Harnessing Digital Twins: Transforming Material Handling for the Future

AI (Artificial Intelligence) in Material Handling
May 13, 2024
Industry 5.0
Optimizing Warehouse Operations with Human-Automation Collaboration
June 4, 2024
AI (Artificial Intelligence) in Material Handling
May 13, 2024
Industry 5.0
Optimizing Warehouse Operations with Human-Automation Collaboration
June 4, 2024

Analyst working with Business Analytics and Data Management System on computer to make report with KPI and metrics connected to database. Corporate strategy for finance, operations, sales, marketing

A digital twin is a virtual replica of real-world entities such as objects, people, places, or processes.

Though digital twin technology has existed for some time, it has recently experienced significant growth in various industries, including warehousing. As operations, systems, and technologies advance, the complexities within each component also increase. By leveraging digital twin technology, these intricate functions can be identified and tested in a digital setting, reducing the need for physical changes in the warehouse. Gartner®, a leading research and analyst firm, forecasts that “organizations that have not yet integrated digital twins – will do so I the next five years”.

What are Digital Twins?

Digital twins are virtual models of physical objects, systems, or processes that simulate their behavior and performance under different conditions. They are created using data from sensors, cameras, scanners, and other sources, combined with advanced algorithms, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Digital twins allow you to monitor, analyze, and enhance your real-world assets and operations in real time or ahead of time.

Benefits of Digital Twin Technology in the Supply Chain

By digitally replicating the warehousing ecosystem, different layout and process designs can be modeled. These models can be displayed in 2D with overhead views, logical (front-facing) views, and in 3D, where users can virtually walk through the facility. This enables operators to run multiple “what-if” scenarios, allowing them to:

– Test different scenarios involving automation, labor, and equipment.

– Compare and analyze multiple potential outcomes.

– Test critical paths.

– Ensure operational decisions are data-driven and thoroughly tested before implementing changes.

– Map lifecycle needs effectively.

The potential for increased productivity and efficiency, along with reduced errors, is substantial. Having a virtual twin of your warehouse operations can uncover previously unseen opportunities for improvement, growth, and untapped capacity. Digital twin technology can enable:

– Testing alternative travel path directions and entry/exit node placements to optimize pick travel and time.

– Adding new facility layout elements to determine potential efficiency gains, such as adding a cross aisle or automation component.

– Conducting storage type analyses to find optimal rack counts and digitally testing rack type combinations and locations to derive the best solution.

How to Create Digital Twins for Material Handling

To create digital twins for material handling, you need to collect and integrate data from physical assets like machines, vehicles, robots, conveyors, pallets, and containers. You also need to define the logic, rules, and parameters governing their interactions and movements. Then, use software tools that create and visualize digital models of your assets and their environment. Examples of such tools include Siemens Tecnomatix, Dassault Systèmes DELMIA, and Autodesk Inventor. A few material handling systems integrators like LD Systems are already developing digital twins.

How to Use Digital Twins to Simulate Material Handling

Creating digital twins for your material handling operations allows you to simulate various scenarios and experiments. By testing the feasibility and efficiency of new layouts, equipment, or routes, you can optimize the capacity, throughput, and utilization of your resources. Additionally, you can identify and eliminate bottlenecks, delays, and errors, evaluate the impact of changes in demand, supply, or quality, and compare the performance of alternative solutions or strategies. Digital twins also help enhance the safety, reliability, and sustainability of your processes.

How to Get Started with Digital Twins

Creating a digital twin may seem daunting initially. Many companies begin by developing a digital twin for one or two critical areas or processes that need improvement. When choosing which digital twin to create first, consider these key factors:

– Which processes can be implemented rapidly?

– Which processes could provide the most value?

– Which challenges require the most support to improve overall efficiency?

Starting your digital twin journey by focusing on one or two critical areas can reveal opportunities for quick wins.

To discuss how digital twins can benefit your warehouse or distribution center, please contact LD Systems today!