How to Use Digital Twins in Service and Maintenance Industries
Digital twinning creates the ability to virtualize service and maintenance tasks.
Within a new generation of industry-transforming technologies, ‘digital twinning’ is emerging as a popular technology. The concept involves mapping physical equipment to a digital platform. This allows organizations to gather insightful data from sensors installed on the equipment to assess performance in real-time.
The service and maintenance industry is fast becoming a place where the virtual and physical are interconnected to improve operational efficiency and commercial performance. Rapid advances in technology are enabling forward-thinking organizations to streamline processes, improve customer service, and get more from existing systems and infrastructure, all while reducing costs.
As more organizations invest in smart equipment and digital capabilities to maintain competitive advantage, digital twinning is gaining prominence in industrial environments as a big current technical trend. Analysts predict that 85% of IoT-enabled platforms will feature digital twin functionality by 2022.
So, how does it work?
Digital twinning creates the ability to virtualize service work orders and maintenance tasks by producing a digital representation of particular physical equipment. It does this by generating digital renderings which are viewed using computers, tablets or mobile devices. Data is then sent to this virtual representation, so engineers can gauge the condition, performance and history of the physical equipment and make updates and amends, without tampering with the physical equipment itself.
In this way, organizations can determine the intervention and service required to optimize the performance of equipment and maximize its useful lifespan, before carrying out any work to the equipment itself. This prevents unnecessary disruption and downtime, increasing customer satisfaction and also means the best-informed decisions can be made regarding the equipment. As well as these immediate operational and financial gains, digital twinning will deliver increasing returns as technology evolves. As we connect more IoT endpoints, devices and physical equipment, twinning enables us to turn raw data into invaluable insights.
Consider also predictive maintenance as an example. This is where sensors continuously collect machine data, which is used to assess the condition of parts, the status of production loads and expected lifespans. Digital twinning gives machine operators the power to accurately calculate the best time for maintenance, by identifying the perfect balance between avoiding serious machine faults and unnecessary downtime.
In this way, plant managers can use digital twinning data to predict possible breakdowns before they happen and intervene accordingly. Similarly, when designers are developing new equipment to go online, their prototypes can be tested and updated virtually before going to the expense and effort of building and operating them physically. This creates a raft of associated benefits for your organization. Because digital twins can replicate essential machines and production line activities, you would be able to train maintenance engineers regarding how to take apart and repair these machines, in the right order and using the right parts, all without impacting existing physical equipment.
This capability has also enormous potential for process-driven industries like chemicals and food production. Given the high volume of units involved and the health and safety connotations, it is simply too expensive to set up extra production lines as back up, for testing and support alone. Here, digital twinning creates a viable solution with potentially enormous savings. For example, unlike conventional product development, physical prototypes are built late in the process, so changes are not as easy to implement as they are costly. In contrast, digital representations contain all product data and information required for testing and assessment.
Time to twin
Digital twinning is making a big impression in service and maintenance driven organizations as it has many clear benefits. In a competitive market, where digitization can mean a crucial differentiator, it represents an opportunity to save money and simplify operations while getting increased productivity from existing investments. This hybrid world of virtual and physical is undoubtedly where the future lies.