By Sarika Andhee. Marketing Leader: Field Services Anglophone Africa at Schneider Electric

Digital twin technology is emerging as the unsung hero of facility maintenance, enabling organisations, their internal teams, and external partners to stay one step ahead of potential downtime and even catastrophic failure.

In fact, research group, Gartner has identified digital twin technology as one of the top trends shaping industrial equipment and manufacturing industries. But, to contextualise digital twin technology’s importance in facility maintenance, it’s important that we take one step back.

Neglected maintenance of facilities increase safety and financial risks, often causing unplanned outages that can lead to equipment damage and worse, injuries to personnel.

Equipment downtime and electrical outages cost organisations such as manufacturing plants hundreds of thousands if not millions of rands. South Africa’s current volatile grid continues to reemphasise this bleak picture.

Unfortunately, in their efforts to mitigate downtime, equipment failure and outages, many engineers such as those working in the power systems domain, are limited to working with static paper or PDF-based electrical single-line diagrams (SLDs), which are often outdated.

These limitations increase risk to operations and the difficulty of properly maintaining and updating the electrical systems documentation.

It’s virtually real

Digital twin technology allow maintenance teams to overcome the limitation of static representation by gaining deeper insight using dynamic, real-time simulation that is enhanced by intelligent data.

A digital twin is not limited to modelling real-time conditions, but it can also run predictive simulations.  For example, it can demonstrate the effect of adding an additional motor/load to the existing electrical reticulation and model the effects of that modification.

This is immensely valuable to maintenance teams who are responsible for staying one step ahead of equipment problems and failures. Not only does it improve uptime, but it also aids external service providers role in providing maintenance and support to facilities.

Digital twins provide the following important benefits to maintenance teams:

  • “What if” scenarios that allow teams to simulate different situations and gain insight to the impact of a facility’s performance without the risk of downtime and potentially injury to personnel.
  • Having an interactive digital SLD, offers great value to maintenance teams as they can easily access equipment documentation and manuals.
  • Analysis of new equipment and changes – it can identify the impact on a facility’s overall performance, helping teams to streamline diagnostics and make informed decisions on upgrades and modifications.
  • Helps ensure reliability and compliance by creating a realistic image of the electrical system gathering all updated information in one unique platform common to all the stakeholders. This is critical to mitigate equipment damage and injury to personnel operating the equipment.

Next-generation predictive solutions such digital twin that use real-time and archived data to act as a simulation platform are undoubtedly becoming an essential tool for maintenance teams.

When provided with reliable, high-quality data, digital twins offer invaluable, real-time insights that enhance quality, performance, and efficiency of facilities while adapting to ever-changing conditions and constraints. This technology is fast becoming an effective way to maintain a facility’s assets and reduce equipment and personnel risk.

Click here to visit Schneider Electric.