How Digital Twins Can Impact the Smart Manufacturing Landscape

Digital twins act as a mirror of the real world and allow for behavior prediction and data-driven system optimization.

author avatar

16 Oct, 2020



Smart manufacturing combines the power of flexibility and productivity offering new production possibilities and efficiency gains. Due to the industrial revolution, factories were able to produce at a faster pace, higher variety and shrinking costs. Many manufacturers resort to two approaches of either opting for higher productivity or higher flexibility. Smart manufacturing makes both goals achievable at the same time. Smart factories can be fully responsive to changes and demands in near real-time, thus providing the agility required to produce highly personalized products.

Smart manufacturing manifests in a multitude of levels from factory management to gaining cognitive intelligence capabilities. One of the technologies transforming the manufacturing landscape is Digital Twin. Incorporating ML capabilities and AI, digital twins act as a mirror of the real world and allow for behaviour prediction and data-driven system optimization. 

Digital twins work on the basis of dynamic mapping between a physical asset/ object and its virtual counterpart in cyberspace. This technology essentially works as a middleware architecture abstracting its physical replica for engineering management systems in order to make (almost) real-time decisions. From a technical standpoint, the birth of digital twin requires three interwoven pillars: an information model, a communication mechanism and a data processing module. The information model is all about abstracting the characteristics of a physical asset. A communication mechanism or network helps establish bi-directional data communication. Then, the data gathered from all the sources to construct the digital twin needs to be processed to design the live replication of the physical asset. Here are 4 ways how digitals twins can impact the smart manufacturing scene:

  1. Operations: Manufacturers can connect an asset to cyberspace using its digital twin in order to attain a clearer image of operating condition and real-world performance of the asset. This allows for more proactive data-powered operational insights and smart manufacturing decisions. Digitals twins provide a single central source for truthful information, which can be used to also compare data across a number of products. Thus, manufacturers can enhance their situational awareness and operational resilience.

  1. Human-machine collaboration planning: Gaining a better grasp of the human state at the shop floor can help improve the physical and psychological health of workers and attain optimal production performance. Digital twins visualise personal data i.e. health, weight, activity, etc. to design models that understands the wellbeing and personal conditions of humans. 

  2. Smart factory configuration: Digital twins can also make a live representation of a factory environment. This complete operational visibility paired with daat tracking though the entire manufacturing process means factory operations can become smarter in analyzing production, identifying product fault sources and efficiency bottlenecks and predicting future resource needs.

  3. Connected production networks: Every aspect of a business can be virtually mirrored by connecting the asset, services and workers via the digital twin. Each digital twin can be connected to another to establish a production network that offers unprecedented insights into operational performance on a more global scale.

All in all, smart manufacturing is only made possible by better and more accurate data. Businesses become more scalable, agile and future proof when using smart manufacturing methods. 

Sources & Further Reading 

A flexible data schema and system architecture for the virtualization of manufacturing machines (VMM)

Smart Manufacturing Operations Planning and Control Program

16 Oct, 2020

Hi there! My name is Mina. I have an educational background in electrical engineering and business. My work mostly resides at the intersection of tech and narrative building. I previously worked in the renewables scene as an Analyst and Content Strategist. I joined Wevolver in the September of 2020 ... learn more

Stay Informed, Be Inspired

Wevolver’s free newsletter delivers the highlights of our award winning articles weekly to your inbox.