3D Replicas of Manufacturing Facilities: The Future is in Digital Twins
Imagine digital replicas of your manufacturing facilities that can be modeled and optimized before they are ever built. This is the future with digital twins: 3D digital models of factories and warehouses, simulation, and optimization.
Digital twins will allow manufacturers to predict how parts will move around a factory before it’s even constructed, optimize production lines for efficiency, predict inventory needs, forecast demand-supply gaps in real-time. The possibilities are endless!
What are Digital Twins?
Digitals twins are virtual replicas of your factory. They exist entirely in the digital world, residing in CAD models, servers, and computer files. These files represent all the physical attributes of your factory.
These virtual versions of your physical facility can be modeled to represent every single piece of equipment, its location in a facility, and its digital interactions.
Many industrial companies have historically relied on tabular data analytics. This refers to spreadsheet-based data, such as production volume in numbers or cost efficiency in dollars. With digital twins, companies now have access to a new type of data: 3D vector-space. Data analytics will not be limited to spreadsheets but will span 3D space within your factory environment.
The simplest way to think about digital twins is a video game: 3D worlds where avatars move around and score points. But for manufacturers, those 3D worlds will be populated with workers, robots, and production lines. Instead of scoring points, manufacturers will measure production. The potential is enormous.
Optimization Benefits of Digital Twins
Even though digital twins may be virtual, the potential benefits of digital twins are very real. In particular, optimization stands out as a key winner from the development of industrial digital twins.
For a manufacturer, margins are everything. Adding 1% to your margin can be make-or-break for many companies. Every plant manager knows that even a slight improvement in production can result in significant gains.
Consider the example of an automotive plant that produces 100,000 vehicles per year for $10,000 per vehicle. If this factory could improve its yield by just 0.01%, it would save $100,000 annually!
Digital twins will help achieve these kinds of optimizations by providing a virtual replica of your manufacturing process. This digital replica will be a place where you can test different production scenarios and see how they impact yield, cost, and other factors.
Quality Control Benefits of Digital Twins
Digital twins are not just about optimization. They can also play an important role in safety and quality control. By understanding the digital interactions between parts and processes, you can catch errors before they cause problems on the factory floor.
This is especially useful in digital twins that include robotics. Robots are not infallible, and it’s important to have a digital twin to help keep them on track. Digital twins can also simulate the movements of your workers or other human-operated equipment, helping you understand how they move around a facility. This will be invaluable for understanding hazards before they cause an accident.
Simerse AI can integrate with digital twins to provide AI-powered defect recognition. For companies looking to improve quality control, this can be an effective option.
Inventory and Logistics Benefits of Digital Twins
Digital twins can also help with inventory management and logistics. By understanding how parts move around a factory, you can optimize your storage locations to minimize travel time for workers. You can also forecast demand-supply gaps in real-time and make plans accordingly.
Tracking the movement of inventory in real-time in the virtual world will help inventory managers ensure that product is being manufactured and delivered according to schedule.
This information is not only useful for the factory floor. It can also help with long-term strategic planning. For example, if you know that a particular part will be in short supply in six months, you can start to plan now how to deal with the shortfall.
How to Adopt Digital Twins
Frankly, this question is still unanswered. There are a lot of emerging frameworks by tech companies big and small. But a lot of attention is being placed on Pixar’s Universal Scene Description (USD), which is an open source format for 3D scenes.
Over the next few years, we expect winners to emerge in the digital twin space, and manufacturing companies will be able to migrate to them. It is an exciting time to be in digital manufacturing, that’s for sure!
In fact, we plan another blog post soon on the leading providers of digital twins. The expectation is that the article will cover who are the leaders, who are the up-and-comers, and how companies can engage closer.
One of the best ways to adopt digital twins is to start small: build a digital twin for a single machine or production line. This way, you can get to know the benefits and limitations of digital twins without having to commit across your entire manufacturing operation.
You will also be able to build up digital experience from scratch which will make it easier down the road when you want to expand your digital footprint.
Which Industries Will Benefit From Digital Twins?
Digital twins will benefit a wide range of industries. The automotive, aerospace, and energy industries have all been early adopters of digital twins. But we expect this trend to grow in all kinds of manufacturing sectors.
Like many technologies, corporate data science teams will be the early adopters. But as digital twin technology matures, more mid-sized and smaller manufacturers will gain access. And as a broader range of industrial companies adopt digital twins, more and more innovative use cases will emerge from their use.
Digital Twins and the Future of Manufacturing
The digital twin is still a new technology, but the potential implications are vast. As digital twins continue to evolve, they will become an increasingly important part of manufacturing. They will help with optimization, quality control, and inventory management. Most importantly, digital twins will help us understand the digital interactions between parts and processes. This understanding is essential for the future of manufacturing.