I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of a magic mirror. Having the ability to see what was happening anywhere in the world by simply commanding the mirror to show me sounds like it could be a useful tool to have.
That’s probably why I find the idea of a Digital Twin connecting manufacturers with their products in the field so fascinating. Where once you would lose sight of how a product is operating once it leaves the factory floor, you are now able to tap into what the customer is doing with your product – a real-life magic mirror. Manufacturers can see how the customer is using the product, which in turn, helps to improve the design and performance of that product. I had the opportunity to sit down learn more about this truly differentiating capability with Kevin Wrenn, Divisional GM of PTC’s PLM segment, and Brian Thompson, SVP of PTC’s CAD segment.
“Digital twin is the idea of keeping a certain set of information about an individualized product and managing that information throughout the product’s life,” explains Wrenn. “When a product gets produced, its digital twin is born. Then, throughout the life of that product, whatever happens to that product gets recorded in the digital twin. So you can always look at the electronic digital twin and see what has happened along the life of that product.”
There are, however, a variety of ways that customers can utilize the digital twin. At the most basic level, customers can use the digital twin to keep track of which products require software updates. On the other hand, you can use the digital twin to keep a detailed account of all the product data -- ie CAD, Bill of Materials, ERP – that can be used for a particular purpose.
“The definition of ‘the digital twin’ is in the eye of the beholder,” Thompson adds. “It’s all a matter of what is valuable enough to you to put it in there and then keep track of it throughout the life of the product.”
One company that has fully leveraged the digital twin concept is Lockheed Martin. When developing its unmanned Orion spacecraft, Lockheed Martin relied on its “Digital Tapestry” to ensure that the spacecraft was performing as expected. “Lockheed needed to have a complete Digital Twin -- right down to the very last bolt -- because they were launching [their product] into space,” explains Thompson. “They had full telemetry on it so that they could monitor exactly what was happening with the product while it was being launched. They could then take that data and analyze it against original expectations to see whether or not the original modeling for how the system would perform matched what they actually experienced and to make sure it can be a repeatable event”.
So what exactly does it take to create your organization’s own digital twin strategy?
First off, you need to organize your product development process by capturing and coordinating all of your product data, processes, and models with a complete Digital Product Definition. With a Digital Product Definition, it is key that stakeholders throughout the organization – from engineering through to service -- be able to access all relevant information in order to complete tasks and stay aware of changes from both upstream and downstream. Without either of these steps, your digital twin strategy is Dead on Arrival. Only once your data is in order and access is universal to stakeholders can you take the final step of connecting with your product in the field with an IoT platform.
Click here to discover how your organization can begin its Digital Engineering Journey.