Crane Company Extends Family with Digital Twins
Mitchell Gracie posted on January 22, 2019 |
Finland’s Konecranes deploys IoT and PLM to keep an eye on its prototypes.
(Image courtesy of Konecranes.)
(Image courtesy of Konecranes.)

Konecranes, the Finnish manufacturer of lifting equipment and cranes, had been wishing it had a twin. Really, who doesn’t? The wish was granted after the company licensed Siemens MindSphere, an open source, cloud-based Internet of Things (IoT) platform, and Teamcenter for product lifecycle management (PLM). The combination is working to make digital twins of the company’s prototypes.

Digital twins are virtual replicas of physical assets that can be fed unfettered flows of data from sensors to record and understand the environment of those physical assets. Today, they continue to find more and more applications in every step of Industry 4.0’s development lifecycle.

Konecranes’ digital twins allow for 3D, 360-degree views of the firm’s prototypes functioning abroad. The company hopes that it will resolve design issues more quickly, shorten the prototype phases and increase the quality of products and services.

“The power of the digital twin connecting MindSphere IoT real-time data to the virtual engineering assets in a seamless user experience turns generated data into actionable information to create a closed-loop decision environment for continuous optimization,” explained Tony Hemmelgarn, President and CEO at Siemens PLM Software.

(Image courtesy of Siemens’ MindSphere.)
(Image courtesy of Siemens’ MindSphere.)

“Bringing together assets from both the physical and virtual domains provides a seamless framework of business data,” Hemmelgarn said. He hopes the fusion of the two domains “can help eliminate rework, leverage factual data surrounding prototypes, and provide closed-loop feedback regarding physical and virtual assets.”

Before cloud technologies and the IoT, testing of designs, simulations and prototypes relied on the physical assets themselves. If a design failed, either in the prototype stage or in the field, engineers would only be made aware of such a failure after it had occurred. Now, with IoT platforms, such as Siemens’ MindSphere, and PLM, including Teamcenter, companies can review data and provide feedback for their testing in real time. Design, simulation, prototype and the production part can all inform one another, around the clock. Digital twins can prevent critical failures in the field by analysis of use and maintenance records and suggest possible fixes before a failure can occur.

“The product design process is currently based more on an engineer’s experience and generally shared assumptions than measured facts from existing products,” said Juha Pankakoski, executive vice president of Technology at Konecranes. “These assumptions often lead to non-optimized designs that are over engineered.” With this new, virtually extended family, Pankakoski sees “major potential in speeding up the product development process, reducing prototypes, increasing traceability and thus improving quality,” all while reducing costs.

“The proof of value of the digital twin achieved at Konecranes confirms the business value of integrated IoT and PLM technology,” Hemmelgarn reiterated. With more proof offered every day, the digital twin revolution for Industry 4.0 has already begun.

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