Virtual commissioning in business: The benefits are enormous
The right use of simulation and digital twin technology has the potential to reduce invisible waste in all areas of a company and noticeably improve productivity, adherence to delivery dates and quality. But the potential of virtual commissioning in business can only be realized if the method is optimally integrated into engineering and production processes.
In order to achieve this, a new way of thinking is needed in production and machine design. Instead of the traditional model-based design, which is a late marriage between mechanics, electrics, sensors and automation software, virtual machine systems are designed holistically from the start of the planning phase. This is achieved through an upfront simulation of the desired machine behavior. Depending on the system, this can be done by using a physics-based kinematic model and/or a PLC simulator.
This method can be used to test and validate machine-specific solutions virtually, avoiding expensive, time-consuming testing, acceptance tests and operator training on the physical equipment. This means that the machine can be delivered to the customer and ready for operation much faster, reducing project costs significantly. Furthermore, it can be used to carry out ongoing modifications and improvements in a virtual environment. This avoids machinery downtime and the cost of a replacement, and ensures that production always runs at peak efficiency.
A major reason why many industrial automation customers do not make use of this potential is that the control engineers are not yet familiar with the method. They are used to working independently, focusing on their area of expertise and not being supervised by someone else’s methods. However, with the emergence of specialized simulation software that offers a seamless interface to Inventor, this is no longer an obstacle. This software can be used by all departments to work together efficiently, resulting in more effective collaboration and shorter project times.
In addition, the simulation of the machine system provides important information at an early stage about how the system will perform and what it is capable of. This helps the design team to identify any potential issues at an early stage, so they can be resolved cost effectively, before they become a problem when the equipment is installed on the factory floor. Detecting and solving these issues at a later stage would require additional resources and inevitably lead to delays, potentially threatening the completion of the project.
In an exemplary case study, the use of virtual commissioning for a mechanical-electrical machine has resulted in significant savings of over 2.5 million euros per year. These savings can be attributed to the significantly shorter development and testing phases, as well as to the resulting increase in employee productivity.