Accenture: The virtualization of manufacturing begins

Accenture: The virtualization of manufacturing begins.

The 2018 Hannover fair will not only be about bringing computing into industrial equipment – but also about bringing equipment into computers: “Digital twin” solutions enable manufacturers to create digital representations of real-world machines and products. And they are now making their way out of some highly specialized industries like aerospace, oil and gas, or mining – and into the manufacturing mainstream. They enable businesses to create entire “digital threads,” digital representations of entire product lifecycles.

Digital twin and digital thread technology might well become the “operating system” for the "Internet of Things"-enabled industry of the future. With that OS, companies will be able to virtualize both their real-world manufacturing, logistics, and service processes, that is: bring digital replicas of them into the virtual world. There, they can be simulated, visualized in 3D and augmented- or virtual reality, changed, virtually installed, tested, re-configured or even re-engineered – at almost zero cost. And: any changes made to a digital twin can then, through software, be sent back to the real world, so they can be replicated by being fed into a manufacturing execution system, and from there into a manufacturing line, and into the machines and robots on that line.

Much of this is still in the early stages, of course. But the required sensing, IIoT, data management, and visualization solutions already exist. And there is no shortage of vendors trying to make them work in the manufacturing and natural resources space: the Hannover Messe’s exhibitor overview, at least, lists more than 900 companies that will be showing something related to the keyword “digital twin.”

Other stories to watch: the automation, the IIoT, and platforms But Industry digitization is not about one particular business model, strategy or technology; it is about the smart combination of several of these. Which is why, in order to succeed in a fully digitized industry, companies will need to change into what Accenture refers to as “Industry X.0” businesses – organizations that re-invent themselves by using digital to create smart products, smart services and new customer experiences for new business models while becoming more customer-centric, agile, and efficient.

This requires many other things besides as-a-service offerings, AI or digital twins – and almost all of these will be exhibited in Hannover this year. The fair will provide insight into the next wave of digital solutions for digital engineering, industry automation, sensing equipment, the Industrial Internet of Things, industrial energy, embedded software, robotics, or IT-security – and visitors should seek all of it out, if they can.

But they should also always remember: all these solutions are a means to an end, and that end is not only efficiency but also growth, which should be the next key objective for industrial companies around the world.

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