Ideally, a modern production plant works like clockwork. Numerous individual processes from different systems are interlinked and mesh perfectly with one another.
However, this also means that as soon as even a small part is damaged or fails, the entire structure comes to a standstill or no longer functions at all. Many companies rely on a digital twin to prevent this scenario and fix problems before they arise. This virtual image of a machine or entire plant combines all the relevant information about the status and history since commissioning.
This article describes the prerequisites for using a digital twin, its advantages, and why SAP Intelligent Asset Management (IAM) is the ideal solution for its use, especially but not only for companies that already use other SAP solutions.
The Digital Twin
Anyone who wants to use a digital twin must first and foremost ensure that the proper technological framework is in place. As a virtual doppelganger of a physical machine, it only benefits if the original constantly provides information about its status. This only works in the environment of a digital factory networked via the industrial internet of things (IIoT) platform. All real production processes can also be digitally mapped simultaneously and in real-time. For this to be possible, data must be collected and processed.
This means either purchasing new machines or retrofitting old systems with sensors or edge devices. Most companies take the second route for cost reasons, but modernization requires a sense of proportion. Not all data points that can be collected are always helpful for the intended purpose. If too much is installed and used, the effort and resources saved sometimes cancel each other out, and the gain in efficiency is zero. This is why industry-specific expertise is required. Those who know the requirements and specifics of the manufacturing industry know exactly what information is needed for the optimal use of a digital twin.
The right environment for a digital twin is created if this data is collected, evaluated, and fed back to the systems in an endless cycle based on an IIoT platform. All the advantages of solutions such as SAP IAM can be fully exploited.
Transparent, Uniform and Fully Integrated: Advantages of SAP IAM
The most significant advantage of a digital twin can be described in one word. Transparency.
Based on IIoT and SAP IAM, manufacturers and end customers can seamlessly track the entire history of the networked machine at any point in time. They can precisely see which part was installed, maintained, or replaced where and by whom and how long it has been in use. In addition, the data history can be used to identify previously unknown patterns.
This is the starting point for improved product quality or even new revenue models.
Using a digital twin via SAP IAM is even more advantageous for companies that already use SAP solutions. This is because integration with existing SAP systems, for example, for enterprise resource planning (ERP) or machine control in the form of Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), means that all the necessary processes mesh seamlessly in the sense of networking from the top floor to shop floor from purchasing to warehousing and actual production to after-sales services.
According to the data-to-action principle, an event triggers a sequence of countermeasures. If a limit value is exceeded, this is followed by an automatic notification to the responsible worker, who takes care of maintenance at the next scheduled shutdown before the machine breaks down unplanned and thus causes high costs.
Digital Twin with SAP AIN: A Practical Example
As part of a digitization campaign, a furnace manufacturer and specialist for metal hardening wanted to make its own manufacturing processes and maintenance measures more transparent. In addition, the end customer was also to have access to relevant SAP Asset Intelligent Network (AIN) data after delivery. The plan is to establish a new digital revenue model in which the customer only pays for the actual running time of the kiln.
Using an IIoT portal and individualized applications, the manufacturer’s employees can adjust and maintain data in the system at any time. The end customer does not have full access to the AIN module interface. Still, the end customer can view the status of the networked machines on-site via a personalized interface and take a closer look at individual plants and their components based on SAP AIN if, for example, a notification indicates a potential problem.