Digital Twins and their Impact: Part II – Manufacturing Industry
Category: #blogs  By Saipriya Iyer  Date: 2019-08-01
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Digital Twins and their Impact: Part II – Manufacturing Industry

Last week, we spoke about the expanding presence of the digital twin industry and its tremendous impact on the global retail sector. Quite overtly, the popularity of the digital twin technology is not confined to the retail and e-commerce verticals alone but is known to traverse a spate of industry domains. The deployment of digital twin in manufacturing has been emerging as one of the most lucrative forces there is in the global landscape.

This article will cover a gist of the broad spectrum of manufacturing and the massive impact that has been registered by digital twin in manufacturing sector.

The groundbreaking influence of the digital twin technology on the manufacturing sector:

The expansion map of the manufacturing industry has undergone an exponential transformation since the last couple of decades. From being one of the most labor-intensive, service-oriented domains to now nearly being an automated, connected vertical encompassing a slew of industries, the manufacturing sector has come a long way. The potential requirement of efficiently crafted digital replicas to realize the goal of smart manufacturing has resulted in the massive expansion of IoT in manufacturing market.

As manufacturing operations continue to leverage the advantages of industrial IoT, numerous ways to access data from various machines and equipment are being unearthed, consequently increasing the requirement of data analysis and management. Considering the vast expanse of the global manufacturing arena, it comes as no surprise that the amount of data collected from connected industrial equipment and even smart factories is humongous. However, the collected data diminishes in significance if it is not appropriately organized in a manner that would enable enhanced decision-making, leading to the dire necessity of the implementation of digital twin in manufacturing.

The impact of digital twin in manufacturing is rather widespread. Digital twins can be effectively implemented for numerous physical assets – a specific product, a single asset within a manufacturing facility or even for the entire facility. They help eliminate issues with offshore processes’ quality, achieve excellent customization skills, and may help operate in remote locations. A major benefit of using digital twin in manufacturing space is that it helps measure and monitor actual operating performance, thereby leading to efficient usage of a pay-per-value workable ecosystem that helps lower downtimes. Furthermore, the deployment of digital twinning also aids enable real-time workload rebalancing across numerous shop floors – a scenario that was once considered futuristic.

Industrial IoT-based digital twin delivers what can be called a major disrupter in the manufacturing arena – hybrid visualization. Once considered impassable, combining visual information with live data can now become the norm for the industry, aiding manufacturers to conveniently view physical abnormalities beforehand and brainstorm solutions. Another major advantage provided by digital twin in manufacturing is that it enables an enhanced collaboration level between the physical and virtual representations, alerting manufacturers about the urgency of prompt actions and helping to mitigate multiple errors through the elimination of a single point of failure.

The popularity of digital twin in manufacturing sector is rather obvious. One of the most apt instances of the same is the proactiveness that Siemens – the largest manufacturing firm in Europe, is depicting with respect to the digital twin technology. Recently, it was announced that Siemens plans to showcase its Industry 4.0 solutions at the Digital Industry USA 2019 in September, at Louisville.

At the event, Siemens plans to exhibit its software to generate and obtain step-change value from digital twins. The company will also showcase the open IIoT platform – ‘MindSphere’, its automation systems for discrete and process industries, and a huge portfolio of digital services.

Substantial improvements in automation, virtualization, and simulation are helping ease the load on the manufacturing sector, aiding enterprises to become truly digital. With digital models, it is now possible to create a highly reliable virtual counterpart of vital products and the overall production process, thereby enhancing manufacturing performance.

It would be noteworthy to cite the example of yet another company that has recently made it to the headlines for leveraging the use of digital twin in manufacturing. FMCG industry contender Unilever, has refocused its growth strategy pipeline and concentrates specifically on digital transformation in order to reduce costs and time and increase manufacturing operational efficiency.

Unilever joined hands with tech conglomerate Microsoft and the technology innovation firm, The Marsden Group, to help it attain its digital transformational goal. Apparently, The Marsden Group has provided a customized digital twin solution to Unilever to further its strategy of digitized innovation. This virtual representation is the first of its kind to be deployed in Unilever’s factories and was debuted at a facility in Valinhos, Brazil. The project is reported to have saved the consumer goods company close to USD 2.8 million at the site – by means of lowered energy usage and increased productivity (a speculated surge of 1% to 3%).

Presently, Unilever boasts of eight digital twin factories spanning the United States, the Asian continent, Europe, and South America. The company’s goal is to ultimately have 70 connected factories by 2019 end and close to a 100 by 2020. Unilever’s goal vividly signifies the potential of digital twin in manufacturing sector, as it continues to help firms make optimum use of raw material, reduce waste from products that don’t meet the quality required, and enable real-time changes to obtain effective outputs.

Exploring New Avenues

While the advent of digital twin in manufacturing ecosphere has been welcomed by most stalwarts with open arms, there still remain lot of unresolved challenges and potential application grounds in the industry to be explored. The aviation sector for example, has taken to digital twinning like a fish to water. Ironically, the aerospace industry has been a pioneer in the use of the digital twin technology, however, its scope was limited up to developing digital models of commercial airplanes to find out ways for enhancing engine performance.

With the exponential rise in air travel worldwide though, the usage of technology has continued to evolve in the aviation sphere and will help aircraft engineers to improve overall productivity as far as the execution of the latest airplane models is considered. In addition, the usage of digital twin in manufacturing will help aircraft developers predict future engine failures, operate effectively, reduce testing costs, maintain aircraft systems even without the physical presence of a repair crew, and in effect, help to enable real-time monitoring of plane parts. Citing an instance, recently, Boeing declared that it has achieved 40% improvement in first-time quality of airplane parts using digital twins. As digital twinning continues to enhance maintenance capabilities of airlines, lower costs, and deliver a better experience, it is speculated to bring about a massive revolution in the entire smart manufacturing ecosystem.

In the third chapter, we’ll discuss how digital twins are leaving their mark on the automotive industry – one of the most dynamically expanding industrial sectors worldwide. It has been observed that the automotive space has been robustly implementing the concept of digital twinning to bring about an enhanced transformation in the entire production life cycle and supply chain.

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About Author

Saipriya Iyer    

Saipriya Iyer

A content developer by choice, Saipriya Iyer holds a rich experience portfolio of more than five years in the content creation domain. Equipped with substantial expertise across the business, technology, and finance domains, Saipriya currently pens down insightful art...

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