How Digital Twin Technology Is Transforming The Mill Industry

Kai Aldinger

Imagine a network of sensors in your mill products business that monitor the efficiency of each piece of equipment, enabling you to identify parts that are wearing out or failing by using just a tablet or laptop.

As the fourth digital revolution unfolds, digital twinning makes this scenario real.

What is digital twinning?

Digital twinning comprises several processes that come together to create a unique tool that benefits mill products companies. The process uses sensors, computers, and mechanical equipment to create a data map that represents the parts of a machine while it works. The map is the digital twin of the machine’s production status. For example, if you have an automated sawmill, the digital map would indicate the efficiency and status of all its moving parts.

The process of creating a digital twin uses sensors within a piece of equipment that feeds data to a computer capable of handling Big Data. The data tells a story in real time about the efficiency of the equipment as it operates. That’s the macro view of twinning.

The process, however, is not limited to a single piece of equipment; it affects your entire operation. A digital twin shows the efficiency of a machine as it works in real time and compares that information to the machine’s past performance. The outcome goes beyond predictive, showing managers not only when a machine will likely break down, but also what parts are likely to be involved.

Advantages of digital twinning

Instead of learning about problems and equipment failures after they happen, you can be proactive. For example, you might look at your tablet and notice that an edger’s drive motor is not turning the sawblades as efficiently as it should. You could then schedule maintenance and order parts before a serious problem, potentially resulting in lost revenue, happens.

How does digitizing operations add value?

Some of the greatest efficiency losses, especially concerning energy usage, in the mill industry, are due to equipment failure and breakdown. Much of the mechanical stress in mill products manufacturing comes from the environment in which the machines work. Twinning data shows you when components are beginning to fail and which ones need repair before the tool or machine breaks. This technology is not singular in vision; it digitizes the entire mill.

Consider the benefits of digital twinning across your operations: It provides data that lets you monitor the efficiency of every piece of equipment in real time. That knowledge allows you to manage the situation and maintain consistent operations. Currently, most mills’ maintenance systems work on a calendar basis or when an issue develops. Digital twinning enables you to schedule maintenance and repairs when they are needed rather than during a crisis.

Additional benefits

Already used in industrial applications such as machine design, digital twin technology can boost savings by reducing equipment downtime and improving the consistency of output. You will never again need to wait for parts; digital twinning allows you to order or 3-D print the parts you need before a machine is due for repair. The technology also goes beyond maintenance and efficiency, offering benefits in the areas of knowledge management, financing, appraisal, and asset management, especially in terms of the operating value of your mechanical assets.

How does digital twinning affect new ventures?

Twinning helps new ventures by enabling project mockups prior to investment. For example, NASA uses digital twinning to develop equipment that must function in extreme environments such as that on Mars. As a project development begins, planners can study scenarios to determine how best to design infrastructure. This process allows your team to overcome the challenges of the physical world while building a framework that improves efficiency and reduces costs.

These prospects are just the beginning of what we expect from digital twinning. As the technology continues to merge with advancements in IoT, machine learning, and other emerging technologies, industries in all sectors will benefit from real-time asset management and other capabilities.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation: download “The IoT Imperative for Energy and Natural Resource Companies.” Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today: read “Industry 4.0: What’s Next?