Digital transformation and digital twins are two themes getting a lot of play lately, and for good reason. We’ve written about both subjects before and are eager to continue the conversation.

Manufacturers are embracing digital transformation to remain competitive in tight markets, respond to both the silver tsunami of retirements and the “great resignation” exacerbated by the pandemic, and mitigate supply chain issues.

PLM delivers visibility throughout a product’s lifecycle, from design to manufacture. It promotes collaboration and improved communication among engineers, designers and stakeholders and improves decision-making and forecasting. It is the bedrock of digital transformation.

Digital twins have been around since early 2002 and were named one of Gartner’s top 10 strategic technology trends in 2017. A digital twin is a virtual model or representation of a product, a process or entire manufacturing operation.

Manufacturers use the digital twin concept to analyze data, monitor systems, and plan new opportunities using simulations. Examples of the earliest utilization of digital twin technology include NASA and GE’s digital wind farm, as described in an early article on digital twins in Forbes What is Digital Twin Technology and Why is it So Important?

Digital Twins and PLM

In an article entitled PLM Takes on Digital Transformation posted on SME.org, Dassault Systèmes Vice President of ENOVIA Advocacy Marketing Garth Coleman talks about digital twins and PLM.

When we look at trends in PLM, the future is reliant on several key factors — leveraging digital twins; using product data analytics throughout the value chain to improve designs through virtual prototyping and understand how products perform in the physical world; and advancing collaboration across the value stream and enabling collaboration in real-time during the design process.”

« Providing designers the right tools and design environment is essential, » he added.

« Some of the biggest obstacles to manufacturers deploying PLM in the age of Industry 4.0 include siloed tools that prevent teams from unifying engineering information into a single source of truth; organizational change management; technology installation/upgrade, migration of data, and migration of tools; and multi-discipline innovation such as using different design systems, » Coleman said.

« The way PLM is delivered and deployed is changing to address these concerns — not only for startups and small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), but also for our largest corporate partners, » said Coleman. Dassault is seeing great interest in its cloud offerings, he stated, particularly among mid-market and startup customers, because of the ease and value it brings.

Responding to Labor Shortages

Manufacturers are facing the two-headed monster of skilled labor shortages from the “silver tsumani” of retiring Baby Boomers creating a knowledge and skills gap and the “great resignation” caused by the pandemic. Altogether, since about March 2020, employment in manufacturing declined from about 150 million to 121 million which is a drop of almost 20%, according to a recent article.

Instead of losing the knowledge base when workers retire or move on – for example, rules about data design – manufacturers can store it within the PLM system, where it is searchable and easy to find.

Digital transformation and the implementation of digital twin technology are optimized by PLM solutions. Having shared data and real-time intelligence gives engineers and product designers the collaborative tools they need for continuing innovation, improvement and customer satisfaction amid labor/skills shortages.

Responding to Supply Chain Issues

The digital twin solution also delivers visibility, communication and transparency upstream and downstream of the supply chain. By understanding the real-time capacity of suppliers, their throughput, and potential risks to on-time deliveries, manufacturers can use the digital twin to make decisions and improve forecasting.

An industry analyst reports the top 5 ways digital twins transform the supply chain:

  • Optimize overall supply chain processes
  • Identify bottlenecks
  • Plan transportation and facilities
  • Optimize inventory
  • Predict the performance of packaging materials

Next Steps

PLM solutions deliver a robust strategy to deal with labor/skills shortages and supply chain challenges. We can help you in your digital transformation projects. Contact the experts at xLM Solutions for guidance in PLM selection, implementation, integration with other technology, customization and data migration.

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