The value of digital twin technology in aerospace and automotive

The digital twin continues to be a hot topic of conversation for companies, and for good reason: digital twin technology will play a major role in how companies fare in the future.

Most companies agree how important the digital twin is. Now they want to learn how to implement digital twin technology and connect information from them to gain insight into their products and production processes.

This was the subject of the recent Digital Twin Summit at the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) in Chicago, Illinois. DMDII is a manufacturing hub that provides a unique collaboration space for universities, customers and other industry leaders.

We geared this summit toward the aerospace and defense industry last year, but there was enough demand from other industries that we opened this year’s event to other industries. This year’s summit provided a unique opportunity for people from aerospace and defense, automotive and industrial machinery and heavy equipment industries to trade ideas and ask questions to help their organizations move forward in their Digital Enterprise journey.

The event began with a discussion about the growing importance of digital twin technology and how Siemens PLM Software is helping customers implement it in their businesses. Chris Stevens, Vice President of Automotive and Transportation at Siemens PLM Software, and Barry Chapman, Vice President of Aerospace and Defense Siemens PLM Software, talked about some of these issues:

• The digital twin is able to tell you that something is happening, but not why. The digital thread is what helps you connect that information.

• In the aerospace industry right now, competition is at a level we’ve never seen before; innovation is high, and digital simulation is changing the industry in a profound way.

• Ten years ago, less than 20 percent of automotive vehicles were comprised of software and electronics; now, more than 90 percent of innovations are driven through software and electronics.

• The Mars Rover Curiosity represents what simulation is: a virtual simulation of something that you can’t produce until it has been done.

We hope you enjoy this video.

In upcoming summit talks, you will learn about the synergies that exist between the automotive and aerospace industries and how digital twin technology weaves them together with the digital thread; autonomous/electrification issues from the perspective of an automotive and aerospace customer as well as an industry thought leader, and next-generation/additive manufacturing issues from the perspective of an aerospace and automotive customer as well as an industry thought leader. You will also be able to watch a 45-minute question-and-answer (Q&A) session with the speakers. Keep an eye on this blog in the coming weeks as we provide links to them. 

About the author 

Indrakanti “Chaks” Chakravarthy is the Marketing Programs Director working in the Americas zone at Siemens PLM Software, where he is responsible for marketing programs covering the aerospace, defense, federal and marine industries. Chaks has spent the last 30 years working for a number of companies in presales technical, sales and marketing areas of the PLM portfolio in India, Japan and the United States. He has a mechanical engineering degree from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University in India.


[Introduction video] Things change faster than they used to. New products, new services, new types of businesses – new versions of everything. Expectations.

It’s the principle of evolution. When everything around you changes, so must you. You adapt. You become better. It’s not just a necessity – it’s a fascinating opportunity.

The era of digitalization has arrived in the manufacturing and process industries. Forward-thinking companies already benefit from getting their products to market faster, more efficiently and with greater flexibility, all with the same or even better quality.

Digitalization brings it all together: every idea, every process, every machine for the entire plant, every stakeholder, every eventuality – everything you do, ultimately forming a unified digital enterprise. Digitalization helps improve companies of any size. What starts with a few small steps can result in a complete virtual image of products and production. This digital twin helps you see, anticipate, experiment, plan, simulate, and execute.

It starts with the mindset that focuses on the entire value chain of a future digital enterprise. It begins to explore integrated industrial software and automation components.

From enhanced networking and communication to everything and everyone seamlessly connected in a comprehensive industrial communication network. Secured by a robust industrial security infrastructure that protects your productivity. Constantly optimized by business specific industrial services that help you turn data into knowledge.

With actionable analysis and information for your competitive advantage. You are much closer than you think to becoming a digital enterprise.

Get started on your evolution.

BARRY CHAPMAN: Hi, good morning, everybody. This is going to be a collaborative event, so we’re going to have to get louder than that – good morning, everybody!

There we go. I’m Barry Chapman – welcome. I manage our aerospace and defense business. I’m here with Chris Stevens, who manages our automotive and transportation business. We’re excited to have everybody here for our second Digital Twin Summit.

