Digital twins and development of industrial digital technologies
Fri 15 Jun 2018
Siemens speaks to The Stack on the findings of the Made Smarter Review which sets out a roadmap for how businesses can undertake the wide-scale adoption of industrial digital technologies (IDTs).
The findings articulated in the Made Smarter Review clearly shows the way forward if our industrial base is to capitalise on the potential of digitalisation in order to boost UK productivity, create more high-value jobs and support economic prosperity.
The impact could be profound with forecasts of a £455 billion boost for the nation’s manufacturing sector over the next ten years, which would go a long way to helping to rebalance the economy away from its current reliance on the service sector.
Indeed a digital future brings with it the answers required to meet the growing challenges of increased global competition, ever-changing customer demands and mass customisation, as well as tackling energy management issues and delivering a more sustainable outlook.
Digitalisation can support many of the critical success factors that will strengthen any business proposition such as quicker innovation cycles, increased speed to market, more agile and flexible manufacturing capabilities, improved quality standards, production optimisation and enhanced cybersecurity protection.
Virtual/augmented reality, cyber-physical systems, Big Data analytics, the Internet of Things, advanced robotics, cloud technology, 3D printing and additive manufacturing are among the major technology enablers now supporting industry as it looks to remould business models and prepares for an increasingly competitive industrial landscape.
The digital twin
One of the most exciting IDT developments is the digital twin, a technology set to play a prominent role for manufacturers in the years ahead.
In essence, the digital twin precisely duplicates and simulates the properties and performance features of a physical product, production line, process or an entire manufacturing plant before a single screw needs to be picked up in the real world.
A central data platform and high-performance network components are the foundations of a digital twin which can be used to map and optimise product development, as well as the entire plant lifecycle, from the very origins of plant design and development to actual operation on the ground.
Emerging industrial digital technologies can have a profound and long-lasting impact
The ability, for example, to respond flexibly to individual customer requirements with small batch sizes calls for the use of simulation solutions along the entire value chain. The common data platform enables all of the disciplines involved in a project to produce a common data model that allows most of the processes usually carried out in sequence to be executed in parallel, leading to valuable time and cost savings.
Likewise, for crucial operational scenarios such as plant availability, the digital twin can drive tangible benefit. In order to increase the availability and reliability of a plant the mechanical assets must be monitored since they are often the prime cause of unplanned downtime. Communication between the control system and the maintenance tool, as well as access to all plant data via the digital twin, accelerates predictive maintenance and repair measures. The result: an optimised plant.
A digital twin drives productivity and efficiency gains, provides industrial users with the means to design, simulate, validate and optimise products, processes and plants in the digital world. Whether its product quality, getting an idea to market quicker, optimised production scheduling or operational certainty before investment, the digital twin affords manufacturers the opportunity to begin to behave and think differently.
It de-risks development projects and supports daily operations, and is a prime example of how emerging industrial digital technologies can have a profound and long-lasting impact as the UK’s digitalisation story unfolds.