Thought Leadership

Smart manufacturing – links product digital twin to the machine in assembly layout

By Blake Snodgrass

Industrial machinery in manufacturing is witnessing a dynamic environment due to continual technological advancements. It is a daunting task to manage innovative, advanced manufacturing and assembly operations for achieving maximum quality while optimizing cost.

Therefore, machine manufacturers are using a digital twin to make their manufacturing smarter. They are discovering the implication of a digital twin for machine builders to examine the digital twin process from design through manufacturing, operations management, commissioning and service life. 

Today, the technologically landscape of industrial machinery is a far cry from where it all began.

Smart manufacturing using a digital twin

Smart manufacturing allows a company to extract data and apply it to manufacturing operations, including CNC programming or inspection and assembly processes. This information assists in formulating a digital twin of the product.

When manufacturers are machining, it is necessary to have sensors and feedback to execute production and manufacturing processes to leverage the digital twin. When using the inspection process to make a machining tool, inspection data creates traceability from design to manufacturing and a closed-loop process based on a high-fidelity digital twin. Subsequently, it is necessary to link the product’s digital twin with the machine’s digital twin.

An all-inclusive solution is vital to know every step in the manufacturing process, including idea creation, developing the product via machining, executing and extending across the entire service life, based on the digital twin. As a result, machine manufacturers and designers can create value, reduce cost and compress delivery schedules. Also, they can close the loop faster between manufacturing operations and engineering. 

So, modern technological advancements propel the manufacturing industry to extraordinary innovations, which require better machinery operations to make your factory smarter. The advantages you reap from a digital twin simulation for the manufacturing environment and the machine build are essential for successful smart manufacturing.

Smart manufacturing and the assembly and layout

Another advantage of smart manufacturing and operations is the assembly layout. Let’s say there are five machines in one location and ten machines elsewhere – though all may be similar – there are variances. Ensuring you have the correct parts in the right location on the assembly floor at the proper time requires a software solution that simulates the machine location and provides materials to them. It is process simulation – a novel idea that ensures eliminating high-traffic zones to areas of delay in receiving materials. Consequently, there is a need to improve optimization in the work cell and the machine builder.

Everything needs to be within reach, so it’s not merely the shop layout and simulation but also the process simulation. There can be conflicts in the order of operation that are overlooked. Machinery is about putting ten pounds of functionality into a five-pound bag. So, the assembly method is a compromise resulting from the design. Therefore, it’s essential to view the assembly process and determine the tools to achieve optimum quality in current trends.

The shop layout capability and process simulation at the human factor level must be mindful of all problem areas. Sometimes these issues don’t manifest themselves until an incident occurs in the field. For example, a bolt may loosen up and cause failures. However, the root cause is the assembly process capability. So, it is essential to simulate it as part of the base process to improve the development process. It’s not just looking at the individual and machine assembly processes but simultaneously scheduling multiple machines and multiple product lines.

Software is necessary to simulate the upfront design process in the software development piece. In turn, it is essential to simulate the PLC code on the machine floor and effectively run it through the use-cases to validate that the codes perform correctly, according to the simulation. Also, this allows you to focus on challenge areas to bring the machine into a commissionable state. 

Unfortunately, when a machine is sitting idle or being tested, it takes away potential cash time. Therefore, the less time in commissioning and debugging, the quicker you can get the machine to the customer and perform simulation for movement of parts and kinematics. 

These are items performed from an assembly management operations perspective to drive value for the company and efficiency in generating more cash flow, to reduce margin erosion errors and quality problems.

And none of this could occur without the executable digital twin. 

So, in revisiting this initial blog covering a couple of distinctive aspects of smart manufacturing, we concur that the industrial manufacturing industry is witnessing radical changes in the hardware dynamics, products and processes based on rapid changing technologies. Therefore, we look forward to discussing other key factors of smart manufacturing that are affecting industrial machinery.

Software solutions

Siemens Digital Industries Software is driving transformation to enable a digital enterprise where engineering, manufacturing, and electronics design meet tomorrow.

The Xcelerator portfolio in Siemens Digital Industries Software suite of products provides a full suite of solutions to empower machine builders and suppliers with the essential tools to thrive in their highly competitive market and transition seamlessly to create tomorrow’s machinery today.

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Siemens Digital Industries Software – where today meets tomorrow

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at