How many yesterday were able to take advantage of the Cubs game? Oh good, fantastic Cubs win! So last year, we said this could be the year – now we can’t use that line anymore.

I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to make it. I have an excuse: I dropped my son off, he’s a freshman at the University of Indiana, so I was there instead of being at the Cubs game. But it was an interesting event for me as a father. [He’s the] first one going to college, and you see the excitement of a freshman. I think we all remember when we were freshman in college, right? And you get some nods of the head – yeah?

So you’re excited. You have to tell them, you have to put down your phone; you’re going to have to meet new people; and, you’re also going to have to learn and get good grades.

But you see the freshness of someone that’s 18 years old about meeting new people and about learning new things. He’s going to be studying finance, and he’s excited to learn about finance and learn new things. I see that freshness in many kids that were there yesterday.

On the way back, I was thinking about this event. I’d say what makes the difference between good and great people in many cases is the fact that we share those same things as we were when we were freshmen in college. We share the same thing: that we too have to put down our phones, we have to meet new people. Events and communities like that, or like this, are just for that. I want you, and we want you, to get together and meet new people and meet a friend, an acquaintance, and be able to use that connection to help yourself going forward.

The other thing is, this is a community and we share something. We share a desire to learn. The topic today is about digitalization. So just like freshman year, maybe without the beer, but just like freshmen year, you’re going out. We share a desire to learn more and we’re going to learn about digitalization.

So last year, we did this event and it was a big success. This year, we changed it up a little bit where we’re switching it up a little bit. In essence, so often in my job – which I have a very lucky job – I get to deal with the greatest aerospace and defense companies in the world.

I am commonly asked by people who say, hey Barry I’m curious to know what others are doing. I’m curious to know not only what others in aerospace are doing, but I’m curious to know what other industries are doing, like automotive.

In automotive, from an aerospace perspective, is probably the most common response back I get – tell me what automotive is doing because I don’t want to just know what my competitors want to do. If I want to get better, I want to know what other industries are doing.

So this year, we decided to bring those two things together – just like chocolate and peanut butter for Reese’s, we’re bringing automotive and aerospace together. What it is, is it’s an event where we changed the dynamic. We’ll have an aerospace speaker on a certain topic. We’ll have an automotive speaker on a certain topic. Then we’ll have an industry expert as your topic.

Then it’s up to you as a community to be curious and ask questions about those topics. We’ll also have a panel discussion, where you’ll be able to you know discuss and have any conversations about certain topics. So it’s up to you to be curious. Ask those questions.

In addition to that, we’re here in Chicago at DMDII. How many people know what DMDII is and it stands for? I’m going to hand off to Chris and explain what’s unique about what we have here at DMDII

CHRIS STEVENS: Good morning. I’m going to answer the question why we’re here. I’m a Tigers fan, so we’re in a second to last place. That’s why we’re here.

It’s ironic, because Barry’s a huge Cubs fan. We were talking about this event and we said, oh we’ve got to go to a rooftop game. And who was the only one there? The Tigers fan.

In March of 2013, the government sanctioned the creation of three new manufacturing institutes. About a year later, President Obama awarded the first of those to both UI labs and the Department of Defense. It’s a unique integration of university, industry and government. What they do here is they create solutions, they create partnerships and scalable solutions to expand out into our industry.

One of those projects – the reason why we’re here and we wanted to host this event here, and we host other events as well – is because Siemens made a significant investment in one of those projects called digital thread, digital enterprise, or if you look at your agendas, it’s also called digital twin.

What we’ve done is we’ve set up a unique environment and lab that really walks you through in a day in the life of a nano box. A nano box is something that we manufacture. What makes us unique as a software companies is we also manufacture products just like you, and there’s not many software companies that can say that.

So what we’ve done is we actually set up a showcase and this is unique globally. I was talking to Dennis this morning: we don’t have this anywhere around the world. This much Siemens technology, working in a real environment in a lab situation like this, is the only place around the world that you see this much Siemens technology in one place.

We’ve set it up, and I don’t want to steal too much of Scott’s thunder because we’re going to walk through a tour later, but we set up an environment that walks you through a day in the life of a nano box. You’ll see the different parts of the organization, how they work with our technology and more importantly, how they harness the information and carry that information from one organization or one stage in the product lifecycle to the next.

