Manufacturers have always been under pressure from different factors, especially time constraints, resource allocation, and managing costs

Manufacturing planning tools have come a long way and simulation, like digital twin technology, has come a long way. They provide manufacturers with more insight than ever before to help identify, plan, optimise, and seek approval for manufacturing projects. If manufacturers want to succeed, they need to evolve their manufacturing operations and management architecture to take advantage of digital twins. The power of these modern tools is endless.

At Bosch Australia Manufacturing Solutions (BAMS) a digital twin is a physics-enabled virtual replica of a real machine that can be commissioned with the same controllers and the same programs as the real machine, communicating bi-directionally, in real-time, and vastly speeding up the development time and the quality of the final product. If a programmer plugs their PC into a machine in another room, obscured from view, they should not be able to tell whether they are plugged into the real system or the Digital Twin.

The objectives of using digital twins at BAMS are to validate the complete machine (debug Robot, PLC, and HMI code) and connect all the sensors, PLC, robot controllers, and HMI to make sure everything interfaces together properly. Digital twins provide open interfaces for connecting controllers which is an invaluable development tool with huge benefits during the commissioning phase. When problems are found on a screen, updating the code, and resetting the system can be a matter of minutes. On the shop floor, on the other hand, a simple clearing of the line and reset could take hours, or even days depending on the complexity of the system. When that is coupled with the possibility of a physical change or the code having new bugs in it, these lost hours can compound into huge losses for a project.

The benefits of digital twins compound the most when customers order more than one of the same machine or manufacturing line since all of the models and controllers used in a digital twin are reusable. If one cell or machine has been constructed in the virtual world, multiplying that out to multiple can be a matter of a few hours. This is game-changing when it comes to commissioning multiple lines at massive customer sites because most of the code can be validated offsite, decreasing time spent on customer sites and reducing disruptions to a customer’s factory.

The use of a digital twin does not stop after the development phase. It exists alongside the real machine as a stress-testing platform, with the ability to predict some niche failure modes by iteratively cycling through countless what-if scenarios that cannot be done in reality. Because BAMS’ digital twin simulations are physics-enabled, not only does BAMS have the capability to stress-test their machines, but they can also help cycle through all sorts of defects and variations with the customer’s products as well and see how that affects the overall system.

After the full system is developed and delivered to the customer site, operators are trained on the machine’s standard operating procedures. The Digital Twin gives BAMS the ability to quickly replicate a lot of error and emergency scenarios and guide the operators through the recovery procedures via a simulated HMI and Teach Pendant, which is not always possible in reality.

BAMS services customers all over Australia, and sometimes outside of Australia. Having a digital twin on hand means that if a customer runs into any issues at their site, BAMS can simulate the failure on the digital twin and remotely service or guide the customer through potential error recovery steps. Even in the final stages, if a service engineer needs to go to a site to make physical changes, having a digital twin to implement the change offline and validate it before pushing it to the real machine can be very powerful.

Simulation as a tool gives BAMS and its customers more ability to control project cost and lead times (including during the quotation phase) and can also help better define scope. In addition to being much more efficient to find and fix problems on the screen before the build phase, digital twins also enable advanced Revision and Documentation Control since all the changes are done to a Common Engineering Model. With accurate data in the model and real parameters as inputs, digital twins can provide a single source of truth for all virtual datasets.

BAMS is leading by innovation with its digital twin simulations and constantly inventing solutions to support local manufacturers. Confidence and risk management are vital in manufacturing and digital twin technology provides this like never before. BAMS can help manufacturers save costs, and time, and improve their efficiency from the initial concept to the site installation and commissioning, in a resource-effective manner.