First Line Software is a premier provider of software engineering, software enablement, and digital transformation services. Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the global staff of 450 technical experts serve clients across North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
Despite being at the forefront of technological advancements, the field of logistics and warehousing is currently experiencing a period of significant transformation. Any warehouse automation suggests that the control object must have its incarnation in the digital world. And although the idea itself is not new, and information systems for monitoring and control have existed for a long time, they are now required to have unprecedented accuracy in reproducing the object of the real world in a “digital twin.”
A warehouse digital twin is a physically accurate, real-time simulation of a warehouse made up of digital representations of the actual systems, processes, and objects found there. This encompasses the physical structure of the facility, equipment for material handling, stock, traffic controllers, robots, and essentially everything else present in or interacting with the warehouse environment. This assists in locating inefficient actions, such as those caused by human error, subpar procedures, or interactions between workers and robots.
For the world of warehouse logistics, the key idea behind Industry 4.0 is to employ technology to streamline key logistics and warehousing operations, including picking, loading and unloading, and stock management. However, this goes beyond simply utilizing robots to carry out labor-intensive or repetitive jobs; it also involves using computers to gather massive amounts of data, analyze it to learn more about your operations and make even more changes.
You may more accurately determine stock levels and even automate the ordering process by using wireless sensors. Equally, it is simpler to track the actions of both human and automated workers. Thus, a system called SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) came to exist, which controls, monitors, and manages processing status in real-time. Let’s take a closer look.
SCADA is the First Step to a “Digital Twin”
Systems for big data and analysis must be developed in order for data collection to offer a competitive advantage and be fully utilized. This makes it possible to get a comprehensive and schematic picture of how one or more enterprises are actually performing.
The software programs known as SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) are used to manage industrial operations and are the most commonly used types of control systems. SCADA involves a real-time collection of data from remote places in order to manage equipment and conditions. SCADA gives businesses the resources they need to develop and use data-driven choices for their manufacturing processes.
SCADA systems are made up of both hardware and software elements. The hardware collects and transmits data to field controller systems, which then transmit it to other systems for processing and prompt presentation to a human-machine interface (HMI). SCADA systems also record and document all occurrences in order to report on the status and problems of the process. SCADA programs can also be utilized to sound alarms if dangerous conditions arise.
First Line Software works with viastore WMS software, which contains SCADA-type functionality as an integral piece of the partnership. The Viadat warehouse management software system automatically reduces or compensates for excessive or erroneous work-in-progress inventory, reducing picking and storage errors. Viadat also assists our clients in the placement of goods by intelligently anticipating processes, ensuring quick throughput times, confirming an ideal supply of manufacturing equipment, and identifying fast or slow-moving items and placing them appropriately in the front or back of the warehouse. This type of software functionality moves us towards a fully Digital Factory because of the openness brought about by linking WMS and MES. Workers never have to look for materials because they are provided to them at their stations, therefore ensuring that they are always aware of where each item is and how far along the product is in processing.
These actions enable our clients to boost their capacity, improve inventory control, drastically reduce downtime, and deliver goods more quickly.
What are the advantages of the move toward a smart factory?
- Combining a manufacturing execution system (MES) with a warehouse management system (WMS) to connect logistics and production
- WMS, MES, and ERP share the same data management system
- Production logistics are automated
- Bringing just-in-time principles into practice
Digital Twin Models
The development of IoT and machine learning algorithms has led to the development of digital twinning, the next stage by SCADA systems, which are rule-based supervisory control solutions.
Digital twinning uses unsupervised machine learning methods to spot irregularities in real time and stop them from happening.
A digital twin represents a real-time, dynamic model of your warehouse created using data from your IoT network and WMS. The model updates in real-time as a pallet moves on the floor, and the digital twin’s location reflects this. Any changes in temperature, as recorded by your sensors, are also sent to the model. The more comprehensive the network of sensors and software in your warehouse, the more accurate the digital twin will be.
The transformation brought about by digital twinning has made the infrastructure supporting fulfillment a key competitive factor in the e-commerce industry. Customers demand quick and consistent deliveries, and the businesses that can do so (such as Amazon and DHL) are the ones they will choose to do business with or purchase from.
Benefits of using a Digital Twin Model include:
- Digital twins are the key to enabling data-driven growth in the warehouse
- Digital twins give an infrastructure more knowledge and visibility, allowing for proactive decision-making
- Digital twins can be created for packaging, containers, shipping, warehouses, distribution centers, logistics infrastructure, and networks
Digital twinning was born from technological improvements in the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning algorithms, much like how SCADA was created from communication networks and microprocessors. SCADA, however, is unable to detect anomalies proactively or predict when faults would develop.
The digital twin generates a real-time depiction of the system with layers including temperature, vibration, power consumption, mechanical and electrical condition, and system throughput. The data is used to create these layers. Although it may sound comparable to SCADA, the digital twin delivers a far higher level of knowledge and viewpoint. The digital twin shows the past, present, and future, whereas SCADA only shows the current situation. You can use filters to observe the digital twin, which is a very useful function. You may monitor your sorting system’s whole operation without paying attention to factors like capacity, temperature, power usage, etc. When compared to simply watching the physical system, this method of information gathering is far quicker and more effective.
Digital twinning collects data from all installations of the same machine worldwide, allowing anomalies at one location to be taken into account for all machines of the same type worldwide. The ideal candidates for installing digital twins are new industrial plants with a long-term vision, even though SCADA is still adequate for the majority of industrial processes.
A digital twin of a warehouse makes an excellent testing ground for modifications that can boost productivity and reduce operating expenses. According to Mark Jones at TechHQ, “Digital twin technology enables us to replicate the working environment and run experiments to explore how it can be optimized, and how new technologies can be rolled into play.” However, a digital twin is capable of far more than just simulating alterations. High-fidelity templates can be created using digital twins of high-performing buildings for future construction or refitting projects when e-commerce companies grow their fulfillment operations through partnerships or their own warehouses. Before purchasing real estate or entering into a partnership agreement, analysts can make adjustments to factors like layout and overall footprint, which are important for new, last-mile fulfillment centers in dense urban-adjacent zones.
How Can You Take Advantage of This Modern Warehouse Technology?
The advantage of SCADA is the data that can be gathered at a single point of operation. A company can use the data from all of the warehouses that are using the same equipment thanks to digital twinning, bringing the robust capability to streamline warehouse operations.
The question today is how quickly digital twinning will become accessible to the point where all warehouse activities on a global scale can use it. You can look into building your own digital twins if you have a strong technological basis in place. From there, you can start using features like developing new warehouse spaces based on tested models and changes before putting them into practice.
If you rely on third-party storage, reach out to your partners to ask if they have considered a digital twin strategy. It can be a terrific approach to enhance the operational environment of your internal business and the technological infrastructure of your fulfillment partners. If you’re looking for a partner who can stay ahead of the ongoing digital disruption in the logistics industry, Contact us at First Line Software.