I am a sucker for open platforms. When the PR agency wrote with a teaser about discussing open platforms with Marc Lind, SVP Strategy at Aras, a PLM supplier, I bit. They threw in “digital twin” and “digital thread” as the topping and cherry atop the sundae, and the appointment was made.

We talked just before Christmas, but I’ve had such a crazy January that I’ve just now gotten to this in my pile of things to write.

PLM is often thought of as an enterprise application and covered by analysts who also watch such areas as ERP. I’ve talked with suppliers for years as a magazine editor, but they didn’t really seem to fit well within the magazines and they most likely were not advertising prospects, so there wasn’t pressure to write much. I’m saying that I’m not an expert in the area like some of my friends.

But I’ve followed the technology for many years. I’ve seen it coming—this coordination of digital and physical. As soon as the digital folks could get it all together—especially better databases and interfaces—then I knew we’d be much closer to the realization of digital manufacturing.

Lind told me something about the Aras platform. First, he said, was the attempt at doing away with silos where you might have your mechanical CAD, then have your electrical CAD, then perhaps your MES, and your ERP. He said not only was there a problem within manufacturing, think about the next step, say connected cars and other systems of systems, where things really need to interact across boundaries.

Check out the Aras platform. It’s interesting. And once again as I’m seeing more often, it is exploring a different business model that can make its platform and products available to a wider customer base. For other writing I’ve done on open platforms, click the small “ad” on my site to download the MIMOSA white paper.

Digital Twin

We also talked digital twin, one of the foundation concepts for digital manufacturing.

He said the term Digital Twin was coined back in 2002 by Dr. Michael Grieves while at University of Michigan. Effectively, the Digital Twin is an exact virtual representation of a physical thing. It’s as if the physical product or system was looking in a virtual mirror.

Grieves describes it as a mirroring (or twinning) of what exists in the real world and what exists in the virtual world. It contains all the informational sets of the physical ‘thing’ meaning its cross-discipline – not just a mechanical / geometric representation, but also including the electronics, wiring, software, firmware, etc.

Many people talk about Digital Twins in the context of monitoring, simulation and predictive maintenance which are all incredibly valuable and potentially transformative in their own right, however, there would seem to be much more to it.

“As products of all types move to include connectivity, sensors, and intelligence we can’t just think about the data streaming back from the field.”

Without accurate “Context” – Digital Twin – time series data generated during production and ongoing operation is difficult or even impossible to understand and analyze.

In addition, the ability to interpret and act upon these data often require traceability to prior information from related revisions – Digital Thread.

“To complicate matters further as artificial intelligence / cognitive computing is introduced the necessity for the Digital Twin becomes even greater. If Knowledge = Information in Context, then without a Digital Twin, machine learning won’t work as intended, will be rendered ineffective or worse… potentially leading to risky misinterpretations or misdirected actions.”

Finally, Lind warns, “Because without Context – Digital Twin – the IoT-enabled value proposition is severely limited and could introduce real liability.”

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