We are all presented with new technologies or the repurposing of a technology daily. As engineers, manufacturers, or decision makers, we must decide if this technology will enhance what we do and if it is worth the investment. One of the main challenges we face as we integrate processes that have been traditionally separate is terminology. One such term is collaboration. It means different things to different people throughout the digital twin landscape.
Digital Twin Collaboration
As we merge our engineering efforts into a single common platform, we are forced (in a good way) to work with stakeholders and problem solvers from a wider variety of disciplines. This cooperation is often called collaboration. But what does it mean to collaborate? It really is more than cooperation. It is the integration of engineering processes that used to be separate into a common process with a wider scope. While this can reduce time to market and make the design process more efficient, it does introduce several challenges that need to be understood and addressed. I’ll address two examples of collaboration in more detail as a way to explore this issue further.
Collaborating with Manufacturing
One key element in the Digital Twin philosophy is to integrate the manufacturing floor. One great example of this is to capture and retain the manufacturing knowledge from the floor and communicate it effectively. Many manufacturers have a morning meeting on the floor prior to production. It covers topics related to manufacturing issues, safety, best practices, and a myriad of other topics. These are often led by a production manager who is responsible to convey the results back to the appropriate people in the organization. The Digital Twin allows this to be integrated electronically through a touch screen that is connected to the company database instead of using a corkboard or white board as is often seen on many manufacturing floors today.
This “lean solution” enables any team leader to easily and efficiently organize each days’ plan and communicate it in the team’s daily stand-up meeting. The widget-based tool makes it simple for the team to assign a task and then track it to resolution. The leader can assemble all relevant KPIs and review them with the team. They can track the team’s progress over time, as well as their goals for the day in terms of activities and performance for lean initiatives, safety, quality, cost, and delivery.
No more sticky notes. No more forgetting to input data. Use a touch screen to run the meeting and send the relevant information directly to the proper person during your daily Flash 5 meeting.
Simulation and Design
Collaboration can also occur between engineering departments and with vendors from outside your organization. This is often the case with robot simulation. Simulation engineers from an outside company can augment your team to help evaluate custom tooling designs to make sure there are no collisions, that the robots are able to make cycle time, and even create the programs that are needed to run the robots on the floor after installation.
The key part of the collaboration is that the simulation engineer is accessing the same data as the tooling designer. The files are not translated. The designs are never out of date. There is a single source of truth for design and everyone is using the same data whether they are local in your facility or halfway around the world completing a simulation.
The speed and efficiency of this collaboration is where the secret lies. Engineers spend way too much time confirming and getting data. By eliminating the need for this, the Digital Twin environment lets them accelerate the pace and increase the quality of their designs on ever shortening delivery schedules.
So where are the challenges? It comes down to planning and preparation. This collaboration does not happen without a serious amount of planning and upfront discussion. Teams within an organization have to define the process. Who approves data? Who decides when a simulation is warranted? What gates must a design pass through? How does an engineering change get routed for approval and implementation? Once these questions have been answered, the process must by codified into the Digital Twin environment. Fortunately, this can be done quickly, and the IT infrastructure can be secure and based in the cloud. But make no mistake, this is a great example of failing to plan is planning to fail.
The Practical View
A great example of using the Digital Twin to collaborate is Joby Aviation. Joby uses the 3DExperience platform from Dassault Systemes to design and build their eVTOL personal aircraft. Take a look at the video below for more on how Joby uses Digital Twin collaboration to accelerate their design and certification process.
Collaboration is a goal for anyone looking to be successful in today’s marketplace. Collaboration is difficult and requires upfront planning and commitment, but it is worth the journey. There are several different ways to collaborate. We use the 3DExperience platform from Dassault Systemes.
If you would like more information, please reach out to us to have a detailed conversation.