Proplanner's Role in Defining the Digital Twin within the Digital Thread
Concepts labeled as the Digital Twin or the Digital Thread are becoming very popular recently. It would appear that every software company in the PLM/CAD/ERP/MES industry has directed marketing efforts at these concepts. Coupled with the related concepts of ‘Industry 4.0’ and ‘IIoT’, major initiatives are underway at nearly every manufacturer we talk to. There is a good reason for this level of focus, as when this is done well it can deliver tremendous value. We see companies in the CAD and PDM marketspace who tried to broaden their impact with the introduction of PLM now trying to reinvent themselves under the banner of Digital-T. In reality, most of those firms are still stuck in the land of CAD and workflow-driven file management, which tends to under-deliver on the premise of PLM and lacks credibility for a feasible and effective solution on Digital Twin.
Proplanner believes that manufacturing is the domain for both the Digital Thread and its inevitable manifestation as the Digital Twin. Manufacturing is where a configured Product is Processed in a Plant with Resources (3PR) to create a specific configuration to meet a specific customer order resulting in a unique serial numbered product. Collectively, each of these Digital Models (Product, Process, Plant, and Resource) need to be easily and effectively defined, maintained, and integrated if the promises of faster and more accurate production launches are to be realized. Obviously, this also means that the integration of these models must be seamless and entirely digital, aka the Digital Thread.
For assembly Plants and thus complex configured assembled Products, Assembly Planner defines the Digital-T software solution. From its very inception in 2002, Proplanner’s team has been dedicated to the promise of a Digital Thread of Product Models and their commensurate engineering changes weaving through a complex, but well-engineered, workflow of Process, Plant, and Resource models which end with every worker and intelligent device on the shop floor producing every configured product from each customer order.
Proplanner is the “system that glues together the components of production”
While the benefit of a Digital flow of objects (part, process, plant, resource) and their commensurate attributes generates product launch speed and accuracy, the realities of engineering and manufacturing workflows coupled with approvals, alternatives, and concurrent engineering, create immense technical and organizational roadblocks. This workflow complexity, in conjunction with the complexity and dynamic change of the Digital Models (Twins), is solved thru Proplanner’s “Digital Gates” concept and represents our substantial competitive advantage.
Proplanner’s “Digital Gates” is possible because of our focus on the assembly manufacturing market space. This focus lets us design our software solutions around a much smaller possible set of feasible workflows and therefore engineer user-interfaces, applications, data flows, and workflows that can “Assume” and “Anticipate” what the organization is trying to do. This intelligence is critical in ensuring effective and accurate collaboration while still being practical for large, complex manufacturers to implement and manage.
A Digital Gate is essentially a data merge point that enables multiple parallel data sets to be reconciled, updated, and promoted. Similar to how the email and contacts on your Phone and Computer are constantly synchronized, these gates allow for concurrent engineering in dissimilar software systems and contain rules which help bring the data together “merge” when, and as often, as desired. While Proplanner has many possible gate points, the three most important gates are between the eBOM and mBOM, the Scenario mapping of tasks to Operators and Stations, and the publishing of Scenarios to ERP/MRP, Logistics (PFEP) and Work Instructions (MES). Between each of these gates, it is very likely that multiple versions of Product, Process, Plant, and Resources exist for the same effective time period.
The eBOM-mBOM-Routing gate is a good example of where the eBOM and 3D Model is continuously being modified and published to the gate with an ECO. During this time, the prior eBOM was accepted by manufacturing and converted/updated to an mBOM which was being consumed by a Process routing. In this way, Product Engineering and Manufacturing Engineering are working concurrently on two different versions of the product. Every new release of an eBOM/ECO/3D Model requires acceptance, approval, and subsequent update/reconciliation within Manufacturing. Proplanner automates a great deal of this workflow, however, engineers are still responsible for responding to software alerts regarding how substantive a Product change is on the previously mapped Process or Resource.
Of course, while Manufacturing Engineers are authoring and consuming the mBOM into a Process Routing, Process Engineers are authoring that Routing, performing time estimations and Resource assignment to tasks, and mapping those Resources and Process tasks to Stations in the Plant. Since most plants have multiple production staffing scenarios based upon possible production volumes, variant take rates, and labor staffing plans, these engineers are creating and need to maintain multiple line balance scenarios concurrently and validate each of them with regards to task precedence, ergonomics compliance, tool availability and labor efficiency. Eventually, these scenarios move through an electronic reconciliation to ensure that all of the Process tasks consume ONLY those parts in the active mBOM (nothing more or less). Once that happens, these Scenarios can be Published with an effective date range to the Production gate.
Published Process Scenarios are electronic datasets consisting of a reconciled mBOM, Routing, Resource, and Plant model. The Digital Thread along with internal reconciliation algorithms minimizes manual entry of Part numbers, Process steps, Resource IDs, etc. to ensure that this information is accurate for the defined effectivity date range. Critically, the mBOM and Routings are BOTH configured, and therefore any possible customer order involving a Model and a set of valid Options is capable of generating the Parts Lists (in-plant Logistics) and Work Instructions (MES) needed to create a specific unit in a specific way, therefore becoming the Digital Twin of the product actually manufactured.
Finally in the last gate, after the Product has been manufactured and the Process data consisting of torque values, test specifications, operator/task history tracking, component serialization, Non-Conforming Process/Products are defined, a dataset is created for that specific serial number product. This dataset reflects not just “What” that product is but, just as important, “How” it came to be. This is Digital-T in Proplanner and the future is happening now.
In this webinar recording, Proplanner president, Dave Sly, talks about our Digital-T solution.
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