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Remote service solutions for remote maintenance and service purposes have prevailed across the board. With the concept of a digital twin comes for Harting now the next logical step: The virtual mapping of installations installed worldwide facilitates service assignments and creates new possibilities, for example for condition monitoring.

The numerous hidden champions of German mechanical engineering are in the face of the good situation in a deceptive security, according to a study by Roland Berger. Customers such as the automotive industry need less capacity, technological change with digitization and additive manufacturing calls for considerable adjustments, and new competitors, especially from China, are assuming further market share. Additional offers in service and aftersales would enable machine builders to differentiate themselves better from the competition and thus increase sales and margin. This requires a good database and resources. However, these service potentials are still often broken, the study concludes. This is where the concept of the digital twin (Digital Twin) comes in.

Great potential for digital services

Harting20219The service for globally installed machinery and equipment is a highly relevant cost factor for machine manufacturers during the warranty period. Any on-site deployment of a technician who can be saved by online access is worth the money. The subsequent operating phase is already being used by many providers for additional online service offers. The further development of the available technologies enables machine builders to develop numerous new opportunities.

Today, a virtual model of machines and systems can be produced with significantly less effort. In the future, such digital twins will accompany the entire lifecycle, from development through planning, commissioning, operation and optimization of processes to aftersales. Clear visualizations and new assistance systems simplify access to machines installed worldwide and the experts' communication with the machine installed at the customer's site.

"Far too few companies are using such virtual prototypes of machines, equipment and manufacturing lines to simulate design, functionality and efficiency in advance, saving time and money. However, according to the prognosis, 2020 is changing the picture: then various digital simulation tools will be used by more than 90 percent of machine manufacturers and have a positive impact on the entire value added chain ", analyzes the worldwide study" Industrial Goods Study 2018 "by Alix Partners.

Digital twin for the entire product life cycle

harting40219Digital twins as virtual digital images are also extremely helpful beyond the development phase for the condition monitoring and service planning of machines and plants in operation. Operating, status and process data are collected by sensors or provided by machine controls. Product developers, production planners or maintenance engineers use the information of their real counterparts for planning, monitoring and control. This enables machine manufacturers in particular new business perspectives:

Experts do not have to be flown in expensive, for example, but can support the local local service technician online. This reduces the cost of maintenance and does not tie professionals through endless travel times. Even new business models are only possible through digital twins. Why not sell production output instead of machines? Aircraft turbine manufacturers are already successfully offering this model to airlines. At the same time, the data from permanent condition monitoring can be used to document the warranty and to constantly improve the product.

Edge Computing and Meeting Point Architecture

harting50219Harting has developed a solution for digital twins in cooperation with partners such as the company Perfact Innovation from Herford, East Westphalia. Here, very different solution competencies are brought together: The connection of machines with the most diverse interfaces on the "last mile", the definition of data structures, basic analysis functions, the visualization of selected machine parameters and the secure access from the outside to the machine.

In practice, the biggest challenge lies in the highly heterogeneous machinery. They have grown over many years, often possessing only proprietary interfaces and automation protocols. For these requirements, Perfact uses the open and modular "Mica "mini-computer. Depending on the machine and application, suitable interfaces, selected sensors and the appropriate software are combined into a complete solution package. This allows both new systems and legacy systems to be recorded.

Four eyes principle over internet connection

The Mica provides access to the machine and records the machine data. The Perfact Meeting Point Architecture (MPA) organizes the secure maintenance service with a service management. The meeting point server serves as a node and database. Secure Internet connections connect machine control computers, customers and workstations of the remote maintenance staff. Here the four-eyes principle applies. This allows the technician to securely access the same data at the customer site using a specialist called in from the Internet.

The database makes current data as well as a continuous system history centrally available. In addition, selected plant data are visualized in real time in a dashboard. The components of the solution also include an integrated service workflow with its own ticket system. Thus maintenance management with maintenance instructions and maintenance planning for condition-based and proactive maintenance can be set up. Options include, for example, a mobile maintenance workflow and access via mobile service apps.

Key benefits include accelerated scheduling and commissioning cycles, availability of up-to-date asset data from geographically distributed locations, and improved remote service solutions. The Remote Service can be used as a first stage for further service offers. The expansion of the analytics capabilities also enables approaches such as condition monitoring and, in a further step, predictive maintenance. This increases machine / plant availability, reduces maintenance / service costs and improves customer loyalty through improved service.

Picture above: The smart HAIIYOU Factory provides all the data and information needed to reproduce the Digital Twin.

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The Author
Thomas Holthöfer

Thomas Holthöfer, Regional Digital Marketing Manager, Harting Germany.

Pepperl + Fuchs