The Digital Twin must include the “As manufactured”​ condition. The Engineering Hub from GemDT

There has been a lot written about The Digital Twin and The Digital Thread, I have attended numerous sessions from the “Usual Suspects” and it is like groundhog day.

They discuss the “As designed” product, then PLM, then what the machines are manufacturing via IOT sensors, and then what the perfectly designed product is doing in service, the IOT sensors then tell them it has a problem, and they then start a process to repair the perfectly designed product.

This is not the real world. No honest manufacturer in Aerospace, Defence, Ship Building, Oil and Gas, Automotive etc will tell you their product is the exact replica of the “As designed” model.

GemDT have looked at this in a different way, we have started with the basics, what do manufacturing and engineering businesses need for the Digital Twin?

Issue 1 we started with what is the biggest problem in a manufacturing business. Answer Data, so many businesses are Data Rich and Information poor.

Issue 2, why is that a problem? IT does not understand engineering and engineering does not understand IT, one common area of consensus in PLM, but PLM is only part of the solution.

Issue 3 What is the most important data I need to share and why are businesses not sharing it?

Issue 4 Manufacturing is not just what a company sells its about the whole supply chain that helped to make that product. Silos?

Issue 5 I do not know what my “As Manufactured” product looks like and how its performing.

With these issues in mind we started on The Engineering Hub Journey.

What is the Engineering Hub?

When you look at Issue 1 the first thing that springs to mind, is who knows data the best? The only and obvious answer is Oracle, Oracle is the undisputed data specialist company, if they were not why would SAP and Teamcenter run in the main on an Oracle Database?

With this in mind, and with over 100 years of IT experience in the company working with Oracle we stared on the Data Journey, speaking to design engineers, concurrent engineering, mechanical engineers, quality inspectors, and repair engineers etc.  All parts of a life cycle of a company’s product.

The conversations started 3 years ago,  The Engineering Hub architecture journey had started, looking at what areas of a business will benefit from what data, looking at the start, Inspection Data is the first step. Companies manufacture products, in the main most products are inspected, but in a lot of companies that data is not generally available through the manufacturing process.

Looking at Issue 2 was not such a challenge, IT and Manufacturing are two very different business sectors in a company for obvious reasons, you do not graduate with a degree in IT understanding what are the manufacturing tolerances of a blade, or how do you best overcome Gap & Flush on a car. As an Engineer graduate does not need to know what an IP address is, how to configure an Active Directory or what an Air Gapped Fire Wall is. Two very important parts of a company 2 different agendas. IT keeps the business safe; Engineers ensure the product is safe.

Looking at the data issues and communication is all about understanding the lifecycle of the product, looking how to integrate data sources into a structure that can be of benefit to the business, and developing apps to create the organisations workflow. Complementing not replacing.

By taking this approach we can then look at Issue 3, how can we use the data the business generates (the IP that makes a business worth something) and how can that be distributed?

Like all journey it’s the first step that is important, design engineers design great products, concurrent engineering then take those designs and try as best as possible to set up a process to manufacture them. Mechanical engineers then set about manufacturing the best product, and the product is manufactured and sold and supported.

However there is a issue, the “As Designed” product is not the “As Manufactured” product, so how can you support a product in the field if you do not know how it was manufactured and what the components that make that product actually look like?

After extensive research we looked at all technologies in the inspection market, looking at CMM, White/Blue light scanners, Visual systems etc etc. All are fit for purpose, but all have limitations.

We wanted a fast (not to impact on the manufacturing process, but speed it up) Accurate (to ensure products meet design tolerances) and a solution that captures the who part, assembly, product and was scalable using the same technology (sensors) and software. We chose Industrial grade Photogrammetry.

A solution that does not require markers on a product, no requirement for powder when a part or product is shiny, can scan a moving object and is fast and accurate, combined with the fact ANYONE can use it. A solution that can also be combined with traditional methods.

By adopting photogrammetry into The Engineering Hub, everyone in a company can see a true Digital Twin of what has been manufactured.

To know how an engine, ship, car, oil rig is performing you must know what you have built, not what you have designed on a computer. To have the exact information to feed back to design engineers, manufacturing engineers of what was manufactured and through life how is it performing.

Without this information you do not have a Digital Twin.

Inspection is a critical part of the manufacturing process, that’s why we also wanted to reduce inspection time in the process, photogrammetry can do this, it can capture a full point cloud of a product 20 times faster than a CMM and give you more data to the same tolerances.

Then we moved on to Issue 4, it is very rare that a manufacturer now days manufacturers the complete product, takes it to market and supports all elements of the product.

To this end as part of The Engineering Hub we had to include Supply Chain Management (SCM), this is critical to the Digital Twin and the support of a product. SCM takes multiple forms, suppliers, stock, distribution and support.

Looking at how this could be incorporated looked difficult to start with, but in reality, a company already has this data, their ERP and CRM manage suppliers and customers, their PLM knows what parts make up a produc, and how they are designed and made. But how do you know what you are receiving from your supply chain and how is it performing?

Having the ability to inspect parts fast and accurately at goods in was another driver for photogrammetry, or looking at giving suppliers to a company a photogrammetry cell so they can inspect their parts to a company’s requirements for the Digital Twin?

All of this is possible with the Engineering Hub, inspection and data management.

Then we came to Issue 5, “what have I manufactured and how is it performing?”

By taking all of the previous 4 issues we looked at combining them in one data environment the Engineering Hub, deploying apps to target specific tasks, enabling the use of API’s in specific business areas to look at a dashboard of what has been designed, manufactured, produced and how is it performing.

By deploying IT tools like:

  • IOT
  • Machine Learning
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Predictive Analytics
  • Augmented Reality (AR)
  • Virtual Reality (VR)

All of this is possible because now you have all the Data and Data is King. The Engineering Hub is a portal a motorway for data, taking new and existing data and making it work for the customer, enabling the use of the latest technology like AR and VR for improved training and improved manufacturing, reducing errors and improving productivity.

The Engineering Hub was designed from the ground up, not looking to replace what a client has, but to take the processes and data and make it work for the company.

The Digital Twin is about what was Designed, what was Manufactured, and how is it performing through life, with all associated telemetric, IOT and support data. Anything else is not the Digital Twin.

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