At the Internet of Things Solutions World Congress 2018, one of the ideas that has the most practical, far-reaching applications is the concept of the digital twin, a virtual model that connects users to a representation of a device or system.

Brad Surak, Chief Product and Strategy Officer, Hitachi Vantara. Source: Automation World

Brad Surak, chief product and strategy officer at Hitachi Vantara, highlighted a digital twin of the Fukushima reactor destroyed by the Tohoku earthquake on March 11, 2011.

“After the first PMORPH robot deployed in the site got stuck,” Sarak said, “we created a digital twin of the reactor itself to train the robot on how to navigate through the spaces and capture the needed measurements.”

In every field, simulated training demos help people familiarize themselves with delicate or challenging scenarios. Instead of replicating those scenarios for a one-time use in the real-world, the virtual world can provide replicable situations with data to build on and improve.

Though the implementation of digital twins is growing to model different machines and environments, many manufacturers find figuring out practical applications for digital twins challenging. Mark Gallant, senior director of IoT Solutions at PTC, suggested connecting with plant managers first.

Hanspeter Meindi (left), Global Head of Smart Manufacturing at Wipro, and Mark Gallant, Senior Director of IoT Solutions at PTC. Source: Automation World

“They inherently know the [facility’s] top three machines in terms of criticality to your operations,” Gallant said. “That’s where you start with your digital twin.”

Gallant cited PTC’s work with one customer who wanted to use the technology improve its quality by 20 percent. Within the project’s timeframe, Gallant said the manufacturer was creating 1,600 out-of-spec products. They wanted to get this number into the 1,200 range. The initial application of the digital twin of the machine led to a 50 percent improvement in quality, with only 800 products being produced out of spec.

How to Get Started with the Digital Twin – Automation World