13 Apr 2024

Accelerating time-to-market using digital twin technology

Digital Twins

Stephen Hayes, managing director of automation specialist Beckhoff UK, explores the transformative power of digital twin technology and how it delivers instant return on investment (ROI) for manufacturers, revolutionising their ability to accelerate innovation and gain a competitive edge in today’s fast-paced market.

In an era where time-to-market is a critical factor for success, manufacturers are turning to digital twin technology as a game-changing solution.

Digital twin technology empowers manufacturers to simulate and optimise their operations with unprecedented precision. By creating virtual replicas of physical assets, manufacturers can analyse and optimise manufacturing processes in a risk-free virtual environment. This capability allows them to identify bottlenecks, test alternative strategies and optimise efficiency before implementing changes on the shop floor.

For example, manufacturers can leverage digital twins to predict the performance of production lines as well as identifying potential failures and optimising maintenance schedules, resulting in reduced downtime and improved productivity. Additionally, digital twins enable the exploration of different operational scenarios, helping manufacturers uncover the most efficient and cost-effective approaches. By fine-tuning processes virtually, manufacturers can minimize wastage and reduce production errors — enhancing overall operational performance.

Digital twin technology can also revolutionise product design and development processes. Manufacturers can create virtual replicas of their products, allowing them to simulate and test various design iterations before investing in physical prototypes. This iterative approach enables rapid prototyping, accelerating the product development lifecycle.

With digital twins, manufacturers can analyse product behaviour under different conditions to ensure optimal performance and reliability. Using this approach can identify potential design flaws and validate engineering assumptions, optimising product characteristics based on real-time data. This feedback loop enhances the quality of products while reducing costly design errors and rework.

Furthermore, digital twin technology facilitates collaboration between different teams involved in product development. Designers, engineers and stakeholders can access and interact with the virtual replica, fostering cross-functional collaboration and knowledge sharing. This streamlined communication helps align efforts and ensure that the final product meets customer expectations.

Digital twin technology goes beyond just optimising manufacturing processes and product design — it also plays a crucial role in predictive maintenance and asset performance management. Beckhoff’s software tools, such as TwinCAT, provide a robust platform for designing, modelling and implementing digital twin models. By leveraging Beckhoff software, users can create virtual representations of physical assets, monitor and analyse data in real-time, and perform advanced simulations and optimisations. Integrating real-time data from sensors and IoT devices into the digital twin model means that manufacturers can monitor the health and performance of their physical assets.

This predictive maintenance approach allows manufacturers to detect potential failures or anomalies early on, minimising unplanned downtime. By leveraging the data-driven insights provided by digital twins, manufacturers can optimise maintenance schedules, improve asset performance, and extend the lifespan of their equipment. The ability to predict and prevent breakdowns not only enhances operational efficiency but also reduces maintenance costs, providing significant savings for manufacturers.

Embracing digital twin technology is no longer an option, but a necessity for manufacturers aiming to thrive in the competitive market. By leveraging its power, manufacturers can achieve reduced time-to-market, enhanced product performance, significant cost savings and a culture of continuous improvement and innovation. The transformative capabilities of digital twin technology are reshaping the manufacturing landscape, empowering manufacturers to stay ahead of the curve and meet the ever-evolving demands of customers and the market.

Company info: Beckhoff Automation