- By Bill Lydon
- July 31, 2020
- The Final Say
Creating a digital twin has become a major goal for digitalization, and it is easy to get intimidated by all the buzzwords. The digital twin concept is really about creating a macro control loop with many subloops covering the entire manufacturing and production operations. The digital twin uses a wide range of inputs and models in real time to control and optimize an entire manufacturing and production plant. Conceptually this is analogous to cascaded proportional, integral, derivative (PID) controls, along with multivariable control, optimization, and predictive algorithms, but with the addition of much more information for sensing and feedback.
The digital twin is a powerful concept to constantly benchmark manufacturing and production operations against ideal operational models to optimize all factors to achieve greater quality, responsiveness, productivity, and profits. The feasibility of creating effective digital twins is becoming possible with the major growth of computing power at lower-cost, high-speed plant data networks, open controller communications, and lower-cost sensors.
The fundamental idea of the digital twin is to have a virtual model of the ideal manufacturing operations and processes, which is used to dynamically benchmark the actual production metrics in real time. Out of bounds operations are automatically adjusted in real time, or the appropriate people are given immediate advisories with actionable information for decision making. The broadest implementation models include all the factors that affect efficiency and profitability of production, including machines, processes, labor, incoming material quality, order flow, and economic factors. This provides a wealth of information to optimize production in a holistic way to maximize quality, efficiency, and productivity.
In addition, leveraging optimization, expert, and artificial intelligence systems can help companies predict bottlenecks and problems before they disrupt efficient production. This gives staff information to take actions and avoid lost efficiency and downtime.
The digital twin is a prominent example of practical macro-level, closed-loop control that is now feasible with the advanced hardware, software, sensors, network communication, and systems technology available.
Automation professionals essential
Automation professionals are essential for creating meaningful digital twins to implement digitalization with an understanding of the processes, interactions, and critical information that needs to be captured to improve operations and detect issues. Important tasks performed by automation professionals are design, sensor selection, implementation, and system integration to capture required real-time information that is the bedrock of implementing productive digital twins.
Digitalization is a holistic integration of manufacturing and production organizations requiring automation professionals to broaden their scope to effectively collaborate with operations and business information people in this new environment for companies to remain competitive. It may be uncomfortable at first, but this is the process of breaking down the silos and creating new working relationships and cooperation for success.
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