by Pia Banasch
Welcome back to our series on the the digital twin. In our previous post, The Myth of the Digital Twin, we touched on opportunities of digital twin, Gartner’s predictions, critical data, and the fact that – for most companies – digital twin remains a myth today. How do we change that? Are there practical areas encompassing elements of the digital twin we are already engaged in at our businesses? Four come immediately to mind.
1. From Idea to Development
The very first ideas are about gathering information. A sketch in the “idea center”, SAP Innovation Management, gives an idea of what a potential new solution should do. Experts evaluate, comment, sort and select. The important point is to evaluate if an idea makes sense or not. If, for example, the braking force for a vehicle is to be reinforced, it is also interesting to assess how complex such an adaptation is, whether it is financially feasible, and other business concerns before getting started.
2. From Planning to the Digital Twin
Even with the design of a product using computer-aided design (CAD) vs model based engineering, experts talk about the digital twin. Because CAD files are often the first digital “representation” of the future product. In line with “Design to Cost”, the future production costs of a product can already be estimated and calculated quite precisely at this early stage. For example, higher horsepower of a car engine results in the need for better brakes, not only allowing for functional requirements, but also networking with other available information. Internal and external partners are also involved, so that the appropriate firmware and design changes can be coordinated.
3. The Digital Twin Goes Into Manufacturing and Service
The next challenge is to tell manufacturing how to assemble and transfer products. It is the task of a planning tool to determine in which order a product or a machine is to be assembled. The tool generates work instructions as 3-D animation – a relief for the fitter. Another plus: version information, an overview of the current status of the system and warning messages, updates of the software (firmware) and what new replacement parts can be used can be found in the cloud. Manufacturers and operators, but especially service partners, can always find up-to-date and valuable information on how they should carry out the maintenance.
4. Live Development and Dashboards
When products and machines are on the market, the data stream does not stop. Because now it stands out which components prove to be strong or weak points in the overall construct in use. Additionally, continuously looping in feedback for future favorable decisions – aka customer loyalty – becomes visible enterprise wide as the feedback flows directly from the customer back into the digital twin, reaching the design improvement teams immediately. Improvement requests created on this basis, in turn, appear as a new idea in SAP Innovation Management, so that a further development of the product is initiated from the digital twin.
Depending on the particular application, the necessary information is available in each case in a digital twin, such as the 3-D model for the designer, part lists with virtual work instructions or the serialized modules of a machine for a service employee. These four elements demonstrate how the digital twin grows into a product, how it is enriched with more and more information, and ultimately live engineering based on critiques or new requirements from customers is feasible. What are your thoughts? How are you moving toward a digital twin?
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