The digital twin is a burning topic within manufacturing industries. While it is often included in lists of today’s most strategic technologies, it has yet to be widely adopted in practice. Matti Kemppainen, Director of Research and Innovation at Konecranes, discusses the implications for manufacturers of the rolling out of digital twins. According to Kemppainen, digital twins are set to be a new standard for industry.
As it is today, many of product lifecycle processes, from design, to process planning and engineering, manufacturing are siloed because different software tools, models and data representations are used, and often by many different teams across different organizations and geographic locations. To achieve the goals of smart manufacturing, these product lifecycle processes and manufacturing functions need to be connected and integrated to increase process automation, responsiveness and efficiency, and to reduce human errors. Furthermore, because of connected smart products, this lifecycle is now being extended beyond the four-wall of the factories, into customers’ operation environment. Digital thread refers to the communication framework for integrating production functions across the product chain and integrating product data for digital models. It does so by enabling data flow and integrated view of the product’s data throughout its lifecycle across different stages, from design, to manufacturing, and now to operation, and even to end-of-life and recycling of the product
IIoT and Smart manufacturing – a twin-movement of digitalization: The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and smart manufacturing are two parallel developments driven by the same core technology advances – the ubiquitous connectedness and widespread computation – that drive and are driven by the internet, and the seamless information sharing and optimal decision-making they enable.
As manufacturing processes become increasingly digital, the digital twin is now within reach. By providing companies with a complete digital footprint of products, the digital twin enables companies to detect physical issues sooner, predict outcomes more accurately, and build better products.
While the concept of a digital twin has been around since 2002, it’s only thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) that it has become cost-effective to implement. And, it is so imperative to business today, it was named one of Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017. Quite simply, a digital twin is a virtual model of a process, product or service. This pairing of the virtual and physical worlds allows analysis of data and monitoring of systems to head off problems before they even occur, prevent downtime, develop new opportunities and even plan for the future by using simulations.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has been a long time coming, but as with so many software and cloud-driven markets today, the curve from hand-waving to pervasive adoption is set to be remarkably steep. Network-driven markets increasingly tend to be pretty close to winner takes all (think Google in Search, Apple in phones, Facebook in social, Snapchat in dogear-driven Augmented Reality) which makes timing and effective, community-driven execution all the more important. Which brings us to IBM. Wait. What? IBM? OK bear with me here.
A digital twin is a virtual equivalent of an actual physical product or service. Businesses from GE to Siemens are presently using digital twins to monitor the conditions of wind turbines and manufacturing equipment in real time, analyzing changes in key parameters and taking measures to perform conditional or predictive maintenance based on the slightest deviations.