Picture an automotive production factory in China during the peak operation time. What do you imagine the scene will be? If we were in the 20th century, thousands of workers would be undertaking their duties and responsibilities diligently. But a factory floor has undergone a revolution as we crossed into the 21st century. Human workers can hardly be found as robots monitor other robots, robots make machines, and in certain cases robots create even more robots. Everything runs smoothly and in the precise manner it is supposed to, thanks to advanced industrial computer-control systems.
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What is it all about?
According to IndustryARC analysis, the major selling-points of the automation revolution are superior productivity, and little or no defects among the products created. While automation can be considered as the muscle, the real brain behind this entire operation is considered to be an operation’s “digital twin”. A digital twin can be described as a virtual simulation of a factory floor which is utilized to conceptualize, design, and program manufacturing machines. Once all the problems are sorted out and everything is operating in perfect harmony, the digit twin gives the green-light to create physical factory floor.
How can it be implemented?
This concept is not one of our latest inventions, it has been around for a long time because NASA used to create models of spacecrafts for tinkering. While these models were initially analogue, massive strides in computer performance have allowed them to complete the digital leap. Modern factories have a digital twin which simulate the whole value chain, and are slowly integration additional capabilities like artificial intelligence and augmented-virtual reality. The popularity of the digital twin software is such that industries from all corners of the spectrum, from heavy machinery to pharmaceuticals, are eager to utilize in the race to enjoy superior production efficiency.
What will it mean for industrial operations?
While the ultimate aim of using this technology is to speed up the manufacturing process and lower its cost, organizations can also simulate various design changes or improvements without any halt in production activities. For example, Maserati, with the help of a digital twin, was able to send its Ghibi sports saloon model into production 14 months sooner than initially anticipated. Even the supply chain is bracing itself for evolution as suppliers are now being asked to provide a digital twin of their eventual output so that it can be rigorously tested even before the final purchasing decision is made.
Synergy with other technologies
But what will make this innovation move on to the next level is the widespread adoption of sensors capable of relaying vital data in real-time. Relayed through the internet, this data combined with advantages provided by digital twins has the potential to make predictive changes. For example, the transmission, analysis and simulation of data from a jet engine in operation could help identify any failure well in advance. Once such a capability is leveraged, there is no turning back on this technology.