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  • By Lanner
  • In Blog
  • Posted 15/02/2021

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From engineering and production to operations and supply chain management, everyone is now juggling new risks.

With fluctuating capacity and customer demand, rapid capacity and resilience planning is like feeling your way through a dense fog. Let’s look at 4 overarching planning challenges – and how Predictive Digital Twins can provide fast, evidence-based clarity.

Challenge 1: Getting Fast Answers to Complex Questions

“How should we redesign the line to maintain social distancing and manage with reduced staff? Should we automate processes as part of this?”

“Will we benefit from deploying AGVs? If so, what type and in what configuration?”

“What’s our capacity to supply if we experience another extreme event outside of our control?”

These are difficult questions usually involving complex, variable and interconnected business processes. In addition, there can be hundreds, if not thousands, of “what-if?” scenarios you could probe as you try to answer them.

Predictive Digital Twins help you cut through that complexity. They give you a risk-free way to analyse manufacturing, assembly and supply chain logistics processes. Which can identify the technology, personnel, operational and procedural requirements needed to ensure your business is resilient to ride out any upcoming variable or rapidly changing operating conditions.

Importantly, you get those answers within your required decision-time. To give you an idea of speed, it used to take  Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) 20-25 working days to answer highly complex questions involving hundreds of “what-if?” scenarios being evaluated over many simulated decades of process activity.

WRPS manages a challenging nuclear waste clean-up project with major cost and safety considerations, so the stakes are as high as it gets. Now, thanks to Lanner’s cloud-based simulation solution, it takes just a couple of days from posing complex business questions, to comparing consolidated strategic answers and making mission critical, million dollar decisions.

Challenge 2: Challenging Assumptions with Evidence

More throughput means we’ll need more pallets, right? Reach a certain threshold of demand, and we’ll need to expand, no?

At face value, these are logical assumptions. And you could validate them using static or experience-led estimations. But underneath those assumptions lie a myriad of variables across complex connected production and distribution processes.

When you’re talking about making significant investments in both time and money, you need the power to challenge those assumptions. Predictive Digital Twins give you that power. That way, you’re not relying on intuition – you’re understanding true business ‘cause and effect’ implications and confidently making evidence-based decisions.

Nissan is a prime example. They use Lanner’s WITNESS Horizon Predictive Simulation software to look at both major strategic, and smaller tactical, challenges. In one ‘quick win’ use case, they instantly saved £22,000 on pallet procurement – because predictive simulation showed operating with a reduced number wouldn’t negatively affect throughput rates. In another rapid virtual piloting case, they avoided a £25,000 investment in a new station – because the Predictive Digital Twin showed they could cope with rising demand using existing equipment. At the opposite end of the problem solving spectrum, the same simulation capability is used by Nissan to ‘virtually pilot’ new facilities and processes prior to commitment.

Challenge 3: Getting Management Buy-in for Plans and Investments

Whether it’s securing funding for innovation or demonstrating the value of relaying lines – Predictive Simulation provides the  business case justification for your tactical and strategic resilience-driven process change or improvement moves.

Here’s a quick illustration. A Lanner  manufacturing customer was building a new battery production facility for electric vehicles. It was an innovative new product stream for the company, and assembly involved more than 10,000 components. The team had 3 weeks to present an investment case to the board, giving confidence they could achieve the required throughput.

In just 10 business days, a Predictive Digital Twin was deployed showing ROI on different levels and types of spend. It revealed that the current factory designs wouldn’t deliver the necessary throughput and highlighted bottlenecks they hadn’t yet considered. The team then secured board buy-in for necessary automation, supporting the business case with the insights from the simulation asset.

Challenge 4: Building Skills to Support Ongoing Resilience Planning

Having access to Predictive Digital Twins is an important step in solving many business resilience challenges. But beyond the technology, you need the right People and Process skills to derive value from such invaluable modelling. This is a fast-moving area, with  Industry 4.0 increasing data volumes and artificial intelligence/machine learning expanding analysis capabilities. Even for experienced modellers, continuing professional development is essential to understand how a Digital Twin ecosystem could, and should evolve, what data should feed in and what questions to ask.

In addition to training and mentoring, Lanner customers say one of the most valuable ways to elevate skills is by understanding best practices and problem-solving techniques from other industries. By keeping up with peers across sectors, modellers discover new techniques and use cases they can apply internally.

Increased maturity in deploying such predictive analytics solutions contributes to greater capability to manage resilience questions across the business, as analysts are then equipped to uncover and mitigate otherwise unknown issues that could create risk over the short and medium term.

What Should You Do Next?

If you’re like most businesses, you face a combination of all 4 challenges, and you’ve now had a quick taste of how Predictive Digital Twins can help overcome them. Your next step is to understand the optimum deployment approach, discover more by watching our webinar 'Strategically Planning for the Future: Developing Resilient, Agile Processes Using Predictive Digital Twins' here.

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