves collaboration among people and supports data driven decision making.”

Esteco has sponsored this post. They have no editorial input to this post – all opinions are mine. Shawn Wasserman

Written by

Shawn Wasserman

For over 10 years, Shawn Wasserman has informed, inspired and engaged the engineering community through online content. As a senior writer at WTWH media, he produces branded content to help engineers streamline their operations via new tools, technologies and software. While a senior editor at, Shawn wrote stories about CAE, simulation, PLM, CAD, IoT, AI and more. During his time as the blog manager at Ansys, Shawn produced content featuring stories, tips, tricks and interesting use cases for CAE technologies. Shawn holds a master’s degree in Bioengineering from the University of Guelph and an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.