It's become a bit of a cliche to say that our latest Conference is the "most successful ever", as these things tend to grow organically from year-to-year. However, having attended over 20 STAR Conferences (as both as customer and employee of CD-adapco), I can honestly say that SGC14 was different. Not only was it our biggest ever conference (with well over 500 participants from every corner of the globe), it also featured the most diverse collection of simulation success stories we've ever heard.
We could tell something was up as soon as we opened our "call for presentations". In the last couple of years, we attracted around 60 customer presentations. This year, we were deluged with over 200 submissions! Despite expanding the conference from four to six parallel tracks containing over 130 twenty-five minute presentation slots, we still had to turn down many excellent presentations in an attempt to construct a coherent agenda that adequately covered all of our key industrial areas.
As Steve MacDonald put it in his opening speech: "It wasn't very long ago, when we struggled to fill a single room, and all of the presentations were from CD-adapco staff. This year we have a 3-day conference spread across six parallel tracks, with over 130 presentations from all corners of industry."
This expansion of the conference mirrors the growth of CD-adapco itself. MacDonald predicted that by the end of FY2014, CD-adapco will be a $200m company. Although CD-adapco consistently delivers a profit, the strategy thus far has always been to plough that money back into the development of its software products, in particular our flagship simulation tool STAR-CCM+. MacDonald revealed that during the next 12 months, a significant portion of that development resource will be dedicated to adding a Finite Element capability to the existing Finite Volume solver in STAR-CCM+. Together these seamlessly integrated capabilities will enable customers to tackle an even wider range of multidisciplinary engineering simulation problems. "This will allow CD-adapco to deploy our software across entire organizations, no matter how large, and meet all of their simulation needs with a single tool", said MacDonald.
Next up was an inspirational keynote presentation from climber, adventurer and filmmaker David Breashears - the first to take an IMAX camera to the peak of Everest. He recounted his May 1996 expedition; of how his team became entangled with the rescue mission for the disastrous "Into Thin Air" expedition where eight climbers died and several others were stranded in a "rogue storm" on the mountain. Although Breashears’ talk was entirely based at high altitude, he provided some valuable leadership lessons that can equally be applied in our day-to-day lives at sea level. In particular, he described how to build "ego-free" teams that continue to function in the most high pressure situations and discussed the importance of flexibility and contingency in planning, including preparedness to adapt even the most carefully prepared plan to changing conditions and team dynamics. "If you care about the process and not just about outcomes, then the outcomes will always be better," concluded Breashears.
Although I didn't need much persuasion, the sheer number of dead and injured climbers in Breashears' presentation convinced that mountain climbing is probably not for me.
Senior VP of Product Management Jean-Claude then wrapped up the plenary session with theofficial unveiling of STAR-CCM+ v9, and a look into the multi-disciplinary future of v10. It also included a sneak preview of the exciting Finite Element capability that MacDonald had announced earlier.
With the audience buzzing with excitement, the conference then split into six parallel sessions for what amounted to a veritable"orgy" of engineering simulation. Six months ago when we began planning this conference, I was worried that the 'Simulating Systems' theme was more of an ambition than a reality for some of our industrial users. However, I am happy to report that presentation after presentation proved me wrong, and that all of you are interested in pushing the boundaries of simulation, with more realistic physics, bigger models, co-simulation and design exploration.
I was also impressed by the amount of "cross-pollination" between engineers from vastly different backgrounds, industries and application areas. As we described in an earlier blog, "simulating systems" is about breaking down the silos into which different engineering disciplines are often contained, allowing us to see the bigger picture, by considering the impact of physical factors that might well be from outside of our immediate comfort zone.
The conference wrapped up with a free day of training, that provided attendees with the practical skills and strategies required to "Simulate Systems" in their own application areas.
Now if you'll excuse me, it's almost time to start planning SGC15 in San Diego, California. Anyone for tacos?