COVID-19: digital twins in the future of manufacturing
Ali Nicholl, Head of Engagement, Iotics, outlines the need for digital twins and how Rolls-Royce Power Systems demonstrates the manufacturing benefits
We live in a world of data and controls, legacy systems and siloes of information, where infrastructure and architecture are built around internal systems and processes. While it’s true the manufacturing industry was transforming its digital operations pre-the COVID crisis, the current market volatility caused by the virus has brought previous challenges into sharper focus.
Almost universally there has been an acceptance that operating conditions are now having to rapidly change and evolve and to survive, manufacturers must begin to operate more efficiently very quickly. This cannot be by improving the systems that may have worked previously.
In any enterprise there are many moving parts, but we are now starting to realise that the greatest asset any manufacturer needs is real-time visibility across corporate boundaries and down to the supply and demand chain. This will mean moving from siloed, largely fixed interoperation of ERPS, MES, PLM and PDM systems, to event-based digital ecosystems that interrelate data about what your customers care about - the assets - from design to use.
The age of the digital twin
There has been a lot of hype around digital twins in many sectors, but there is the need now for true digital twins as the powerful ‘digital shadows’ that are able to drive smart systems and the next generation of supply chains. These are digital twins that function as ‘white boxes’ interrelating data sources from across an asset’s entire lifecycle as its semantically defined, data-based virtualisation. They are comprehensive, interoperable versions of any business asset – people, places, processes or things – with access to all of its data and controls and structured and tagged, enabling it to be read directly by machines.
The inclusion of controls, as well as data, is integral to a twin’s ability to autonomously interoperate and leverage emergent pattern recognition and for AI to enrich customer-centric services. Their power lies not in what they can physically show us, but how they can securely and meaningfully interact with each other and, in doing so, create secure, scalable, adaptable digital ecosystems.
A digital twin can be made up of separate parts to create twins of components, assemblies, people, or an entire manufacturing plant and can be combined in multiple ways to create a unified access point or gateway to numerous sources of data and information.
This is not copying data, creating new data lakes, or rearchitecting legacy systems, but leveraging them through the creation of events and instances in a twin’s life that provide real-time insight into demand, supply, performance and operations. It is the ability for connected objects to talk to each other and work together to provide entirely new services.
What has a digital twin ever done for us?
To enable the full effect of the technology, manufacturers will need to embrace digitalisation on a far bigger scale, encompassing end-to-end processes throughout plants and across the supply chain. As organisations adopt new technologies and increase the number of endpoints, the volume of data they collect will swell hugely and more importantly, the interactions between them will grow exponentially.
Being able to manage those complex interactions at a granular level, securely and across ecosystems of partners, goes beyond traditional approaches. Investment in multiple siloed point solution apps and platforms has complicated global data estates, shackling innovation and limiting adoption, flexibility and adaptation as a result.
One-time, use-based system integrations are costly and restrictive, while data warehousing simply creates bigger siloes and fails to reflect the required co-operative, multi-party nature of service delivery. Digital twins offer a lightweight solution that deliver the digital transformation required to recover and then thrive in these challenging times.
How digital twins are being adopted and used by world leading manufacturers
Digital twins don’t replace existing technology or legacy investment, rather they extend capabilities, increase flexibility and mitigate the risk of businesses failing. Organisations such as Rolls-Royce are harnessing twin-based interoperable ecosystems to deliver the next generation in customer service: Customer Service 4.0.
Rolls-Royce business unit, Power System, is using digital twin and event data technology from Iotics to unlock over 200 data sources, brokering interactions to create digital twins of their in-field assets and receive real-time event insights across customer, supplier and partner boundaries.
Chief IT Digital Officer of Rolls-Royce Power Systems Jürgen Winterholler said, “Digital twin technology is helping us realise our vision of placing our customers at the heart of everything we do, exploiting digital twin technology to deliver the best service and to enable our customers’ businesses.”
Rolls-Royce Power Systems has a single source of truth for asset information streamline internal systems, enhancing customer service and delivering new digital solutions. Starting within its extensive rail ecosystem, it sees the transformational potential of physical products and assets having their own digital twins that securely capture, share and exchange data and controls and powering solutions that meet the new needs of the company, its customers, partners and suppliers.
“Customer Service 4.0 means seeing the world the way your customers do, collaborating with them, their customers, and our service partners, to deliver greater efficiencies, enhanced insights and new opportunities, without compromising on the quality and security they expect from Rolls-Royce Power Systems,” added Winterholler.
But it is not just manufacturing which will benefit from this brave new world. The use cases are as varied as the twins themselves and the digital twin age is the next evolution of disruption. What is the killer application or use case for the web and internet? There isn’t just one. It is not what the technology can do or what problem it solves, but what it enables us to create and co-create. Liberating us from siloed thinking and approaches enables us to focus on what matters to companies, their customers and their communities.
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Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router
Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age.
Siemens Enables 5G IIoT
The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.
Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance
- Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
- The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
- A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
- Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites
“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.
Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said.
Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future
Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’
And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.
The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.