Digitalization is nothing less than an industrial revolution which is presenting companies with vast challenges. Unlike the last three waves of industrialization – mechanization, mass production and automation – Industry 4.0, as the process of digital transformation is also known, no longer takes place in the real world but increasingly in a virtual sphere comprised of enormous amounts of data. Whereas in the past the first steam engine, then the assembly line and finally the use of electronics heralded periods of radical change, today not one but several megatrends such as automation, connectivity, mobility, globalization and security have to be combined with one another. With the help of smart, digital technology production processes are gradually being networked and automated so that machines, products, entire systems and – last but not least – people can communicate and work with one another efficiently.
In particular what’s known as the digital twin enables procedures to be transferred to a virtual environment by tracking and imaging all phases in a product’s life cycle. All production processes and products can then be simulated virtually. Alternative, optimized production sequences appear on screen, boosting the efficiency of production lines.
One of the major prerequisites for this is that the engineering is consistent throughout the entire value chain in order to prevent what’s known as data discontinuity at the interfaces between the various engineering disciplines, namely mechanical components, electrical equipment and software. Unlike the way much work is done today, projects are not processed sequentially, i.e. separately and consecutively. Instead, in an ideal scenario all departments work in parallel across their respective disciplines on the implementation of a project and share a common data model – the basis for the digital twin which depicts every last detail of a system virtually and permits precise simulation.