The power industry and technology worlds are filled with acronyms. It's often hard to know what they all mean. Mark Reisig, director of Product Marketing at Aras, was a guest on The POWER Podcast. He explained how digital technology is being utilized to bring products to market and track assets throughout their lifecycle.
The process often starts in a product lifecycle management (PLM) system. Reisig said when a product is created for the first time, things like the engineering bill of materials (BOM) and computer-aided design (CAD) drawings can be linked to the component in a PLM system. In all, he said there are about 20 key attributes documented in the system. They typically revolve around the form, fit, and function of the product, including its description, revision, unit of measure, part number, and more.
The PLM information feeds into an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. ERP is a transactional system. It coordinates how everything is put together. It tracks what is made and what is bought–including financial data–and allows the product to be manufactured and assembled. ERP systems often include 150 to 175 different attributes. When complete, the ERP provides an as-shipped BOM.
At that point, an enterprise asset management (EAM) system becomes important. It is used to track and manage the physical asset through its lifecycle. This basically covers construction, commissioning, operations, and maintenance, all the way to decommissioning and replacement. As an enterprise tool, it goes beyond a single plant to include all the assets an owner manages. The idea is to track all the changes to all the physical assets, which is what Reisig called an "as-maintained" or "as-running" BOM. The EAM system also facilitates planning and execution of the work required to keep everything running.
"The real value of the three systems that I just mentioned is that you can connect across them in a digital thread," Reisig said. "The person looking into the enterprise asset management, when they click on a digital twin, if they want to go back and see what the actual requirement was, they can actually do so. So, the real value is when you can cut across all of these pillar systems–EAM, ERP, and PLM."
What is a digital twin? Reisig said most vendors position digital twins as models. The models are typically created during the engineering phase, which means they are a representation of what was designed. However, they don't always reflect what was actually made during the manufacturing or construction process.
"Right there, you've got a problem, and that's because many things happen to products when they go through production," Reisig said. "We believe the digital twin is first available after it's been manufactured, and even after it's shipped, during the as-built stage."
By creating the digital twin in the as-built phase, much more detailed and accurate information can be captured. In this way, physical part BOMs and related simulation data can be linked to the digital twin. Things like CAD drawings, service bulletins, work order history, electronics wiring schematics, and more, can be connected using a digital thread back to where that information is stored.
"Our definition is: the digital twin is the individual configuration of that physical product or a system of assets, and that creates the context you need to create value across the lifecycle," Reisig said.
Listen to the entire interview with Reisig on The POWER Podcast.
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–Aaron Larson is POWER's executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine).