Author: Tronserve admin
Tuesday 27th July 2021 01:19 AM
Digital Twins Are Great for Clearing Up IIoT Confusion
Subsequent to listening to a latest IW webinar including some daunting data about lack of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) adoption, the fact is that it is incumbent on those of us who are convinced of the IIoT’s transformative benefits to do a better job of selling it to skeptical C-level executives.
A digital twin enables you “see” exclusively how well that thing is running and then fine-tune it. If you aren’t already comfortable with digital twins, take the time right now to watch them in operation right before reading the rest of this column. A twin is both a versatile tool in its own right and the main idea of the overall IoT, because, as PTC says, it is the seamless merger of the digital and physical.
As a matter of fact, investing in a digital twin is one of the initial steps you should take in a comprehensive IIoT strategy after building sensors into your devices hence their operations can be documented in operation. That is mainly because of its versatility and wide range of applications and benefits, which will only increase as your IoT investment grows and it’s enriched by alternative tools such as AI and AR.
Referring back to our doubtful executives, they will understand it automatically after seeing a digital twin — because seeing a dynamic object in action in real time is believing. (The benefits of this ability to visualize data rather than having to interpret vast amounts of printed data was detailed by Emerson’s Rich Carpenter in a recent IW webinar I participated in). As a matter of fact, 65% of the population are visual learners.
When you view the digital twin and how it can be used, you will be shocked by the number of potential benefits for every aspect of your operations:
Maintenance and operations
Let’s be honest: maintenance had previously been where you put Ol’ Tom, that not-very-creative but reliably careful guy who read the few gauges you had and also tried to estimate when the products you made should be maintained (which was just a guesstimate because of lack of objective information from the actual products’ actual use).
Digital twins increase maintenance to a strategic function. They allow you for the first time to do “predictive maintenance,” which is a win-win for you and the customer. Rather than doing “scheduled” maintenance, which was dependent on estimates of when the average product would need repairs, the real-time data from the numerous sensors on the IoT device can find the earliest signs of potential problems, from lubricant breakdown to a part failure. That allows you plan the repair at the earliest convenient time for all involved, controlling inconvenience and assuring dependable operations.
Twins are crucial for high-value assets like pipelines or off-shore drilling platforms that are located in remote locations and/or are high risk to investigate. In fact, the earliest of what we now call digital twins were created by NASA and helped rescue Apollo 13: What could have been more distant or more dangerous?
So far, product designers had to depend upon intuition and skewed feedback from users to discover problems and/or opportunities for upgrades. (It was so overwhelming to get comments to the company about a product’s features and options that only the biggest fans and critics would make the effort, plus these comments were subjective, not guaranteed with independent data.) Now, real-time data from the digital twin enables the designer “see” in real time how features are being used or ignored, and patterns of misuse that might be due to poor documentation. Regularly, the product can be updated digitally, through software updates, reducing maintenance problems and increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty. Tesla, for example, does this with “over-the-air” software updates.
Marketing and Sales:
A fantastic example is quite possibly the jet turbine industry, where GE, Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney have progressively switched from selling turbines to leasing them, with the lease cost based on the amount of thrust the individual engine actually produces (Rolls Royce markets it as “power by the hour.”). Customers are delighted because they are not paying if the engine is sitting idle being repaired, while the manufacturers now enjoy predictable revenue streams year-round.
Digital twins’ versatility and potential will only greatly enhance as complementary technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) mature. Like for example, PTC’s Vuforia AR application allows operators of Caterpillar front-end loaders to visualize possible operating problems while the device is running and feeding back real-time information, without removing protective devices that would put the operator at risk. It then expedites repairs because the exact location of the problem and malfunctioning part is separated.
The IoT’s VisiCalc: what if?
Perhaps the digital twin’s most beneficial use is the least mentioned. It allows you to quickly, with no cost, and no downside, run “what if?” simulations that model a whole range of many potential changes in the object and its operation, without interfering with existing operations or expensive and time-consuming re-engineering. In a similar fashion, this simulation is ideal for training everyone from nuclear plant engineers to surgeons without tampering with the real-world device. For example, Dow's Virtual Development/Simulation/Training (Virtual DST) system simulates all aspects of plant operations, such as batch and route controls, safety systems, and SAP Plant Connectivity software. The company has a twin for every plant.
The “what if” option is the counterpart for the IIoT of what VisiCalc brought to previously paper-and-pencil financial calculations 40 years ago. As one of the company’s first leaders said in a recent interview with the suitably dramatic title “How VisiCalc’s Spreadsheets Changed the World”: “The ability to ask ‘what if?’ brings out the inner child who wants to play with the data, and the result is inspiration, creativity and effortless learning.”
A recurrent theme in this columns is always that the IoT isn’t just new technology, but a new way of planning about the products we make and how we operate them. It will take not only digital twin technology but also a parallel attitudinal shift by everyone with access to it - from plant floor operators to product designers to senior managers - to completely capitalize on this no-risk “what if” ability to tinker with changes in design, operations, and even marketing before we will realize digital twins’ full potential to revolutionize the things we make and how we use them.