A digital enterprise connects assets, systems, and processes across an organization.
But fully leveraging a digital transformation requires a way to visualize how those components work together as data flows through your industrial ecosystem. Two digital foundations make this possible in a Connected Enterprise.
Seeing a digital representation of a company’s machines, controls, processes, workflows, and systems allows experiential learning and virtual improvement trials without the risks associated with live activities in the physical world.
This starts during product development, as production machinery configurations are tested digitally before the physical asset even exists — reducing or eliminating costly redesigns of equipment, even prototypes.
In a plant, managers, workers, and maintenance staffers learn how to safely operate and maintain the equipment using the digital representation, even before the machine arrives.
They also explore how to diagnose and solve machine and process problems, and to conduct rapid changeovers for improved uptime and productivity. The digital twin can also be used to determine cost-effective line startups and for sequencing and scheduling complex product mixes and volumes.
After live equipment is installed, the digital twin can harvest data streams from embedded smart devices and controls, offering insights to improve workflows and profitability.
A digital thread offers a virtual representation of how data moves within an enterprise. It presents a detailed perspective of operations information that allows staff to analyze data flows across processes — drilling down within the hierarchy of information (e.g., line, equipment, sensor) to discover what’s occurring and working, and what isn’t in a Connected Enterprise.
Supplementing MES and ERP capabilities with digital thread analysis can improve management across the supply chain, including delivery of work instructions to operators, quality-control sampling, and triggering component and materials replenishment from vendors.
The digital thread also documents actions and events for regulatory compliance (e.g., in pharmaceutical, aerospace, automotive industries) and/or highly detailed customer specifications.
Digital mirroring of your plant and information flow can provide critical insights for better daily management. Yet the next step — leveraging these digital representations with big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence — can deliver even more profound improvements.