Two Perspectives

The digital twin at the value-creation level of production

Regarding the next level of value creation at HARTING, we will now focus on production and explore the perspective the digital twin offers from the manufacturing viewpoint.

Firstly, HARTING is a digital twin user in terms of the procurement of equipment such as machines, tools and materials – in order for HARTING to ultimately produce its products. Agreements must be made with the respective supplier and partner to specify which information needs to be supplied to ensure that sufficient data is available for a digital representation of the equipment. As procedures currently stand with respect to machine procurement, information is generally supplied via a specification, which sets out the components, performance parameters, etc. that need to be fulfilled or included. As yet, there is still no comprehensive set of parameters for a digital representation of a machine/plant in the meaning of a complete digital twin. This is still subject to definition in the international standardisation bodies. Digital data on machines, tools and materials are currently still quite "static”; they describe the final delivery status and include elements such as CAD models, for example, to ensure the integration of a machine into hall plans, to supply connection values for electricity, air and gas, and so forth.

The Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) is another specific example. Here, we are currently still gathering data based on the “type”, calculating the actual consumption of all CO2 drivers for a batch and evaluating this data. In perspective, we are working on the goal of being able to specifically break down the PCF to the individual product.

Things only really become “dynamic” when the manufacturer successively updates the further development status of the machine and provides a data source for measures such as repairs, maintenance and operation optimisation, and when data from the operator is also incorporated into this digital twin.

We also take a second perspective in production at HARTING, in that we are also producers of digital twins. As such, we are responsible for providing data from production on the basis of requirements and needs. On the one hand, we use this data ourselves: we gather vast amounts of information on machines, tools, and components through the production process so that we can ultimately put down the foundation for traceability, quality assurance certificates and optimisation measures. On the other hand, we also want to be able to serve external end customers digitally in the future, i.e. by supplying them with both the product itself and its digital twin counterpart. This would give the customer the option of accessing the necessary information digitally and to integrate it into their own processes. If the “type” initially contained the description of general conditions, material number, connector type, etc., then systematic further development would include continuing and supplementing the properties of the “instance”.

"Instance" means that we mark or serialise our products in the real world at least on a batch or even on an individual level in order to identify them at each production stage and to enrich them with production data in the digital world. Therefore the traceability of a product to the respective plant in which it was manufactured is made possible via the digital twin.

Data could, in turn, be written back to the digital twin as an active component so that it could continuously augment this delivered instance. The standardised provision of data will play a critical role in this context.

The digital twin of production plants and the digital twin of products – in our case: connectors – are directly interrelated. This mutual interdependency will allow the simulation of production in the future, with IT systems being configured to enable the simulation of production plants in the real world and to help companies implement solutions to various issues at an early stage and thereby  optimise production.