Implementing a new selection tool for the Refrion site. It was a modelling and simulation project of the thermodynamic and acoustic performance of a new product. The result is a centralised calculation software in a single online tool, which can be used by both potential customers and the technical office.
The main challenge, in the case of the Refrion product configurator, was the definition of a strategy underlying the calculation algorithm created to optimise the search and selection of machines, with particular attention to reducing the time required, and to determine accurate calculation models for previously unmanaged operating conditions.
3 times faster response times
5 new thermodynamic sub-models
2 new ways of inserting input data for selection
Refrion is a leading company in the field of industrial air conditioning and ventilated appliances for industrial use. It produces dry coolers, remote condensers and heat exchangers designed specifically for the specific needs of each plant.
The calculation engine filters and calculates the thermodynamic and acoustic performance on a fleet of over 60,000 standard models in the catalogue. The number of possible configurations for the products is even greater, given the choice options available to the user, such as the adoption of adiabatic cooling systems or other non-standard configurations.
For the Refrion configurator, the calculation engine developed allows obtaining, starting from the user’s input/desired data:
• an automated selection of the machine fleet to find the best solution among tens of thousands of configurations
• the simulation of the thermodynamic, acoustic and energy performance of the products
• all the data necessary for the automatic generation of a quotation
We have redone the calculation algorithm: revised the hierarchical organisation of the machines used for the database, excluding the calculations on options not involved depending on the requests, revised the calculation correlations and introduced new correlations for applications in more complex cases, i.e., in humidification systems and phase transition fluids. In this last part we have been greatly facilitated by our previous skills in experimental activities in the thermodynamic sector.
The Refrion configurator, having received user inputs, has today increased the response speed by 3 times compared to the past. This is because we have optimised the database architecture and built a new calculation algorithm that improves the search and selection of machines.
The new Refrion product configurator allows the potential customer to enter a greater number of options to consider and uses a richer, more intuitive and easier to use web interface than the previous one, designed and implemented by MV Labs. It guides the user from the definition of the input data to pre-selections to facilitate the choice, for example on the basis of the cost with the same characteristics as others, to the selection of the best product up to the automatic generation of the quotation.
Since the Refrion selection tool is in the cloud, it offers an interesting side effect on several levels. In fact, it allows monitoring the behaviour of users and therefore understanding their choices. For example, if a product is systematically ignored after entering the shortlist of the best solutions, it requires further investigation.
Thanks to the developed calculation kernel, we have centralised the calculation software in a single tool, both for the potential customer and for the technical office, so as to ensure the same numerical results. Everyone accesses it via the cloud, with different, more advanced functionalities for the technical office, and with an application that is always functional, which does not require downloads and updates.
Why we started doing modelling and simulation at university without ever giving up. We have added hours and hours of hands-on experiments that give us that extra experimental know-how, the one that allows us to really make systems work. But alone you don’t go far. Stream wins by teaming up. For example, in this project we also worked with Advantech TIME, our reference in laboratory experiments, and with MV Labs, usability wizards, for the design of the interface software.
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Product configurators are challenging, never impossible. The important thing is to have method in identifying the variables to be investigated, in optimising the calculation algorithms, including calculation correlations, and in establishing the correct structure for the data collection database. Then a specific ability is required, that of extracting information from the customer itself that it often does not even know it has, but that we know how to look for thanks to our experience and background of experiments and vertical studies in the thermo-fluid dynamics field. Our proposal?
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