Barry talked about a little bit: stay curious. We have a lot of companies represented here today both from both industries. The really neat thing is, everyone you talk to they’re a different stage in their digital twin journey. Definitely take advantage of the breaks – not just listening to the great speakers that we have today and asking questions in the panel, but take advantage of the people you’re sitting with and try to understand where they’re at in that journey. Stay curious.

So Barry, I’m curious as a wheels guy and automotive guys, see this Mars rover I see you put it on the slide here. Maybe as the A&D guy you could tell us a little more about it, but if not – it does that wheel that’s why I was curious.

BARRY CHAPMAN: Five years ago last week, Curiosity landed on Mars. It came down at about 13,000 miles per hour to perfectly land on Mars, and it had a life expectancy of two years. Three years later, it’s still up there. It’s doing its job. It’s far exceeding expectations of what JPL [Jet Propulsion Laboratory] and NASA expected. It’s a wonderful, wonderful project, and it has all aspects of what in aerospace I think are true across the whole industry.

One of the things you’ll find about Curiosity, and one of the things you’ll find about aerospace, is that right now in the market, the competition is at a level that we’ve never seen before in aerospace. Innovation – not only product or process innovation – is also at a high level. Also, the level of digital simulation is changing the industry.

Those three factors are the only part of aerospace you’ll find a part of automotive. Competition wise, think about it. Here we are in Mars. We all know this is not our first journey to Mars, if you read the papers. Think about the competition that’s going on. In aerospace, right you have companies that are popping up nowadays where in the past they didn’t.

Venture capitalists – Forbes actually, I read an article in Forbes – there was $1.8 billion of VC money that went in the aerospace industry, they reported in 2016. That is double the amount of VC money that went into the industry over the last 15 years combined, and it doesn’t include Jeff Bezos cashing out $1 billion Amazon stock to fund Blue Origin. Why is that? What’s changing?

The thing that’s changing is one, it’s an exciting industry, and we’re expanding into places we haven’t gone before. There’s money to be made there. But the other thing is VC money is going into there because of digital digitalization, because companies in an extremely intense, asset rich environment the aerospace industry is, very asset dependent. They’re able to do things digitally. They’re able to confirm things digitally where in the past they have it. What is that – that produces confidence in the VCs. It produces funding and incubates new companies.

With those companies come competition that the likes of the Boeings and the Lockheeds and the Northrups and the General Dynamics – they haven’t seen before. Now all the sudden, we get this. It’s the same type of competition that’s happening in aerospace is happening in automotive.

CHRIS STEVENS: Yes, in automotive, competition is fierce. So we’re being disrupted. We’re seeing companies we never thought we’d see before in our industry – companies like Apple and Google.
I had the pleasure of walking the halls of FCA for about four or five years and what was interesting in my last couple of years there, they didn’t want to know what was going on at Ford or GM: they wanted to know what we were doing with Apple and Google.

Because of this electrification autonomous that the track that you’ll see a little bit here in a minute, we’re seeing different competitors you’ve never seen before. In fact, when you talk to the automotive suppliers, there’s very few that are adamant about it – one’s in this audience today – they say we’re not an automotive supplier, we’re an electronics and software provider.

So it’s very interesting. The competition’s fierce. We’re seeing people we never thought we’d see were being disrupted every day. So competition’s fierce.

The other one you mentioned was innovation. Because of electric electrification and autonomous, innovation is paramount in automotive. As of 10 years ago – in fact, I’ll give you a couple stats. In 2021, 122 billion vehicles will be connected. Think about how much data that’s going to provide. In that same year, there’s going to be 10 million autonomous vehicles manufactured by 2021. That is totally changing the game for us in automotive when it comes to innovation.

As of ten years ago, less than 20 percent of the vehicle was electronics and software. Now today, more than 90 percent of innovations driven through electronics and software in automotive today. Innovation is changing the game.

BARRY CHAPMAN: It’s changing in aerospace. When you think about product innovation in aerospace, we’ve been to an autonomous for a long time in aerospace.

