5 use cases for digital twins in manufacturing

The digital twin is one of the fastest growing applications of Industrial IoT technology. The concept of creating digital twins has been around for almost a decade, and now with IoT technology, it can be cost-effectively implemented. What was once just an idea, has now become imperative to businesses today, as it revolutionises strategic planning for organisations globally.  

The digital twin works by creating a complete digital replica of a physical object and uses the twin as the main point of digital communication. This new revolution, dubbed Industry 4.0, is being used to fight the pressures of increasing operational costs, domestic labour shortage as well as a weakening dollar in Singapore and many other countries in Asia. 

The advantages of digital representation of a physical object are clear. You can monitor its performance while stress testing it under different circumstances. You can predict where failures might occur while running simulations to see how the product design can be improved – all without the need to disrupt or halt your operations.

Gartner has estimated that the use of digital twins will triple by 2022, so where is the technology best suited in manufacturing?

Digital twins in manufacturing: transforming business

It seems today that the digital twin is becoming about as ubiquitous as IoT devices themselves. Popular use cases for digital twins in manufacturing include:

  • Quality management
    Continuous monitoring of product data from IoT devices has clear advantages for quality management over random inspection. The digital twin can monitor and model every part of the production process to identify where quality issues may occur as well as analyse the composition of the product being created to ascertain whether there were better materials and production processes that could be used. This is much like A*STAR’s Model Factory Initiative, which works towards bridging technological gaps so businesses can reposition themselves through the adoption and co-innovation.
  • Product redesign
    Conversions of production to other products or smaller series and runs can be run through first in the digital twin. It allows you to both model how product customization will affect the production process and also change how the process works to accommodate this customization. For example, the digital twin can provide specific product data to the production equipment to allow it to create a different product variant without extensive re-tooling that suspend the line for days or weeks.
  • System planning/virtual start-up
    The analysis of historical comparative data from similar systems within your plant makes it possible to predict the performance of a system that has not yet been constructed. The digital twin allows you to use this information to model different scenarios for the new equipment and identify areas where new plants can be improved over previous production systems. In fact, Singapore is anticipating the upcoming Tuas Terminal mega port which is being developed to aid in the evaluation of the impact various layout designs and concepts can have on the efficiency of port operations.
  • Logistics planning
    The digital twin can help you optimise your supply chain. It can provide you with a much clearer view of materials usage and provide the opportunity to automate the replenishment process. Where lean or agile manufacturing processes are used ­– just-in-time or just-in-sequence production, for example – this can result in significant increases in efficiency.
  • Product development
    Virtual simulations help with development of new product and product variants. Data collected from the use of a product can also help develop and improve version control. The digital twin allows you to blend data from your production system with data from other enterprise applications such as your Enterprise Resource Planning, Customer Relationship Management or Customer Experience Management systems so that you can include real world feedback on product use during the product re-design process. Singapore now works on planning future projects by simulating US$73 million data-rich, replicas of the city in order to ensure a functional proposal by any relevant department, ranging from the Land Transport Authority or even the Town Council.

Digital twins in manufacturing: the need for an IoT platform

Analyst firm Forrester suggests the rapid adoption of digital twins is driving the uptake in IoT platforms as the environment surrounding Industrial IoT and digital twins becomes increasingly complex. Many Original Equipment Management systems (OEMs) are now supplying a digital twin as part of the product sale. Digital twins function at the individual component, system, asset and entire production process level.

To ensure the progress towards Industry 4.0, Singapore has launched a Smart Industry Readiness Index. Manufacturing companies aren’t managing a single digital twin, they are faced with composite implementations of hundreds or thousands of smaller digital twins. They are taking control of ecosystems of digital twins and this requires extremely effective management.

With different IoT standards, different types of digital twins and a growing variety of people and systems requiring connection, an identity-driven IoT platform is the only solution for the secure access, data integrity and comprehensive management capabilities you require.