Excel is an Engineering Application, Too! The Challenges and Opportunities of Spreadsheets in Engineering

This presentation was made at CAASE18, The Conference on Advancing Analysis & Simulation in Engineering. CAASE18 brought together the leading visionaries, developers, and practitioners of CAE-related technologies in an open forum, to share experiences, discuss relevant trends, discover common themes, and explore future issues.

Resource Abstract

This paper discusses the results of a recent NAFEMS survey which shows that despite huge advances in CAD, CAE and PLM tools, spreadsheets remain widely used in engineering and manufacturing. The reasons are well-known: Excel is flexible, easy to use, and powerful, and as such is a valuable tool for not only preliminary design and engineering calculations, but also for activities such as Engineering-to-Order, Configuration, Pricing and Quoting (CPQ), as well as ad hoc data repositories.

Other key findings of the survey include:

• More than 80% of respondents indicate that the usage of Excel within their respective organizations is either increasing or staying the same. Only 12% indicate usage is declining. In other words, spreadsheets are here to stay.

• The vast majority of respondents use a critical spreadsheet daily or weekly. Only 22% use critical spreadsheets infrequently; more than 20% use a critical spreadsheet many times a day. (“Critical” was defined as implying an error could have a significant negative impact on the organization).

• The life expectancy of most critical spreadsheets is more than 1 year; more than 35% are expected to “live” more than 5 years.

• The use of spreadsheets is NOT being discouraged; in fact, nearly 30% said that they are specifically encouraged.

• Nearly 25% of respondents indicated that the lack of spreadsheet governance had caused regulatory or compliance issues, while more than 75% indicated they have no formal process associated with spreadsheet use.

• Spreadsheets are shared – a lot – and sharing is a major cause of compliance issues.

• The vast majority of spreadsheets are shared via network drives or email, with little or no version control, authentication, or security of intellectual property.

An overwhelming majority of respondents indicated that it would help if a recognized organization such as NAFEMS defined best practices and general guidelines for spreadsheet authoring, approval, and sharing.

Finally, this paper will also present a summary of several technologies that are being used to successfully mitigate some of the issues highlighted above. These include SharePoint, EASA, and ClusterSeven.

Document Details

AuthorDewhurst. S
Date 5th June 2018
OrganisationEASA Software


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