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The digital twin will revolutionize production processes in the coming years.

More than that, it is about to replace the classic programmable logic controllers in many areas because they are far too inflexible. Wherever production systems have to be adapted, rebuilt or switched quickly, the digital twin is clearly superior as a virtual control environment. Autonomous and modular production would therefore be impossible without it.

This is the reason why the Digital Twin has developed into a real hype topic. The term is now used inflationarily for every virtual image of a real object, even if it is only a simple simulation model. This may be legitimate because there is no generally accepted definition for the Digital Twin, but it makes it difficult for companies to orient themselves and ultimately to choose a practical Digital Twin solution.

In my opinion, one can only speak of a digital twin if it virtually depicts both the digital planning process and the real production or logistics process with all the systems, tools, conveyor technology, actuators and sensors involved. It must connect the digital planning and real production world over the entire product or plant life cycle. Without an umbilical cord to the PLM and ERP world, the digital twin is not viable, even if it is fed with vast amounts of sensor data from company life.

Of course, the digital twin must be able to manage and process mass data, and it must do so in real time. It should also be able to evaluate this data using intelligent algorithms, to propose process improvements, for example.

Mathias Stach, ASCon Systems
Mathias Stach, Geschäftsführer der ASCon Systems GmbH

But its most important function is the mapping of the context in order to be able to interpret the data correctly in terms of production logic. To do this, he has to integrate information in different formats, be it sensor data, machine parameters or IT data from production and logistics systems, and relate them to each other.

Monitoring and control are the most important tasks of a digital twin for autonomous and modular production. And that means being able to react flexibly to changes in production sequences. This can only work if the controller is virtualized, i.e. shifted from the PLC hardware to a flexibly configurable software integration layer. It is the storm on the bastille of inflexible programmable logic controllers with which the digital twin heralds the revolution in production.