How are Digital Twins improving industry development?
Are you already familiarized with the Digital Twin concept? I bet you’ve heard about it sometimes; but, do you really know what it refers to? In general terms, digital twins seek to take physical reality and expand it to the digital world.
What is really a digital twin?
Well, it can be considered as a digital representation of real-world assets, products, processes or even plants. This means, for example, that a physical engine in a plant can be understood by the systems as a digitalized engine with the whole set of information related, instead of just as simply independent data gathered from the physical engine. This digital asset can include information such as the equipment manufacturer, tag or name of the equipment, nominal data, last maintenance, associated work orders, I/O signals, etc. In this way, the data collected is no longer just independent values that work separately but become part of a digital representation of the asset.
Why a digital representation of an asset is a good idea? Is it not enough just to have an automated system?
The answer may be broader and more exciting than you think. Having a virtual representation of plant assets allows the digital treatment of information, easing the use of applications such as augmented reality; virtual reality simulations; reports oriented to business intelligence or operations; OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) monitoring in real-time; remote support; descriptive, predictive and even prescriptive analytics applied to system maintenance, operations or production; among others. Basically, it opens the possibilities to any application that takes as base digital and structured information of processes or physical elements of the industry.
In this way, it is easy to start imagining an expert giving a more accurate diagnosis of an equipment malfunction remotely; a production manager monitoring the Plant OEE in real-time; reducing the energy consumption of a plant by identifying the points of less efficiency; having reports of product quality in real-time and at different stages of the process; or even preparing the system to predict when the next failure will be and notify the interested parties. These are just a few of the possibilities.
Digital Twin can be the foundation for these technology solutions and many more by being the structured data to be consulted. With this information available, defining the real issues you may have been struggling with, gets easier. The reason? Well, now assets issues and their causes can be digitally represented and automatically identified by an adequate data processing.
As you can see, the use cases are many, almost as much as it is allowed by our creativity and the need to find innovative solutions to the problems we have learned to live with (especially when is no longer needed).
How should the digital twin be handled to make it a successful process?
The first thing we recommend is a good understanding of the industry needs. Since the use cases are so wide, digital twins apply to the needs of any industry at many levels. Therefore, by identifying the need to be solved, it is practically guaranteed that the solution will fit the expectations.
Once the need to be solved is identified, it is possible to determine the type of information to be digitized and where to get it. At this point begins a phase of collecting information for storage and consultation. Of course, it is required an automation system or smart devices capable of supplying such information. Once the information is available in digital form, an information structuring process starts to consolidate the digital assets.
Implementations of Digital Twins are already happening in the industry, and every day the extent and magnitude of the associated benefits are better understood. We encourage you to keep up with these advances and their applications, which can represent a technological leap for your company with clear benefits such as cost reduction, improved production times, easier access to information, comparison of assets between plants, faster and easier decision making, among others.
We hope this article clarifies what digital twins are and their importance. We will continue sharing publications on topics related to the latest technology, industry challenges, innovative solutions, and much more.