Expand the possibilities of your business when you transport your people, products and processes into the digital world.
From digital transformation to digital thread and digital twin to digital engineering – the consensus is that ‘digital’ is the next industry buzzword. But, is it just a buzzword or is it something more?
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Today, industry is challenged to produce high quality products, quickly and safely, while keeping prices low. Smart manufacturing, made possible by digital technologies, is revolutionizing the way manufacturers operate by providing accessibility to relevant, real time information. Information-enabled manufacturing allows you to combat your biggest challenges.
Why the need for digital technologies?
The benefits of digital transformation run far and wide across the workplace. These include improving compliance and data integrity, bettering product quality and customer experience, and increasing productivity. It also helps reduce costs of goods sold and improves supply chain integrity.
You have probably heard about concepts like digital twin and digital thread but what do they mean? A digital twin is a digital replica of an asset — like a product, machine or plant. This replica is “living,” which means it changes as the asset is developed, operated and maintained. It can also be viewed on a screen or in an immersive 3D environment to improve processes like design, training and maintenance.
A digital thread refers to the digital trail of data created by a digital twin across an asset’s lifecycle. This data can be turned into easy-to-understand insights to inform people how the asset is performing or will perform. The good news is that digital engineering is not an all or nothing strategy. A good first step is to review your business and determine where you can do things smarter, faster or better using a digital approach.
Creating digital solutions
There are exciting new ways that digital engineering can help improve a number of different areas of your business. Specifically, these can be grouped into five key areas: design and prototyping, commissioning, operator training, production and maintenance.
Design and prototyping
Virtual design and prototyping can help you get machines to market faster, reduce risk in your designs, and create higher-caliber, more customized machines. It provides the ability for you to watch your machine run and see how it interacts with people or with other machines.
Bring your digital twin model into a VR environment to watch it perform in front of you as if you were with it on the plant floor. This can help you spot glaring problems or minor issues that you might otherwise miss. If you need to make changes, you can make them in your digital design with just a few clicks rather than buying parts and spending days of labor to build a new prototype.
A food manufacturer used a digital twin to test and validate a facility upgrade prior to implementation. This helped the company achieved 80% less downtime and a more than 10% throughput increase.
Waiting until you bring a machine on-site to perform controls testing is a recipe for disaster.
Virtual commissioning can help avoid any issues. By creating a dynamic digital twin of both your machine design and the real operational logic of the control system, you can uncover issues earlier in the design phase — long before you bolt your machine into the floor of a customer’s plant. You can exhaustively verify and demonstrate the operation of your machine and the controller, before any resources are committed to them.
Now, with virtual training, you can use a digital twin to train workers before a machine arrives. By either sliding on a VR headset or working from a screen, workers can build skills and competency in a safe and immersive virtual environment.
The value of digital engineering doesn’t stop after machines are commissioned and operators are trained. Once production starts, digital twins can mimic processes, machines and controls to help plant personnel learn about operations and experiment with changes. An ever-growing digital thread of information can reveal insights into how production can be improved.
In fact, a global manufacturer implemented a digital thread alongside its MES (Manufacturing Execution System) and saw a 50% lead time reduction to customers, a 50% reduction in defective parts and a 4% improvement in productivity.
Maintenance teams can fight downtime like never before using digital simulations and real-time (or even predictive) insights. Data flowing through a digital thread can help technicians detect problems as they happen, to prevent or minimize downtime. This includes health and diagnostic data from control system devices that can notify technicians when maintenance is needed. But it also includes network data, for example, from switch-level alarms, which today is as critical to uptime.
In an ideal world, maintenance teams would never need to respond to downtime events because they could predict them. This is increasingly possible thanks to the use of predictive analytics. These analytics use machine learning and artificial intelligence to learn your operations, identify machine issues early and alert technicians of those issues. Technicians can then schedule maintenance during a planned downtime.
Digital twins can help you improve MTTR in a couple key ways. First, virtual training allows technicians to prepare for downtime problems in advance rather than troubleshooting them the first time they happen. And when problems do happen, technicians can use AR technology to overlay digital diagnostics or work instructions on a physical machine to diagnose and fix problems faster.
Stages of digital transformation
Digitalization is continuing to provide significant benefits to industry. In its recent report, The Internet of Things: Mapping Value Beyond the Hype, McKinsey sees IoT having a ‘total potential economic impact of $3.9 trillion to $11.1 trillion a year by 2025.
This is highly prevalent in industry, where digital transformation has moved beyond ‘consideration’ to now experiencing significant business outcomes. In fact, 72% of manufacturing companies plan to significantly increase investment into digitalization efforts in 2020. These manufacturers’ combined financial commitment is expected to reach $907 billion in 2020, according to PWC.
Rockwell Automation recently conducted global primary research to explore the roles, perceptions and decision-making involvement of executives involved in digital transformation/IIoT decisions across seven key industries globally: oil and gas, chemicals, metals and mining, life sciences, food and beverage, household and personal care, and automotive.
In the Rockwell Digital Transformation 2020 Report, it became clear that companies have moved beyond the consideration phase for digital transformation initiatives. In fact, 2019 saw a 400 percent growth in digital transformation projects moving post-implementation. Of companies interviewed, 50% are already in rollout or full-scale production, or applying continuous process improvement to initial digital initiatives.
Value of end-to-end solutions
This research revealed that many enterprises lacked the technology expertise necessary for success. Of the enterprises surveyed, less than one-third rated themselves as knowledgeable in technologies critical to their success. Specifically, only 37% of respondents felt they “knew a lot about” AI, while just 33% were knowledgeable about IIoT. It was 29% for augmented and virtual reality, 31% for cloud analytics, and 27% for robotics.
One thing they all agreed on: there is a need to effectively deploy and maintain comprehensive, unified digital transformation initiatives. Given the complexity of IIoT systems, they look to end-to-end partners that can support wide-scale deployments. The solution needs to address manufacturing execution systems as well as analytics, and act as a complete Industrial IoT platform.
In recent times, digital transformation technologies have advanced significantly – making now more than ever the best time to assess how these enabling technologies can help you create a smarter and safer workforce.
Augmented reality can help solve complex plant-floor problems and improve workforce productivity and efficiency. Harpak-ULMA, an industry leader in packaging design solutions recently implemented a digital transformation solution with FactoryTalk® InnovationSuite, powered by PTC and its Vuforia augmented reality platform. This new solution expanded the company’s IoT connectivity. With the use of machine learning and predictive analytics, Harpak-ULMA was able to reshape maintenance business models and customer cost structures.
Another common challenge facing the manufacturing industry today is that traditional methods of machine and production line design, commissioning and startup can be costly and impede speed to market. As such, many Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) manufacturers are turning to emulation as a tool to research, test and validate their process in a virtual space. CPG companies are gaining significant launch-time advantages with emulation technology. Advances in visualization, design software and training are making it easier than ever to employ.
Emulate 3D by Rockwell Automation, develops dynamic digital twin software for virtual commissioning, throughput simulation, and industrial demonstration. Using a 3D model to deliver realistic feedback in place of the real automated system, provides the opportunity to leverage virtual simulation and commissioning to bring your machine and production lines to life while reducing the costs and risks involved.
For more information visit: Rockwell Automation COVID-19 Response
This is a partnered post.