Is digital twin technology a game changer?

16 November 2021

Chad Stoecker highlights some of the business benefits of digital twin technology.



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For many engineers and company executives, identifying intelligent approaches to increase availability and reliability of equipment and processes might seem like the search for the Holy Grail. Many challenges need to be overcome. How do you marry the data you already have in your plant with the expertise of your people to enable you to understand and better manage equipment health to keep processes and businesses running optimally? 

Digital twin technology is game changing. It can be deployed by industrial companies in their plant, or in their plants around the world, to achieve some significant business benefits which can include:

• Reliability and availability:
Digital twins can be a major contributor to this Key Performance Indicator (KPI) by monitoring, simulating, and controlling assets, processes, and networks for various businesses ultimately resulting in improved system performance.

• Reducing risk: As companies investigate how technology can help them come out of the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic, protecting the health and safety of employees is a major priority. Digital twins allow plant personnel to monitor the status of assets, processes, and networks from various locations helping to minimise personal risk. In addition, because companies are able to identify issues before they occur, they can avoid detrimental impact to the business, such as unplanned downtime, impact to the environment.

• Cost: Similarly, identifying issues before they occur can help lower maintenance costs. Companies can schedule preventative maintenance, including ordering needed parts instead of incurring expensive inventory costs, as opposed to reacting to equipment failures to avoid downtime.

• Production: Improving production is a critical KPI for most companies. Because digital twins provide insight into the performance of assets and processes providing data that will help operators react quickly to anomalies, companies can not only minimise impact on the supply chain, but also ensure product quality.

Intelligent approaches
Intelligent approaches for identifying optimal processes and systems for managing assets ideally combine data-driven modelling of known degradation mechanisms with field expertise of asset performance and plant operations. But, how do you make this a reality?

The ability to construct models of assets and systems requires an understanding of the critical risks–failure modes, actions, and consequences of failure associated with a system. Not all failure modes are equal – it is important to understand the differences and complexities of different failure patterns. This takes experience that might not reside in one company, so finding a partner that understands how to align model output with strategic priorities such as maintenance costs, inventory levels, and risk of unplanned system downtime is important.

Some partners might also be able to get plants up and running on digital twins quickly and efficiently by using ‘blueprints’ of common equipment and processes that they have had experience in other engagements. This can provide faster time-to-value for investments in the technology. 

Industry is moving at a rapid pace, and the quicker companies adopt and implement digital twin technology, the faster they will find the solution that makes data work for them to achieve their business goals.  

Chad Stoecker is vice president, Global Managed Services at GE Digital.


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