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How digital twins add a new level of intelligence in metal fabrication

How digital twins add a new level of intelligence in metal fabrication


Imagine a future where plant managers open their laptops or a phone app in the morning and receive real-time insights on potential production issues. This scenario, which seemed like science fiction, is becoming a reality sooner than expected, thanks to companies like Ultisim. This Chapel Hill-based firm specializing in digital twins is collaborating with manufacturers to develop AI-driven solutions that integrate machine data, enterprise resource planning, and other sources to optimize operations.

Elevating Manufacturing Efficiency:

Ultisim’s groundbreaking approach uses large-language-model interfaces, akin to those made famous by ChatGPT, to address complex manufacturing challenges. By leveraging digital twin technology, Ultisim is connecting data streams from various sources to create actionable insights for plant managers. For instance, a machine unexpectedly down or a delay in a previous shift can trigger the system to recommend adjustments, streamlining the manufacturing process.

Adapting to High-Product-Mix Models:

Ultisim’s innovative solutions are particularly relevant for industries like custom metal fabrication, where high-product-mix models pose challenges in routing, value streams, and various process-centric departments. The digital twin provides a holistic view, tailored through customizable “lenses” for different job functions within the organization. Finance, sales, scheduling, and production planning teams can access relevant insights, fostering streamlined collaboration.

Data Accessibility and Integration:

Steer Studios emphasizes the importance of leveraging existing data sources and avoiding data duplication. The digital twin accesses data where it resides, eliminating the need for a centralized data repository. This approach enhances data accuracy and reduces complexities associated with data copying. Ultisim’s solution capitalizes on the abundance of sensor technology, even retrofitting older machines to capture relevant data.

Overcoming Dark Data:

A significant hurdle lies in unlocking “dark data” trapped within isolated software systems. Ultisim’s extensive experience in various industries, including those with defense contracts, has illuminated the transformative power of converting dark data into valuable insights. By transforming information into meta-tagged, digitally accessible data, Ultisim enables AI and machine learning to drive informed decisions.

Human Choreography and AI:

Ultisim recognizes the significance of human interaction with technology, describing it as “human choreography.” Simulating job sequences, from cutting to welding, allows planners to optimize tool changes, storage locations, and changeover times. Combining AI with human expertise creates a symbiotic decision-making process, yielding improvements driven by real-time data and tribal knowledge.

Fostering a Knowledge-Rich Culture:

Ultisim’s approach respects the importance of tribal knowledge while empowering younger generations with actionable information. AI-driven digital twins help capture decades of experience, facilitating training and knowledge transfer. As tribal knowledge intersects with data insights, improvements are identified, implemented, and tracked. This collaborative approach fosters a culture of continuous improvement and informed decision-making.