The two foundations of a digital transformation — the digital twin and the digital thread — offer new ways to trial practices, processes, and product concepts in a virtual environment.
These digital experiments allow companies to test safely, quickly, and without costly rework and revisions — helping to enable development and implementations of new workflows and product configurations that are immediately viable.
The digital twin virtually mimics a company’s machines, controls, processes, workflows and systems. Through experiments and improvements on the digital twin, manufacturers gain insights into potential real-world behaviors of assets by:
- Experimenting with new equipment configurations to optimize quality, reliability and speed — well before machines are prototyped or built
- Trialing line startups and production scheduling/sequencing to optimize product mixes and volumes from a plant or plant portfolio
- Allowing production employees — managers, frontline operators, and maintenance technicians — to virtually operate and maintain new equipment and lines, minimizing costly startup problems (poor quality, safety, machine stoppages) in the real world
- Diagnosing and solving equipment and process problems before they occur, and experimenting virtually with rapid changeover techniques to boost uptime and productivity. Later, as equipment operates — continuous-improvement teams monitor data streams from embedded smart devices to further improve workflows, changeover times, and overall operations.
Rockwell Automation has helped numerous organizations apply and leverage digital twins.
For example, a food manufacturer tested and validated a facility upgrade prior to implementation, helping it achieve 80% less downtime and a throughput increase of more than 10%.
Another large multinational virtually tested production scenarios (e.g., increasing output for a product promotion, changing to less costly production materials) saving millions of dollars with the same equipment.
The digital thread offers a detailed, virtual perspective of information flows — production performance data (e.g., speed, downtime), product specification data (e.g., quality parameters, system rejects), supply-chain data (e.g., inventory levels, late deliveries, quality), etc.
Executives and leaders leverage the digital thread to help to evaluate and improve value streams in real time.
When integrated with manufacturing execution system (MES) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, the digital thread enables operators and assets to adjust on the fly, from fixing emerging quality problems to pulling material and component inventory to processes across a facility.
We helped a global manufacturer implement a digital thread alongside MES at most of its 20 manufacturing locations, resulting in a 50% lead time reduction to customers, a 50% reduction in defective parts and a 4% improvement in productivity. This performance boost increased both customer satisfaction and market share.
Many of your competitors are already achieving competitive advantage via their digital twins and digital threads.
How long will you wait to start working in the virtual world — and make more profits in the real one?
Published June 18, 2018