The manufacturing industry is one of the most complex industries of them all. Manufacturing depends on various processes that impact production and efficiency.
As companies grow, they have to find a way to optimize a growing number of processes without losing quality or flexibility.
Traditionally, manufacturers used CAD-based simulations to speed up product development and optimize some processes, which takes time and effort.
Digital Twins (DT) are the next step in running simulations and can recreate real-world objects, products, processes, persons, supply chains, and everything in between in a virtual environment.
Let’s see how good Digital Twin really is and what are its applications.
Digital Twins Explained
Digital Twins are virtual copies of physical objects, processes, machines, components, and anything else. Unlike CAD-based simulations that require an operator to set the rules manually, Digital Twins are virtual copies based on real-world data.
DT technology is a subset of artificial intelligence. It involves placing small IoT sensors on physical objects for easier monitoring. The sensors collect operational data and send it to the AI/ML model in charge.
Once the central hub has enough real-world data, the Digital Twin can recreate the entire process, product, or system in a virtual environment.
From there, engineers and managers can use the virtual copy to run advanced simulations to see how the object or process will behave in a wide range of different scenarios.
Its ability to accurately predict the outcomes of these scenarios is what gives Digital Twins a huge application across many other industries and processes.
It can help improve product quality, identify weak spots in operation, find better design solutions, and so on.
General Benefits of Digital Twins
Digital Twins provide all kinds of benefits. Of course, the benefits largely depend on existing systems and technologies, but here’s a general overview of the areas where this technology makes a huge difference. This is why they are considered one of the most dominant technologies in 2022.
- Reduced Operating Costs
Digital Twins are mainly used to identify weak spots in production and find better ways to optimize processes.
They take all of the guesswork out of the equation and allow businesses to make better-informed decisions. They also help test product quality and overall performance of the entire production line, identifying potential issues and proposing better solutions.
That allows manufacturers to increase product and production rates while reducing overall operating costs.
- More Accurate Maintenance
With this technology in place, your engineers and employees can review the performance of every machine in real-time.
Maintenance teams can quickly identify faulty machinery and schedule maintenance efforts before a catastrophic breakdown with access to real-time data. The predictive approach leads to better management of resources, reduced maintenance costs, reduced downtimes, and increased ROI.
- Driving Innovation
Driving innovation used to be one of the biggest challenges in manufacturing as most engineers and scientists had to focus on multiple internal processes simultaneously. Product development was slow and complicated due to the lack of data.
With Digital Twins in place, engineers can now test products and prototypes in a virtual environment. That allows them to make more informed decisions throughout the entire development process, which leads to better design solutions and increased product quality.
Applications of Digital Twins In Manufacturing
As more and more companies embrace the digital transformation and adopt technologies such as IoT, AI, and ML, Digital twins are finding their way into many different industries and businesses.
As a result, the digital twin global market is expected to grow to $16 billion by 2023 and continue growing steadily in the next decade. Here are some manufacturing operations where Digital Twins make a big difference.
- Product Design
Digital Twins can redefine product design by running advanced virtual simulations to test design features before the prototype is built. That way, manufacturers can save a lot of time and money by ensuring that the first design actually makes it to production.
- Process Optimization
Sensors placed all over the manufacturing line collect operational data in real-time, allowing the Digital Twin to copy the entire process to the smallest detail. In addition, IoT sensors provide a detailed look into KPIs, allowing engineers to test the system in various settings and find better ways to optimize production, reduce waste, and improve root-cause analysis.
- Quality Management
Quality assurance is traditionally done by human workers who are prone to making errors due to fatigue.
However, with small IoT laser sensors in place, defects are reduced to a minimum. Moreover, by applying DT to all stages of production, manufacturers can identify potential design problems and increase product quality by using better materials.
- Predictive Maintenance
Predictive maintenance is a revolutionary approach to identifying malfunctioning equipment and performing repairs.
Engineers and maintenance teams can monitor machinery performance in real-time and identify problems before they occur. That results in better tool calibration, load level optimization, and improved cycle times.
- Supply Chain Management
Supply chain management is becoming increasingly complex over the years. Managing and tracking fleets, routes, material transportation, and product shipping in a global setting is an absolute logistical nightmare.
However, with a Digital Twin, manufacturers can quickly identify bottlenecks in the supply chains and find better ways to optimize them.
- Better Team Collaboration
Managing multiple teams and departments can also become easier by applying DT to all internal processes.
All departments will have access to accurate data, making better decisions. The unified approach to data management will also lead to better team collaboration.
- Customer Experience Insights
Apart from understanding product performance better, Digital Twins can also improve the end-user experience. For example, it can provide your engineers with accurate customer feedback, allowing them to enhance product features according to their needs.
Digital Twins are here, and they are here to stay. Manufacturers far and wide are going through a digital transformation, adopting new technologies to improve their production and reduce costs.
Digital Twins allow manufacturers to make better-informed decisions using big data and revolutionary software tools.
While adopting these technologies is still expensive and challenging, the benefits far outweigh the risks in the long run.
Tomas is a digital marketing specialist and a freelance blogger. His work is focusing on new web tech trends and digital voice distribution across different channels.
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