According to Gartner, digital twins (DTs) are a Top 10 Strategic Technology Trend of 2017. A DT is a virtual representation of a physical object, typically an industrial asset and sometimes an industrial process. It mimics all potential operating scenarios and asset characteristics specific to the asset in a digital framework.
The DT operates in real time alongside the physical asset. Comparisons are made and measured for deviations from the expected state. The goal is to proactively detect potential issues that may impact the asset’s output such as yield, quality, and reliability.
While currently a trend in many industries, DTs are not new to the aviation, oil & gas, and power generation industries. The world’s energy companies have used DTs for over 15 years, realizing substantial ROI. Some even set up dedicated monitoring and diagnostic centers to leverage the benefits across their portfolio.
Putting a digital twin into action
To enable a DT, you need a plant control system or PLC control devices that are operating the asset/process on a continuous or batch mode using data from field instrumentation and sensors. A DT software analytics platform then analyzes the asset’s data and runs the DT models, enabling the identification and prioritization of issues so users can make better decisions around the operation of the asset/process.
DTs can be updated and continuously improved. Once implemented, you can see the asset’s performance measured against expected values, which can be further characterized in key metrics and associated positive/negative business impacts.
Realizing the benefits of a digital twin
Beyond monitoring asset or process health and condition, DTs can:
- Drive continuous improvement and sustained profitability by identifying gaps in performance.
- Diagnose deficiencies to correct and reverse negative trends, reducing cost, improving yields, and maintaining equipment reliability.
- Run “what-if” scenarios to optimize daily decisions or model new operating states.
- Determine gaps to optimize most processes, informing decisions and improving competitiveness.
Determining if you need a digital twin
The International Data Corporation predicts companies that invest in digital technology will see a 30% improvement in cycle times of critical processes.1 But having a DT and using it effectively are two different stories. For small plants with smaller staffs, keep it simple. Use the DT on the most critical areas that affect the bottom line. The DT’s ability to drive better decision-making and identify issues before they’re critical can help a business become more competitive and profitable.
This article was originally published in BIC Magazine.
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1 Source: International Data Corporation, https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=US40526216
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