One of my favorite stories about innovation and autonomous is that Northrup Grumman has built an unmanned airplane that was first one to land on an aircraft carrier. Landing on an aircraft carrier, if you don’t know, is considered a controlled crash. The autonomous vehicle landed not only perfectly, it landed so perfectly they asked to have a variation in its landing or it would wear out the landing strip in the same spot.

That’s autonomous. We’ve been doing it for a while and that’s innovation. Much of the innovation that you see around the world was created in aerospace. I think the thing that you’re going to get the most from today is about process innovation.

One thing the aerospace industry has done extremely well over the last of couple years is look at ways to improve process innovation. They’re doing that because they have to better predict and better produce content and manufacture their products in the proposals and the estimates they did before. Cost overruns can’t be as acceptable as they were in the past. Process innovation is where much of the effort has been put on in aerospace.

Finally, you talk about simulation. If there’s something you could simulate, that representation of curiosity is one of the greatest simulations of all time. If you haven’t, you’ve got to go to YouTube you can look at seven minutes at tear and if you haven’t seen that, you should. Look at what happens in seven minutes and what all goes in place for that vehicle to land. It’s amazing, and all that had to be done digitally – all that had to be simulated digitally.

Curiosity represents what is simulation. It’s a virtual simulation of something that you cannot produce until it’s actually executed. What aerospace has to offer every industry is the amount of simulation that’s done to make sure that projects like that are successful, similar in automotive.

CHRIS STEVENS: For us, simulation has always been prevalent in engineering. More and more now, what’s unique in automotive is we’re doing much more were simulating much more configurations of the vehicle, which has never been done before. That’s really because of high compute technology and cloud technology.

But what’s interesting is more on the manufacturing side. What we’re seeing is a transformation not just in engineering, but on the manufacturing side. You’ll see our two speakers today that will talk about it.
They’re simulating more and more things on a manufacturing side, what we call shift left, or we’re making those decisions much earlier on in the process. They’re doing ergonomic studies. They’re doing assembly shingling. They’re doing throughput studies. All those simulations are being run much earlier on in the process. That’s where we’re seeing the transformation. It’s not just in engineering – more importantly, in manufacturing.

Great lineup today – excellent lineup. Deloitte’s going to talk about next generation and additive manufacturing. If you haven’t seen one of the things I read recently, or yesterday, was as of 2007, you could buy a 3D printer and it cost you $30,000. Now you can buy one for $100. It’s really changing the game when it comes to speed to market. Actually, you’ll see a display out there from Hendrix Motorsports around additive manufacturing. It’s very interesting. If you get a minute, take a minute and read about it.

Next is American Axle. So what American Axle is going to focus on is you need to invest in technology, specifically around digital twin – I’m not trying to steal your thunder, Dave – specifically around digital twin to win the market. So it’s a very interesting concept that Dave’s going to talk about.

Next, what you’ll hear Dennis talk about is how to expand continuous improvement globally and simultaneously, which is a pretty unique experience. And more importantly, investing in digital solutions to increase speed to market because it makes a significant increase on customer and shareholder value. That’s what you’ll hear from half the speakers – how about the other half?

BARRY CHAPMAN: You’ll get to hear from Zipline. Zipline’s not a brand name you might not know of yet, but Zipline is one of the great companies that are doing an unmanned aircraft delivering medical supplies around the world in a humanitarian effort. It’s a wonderful story. Hersh is going to speak about their electrification process in creating the aircraft and what’s digitalization in Zipline.

Accenture will speak also about electrification and how it’s changing the industry in a great discussion there.

And then Moog. Moog, for those of you, is one of the leaders in additive manufacturing, and we’re lucky enough to have a speaker to speak about Moog, additive manufacturing and also Blockchain technology, and how they’re leveraging it. It’ll be a great, great discussion there.

My ask to you guys, going back to being curious, is to, I think as I dropped Ryan off at school, make sure you meet new people, you stay curious and you don’t do things that get you in trouble.

That was the other thing. I think of the beer commercial “The World’s Most Interesting Man” where he said “Stay thirsty, my friends.” Well, I’m asking you stay curious, my friends. Stay curious.

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