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Siemens suggests using digital twins to keep factories safe

05 June, 2020

By equipping factory workers with personal transponders, Siemens has created a way for companies to model how their employees interact with each other, and with production lines and plant designs. The technology, based on proven hardware and software, will allow organisations to create digital twins that simulate worker safety, and can optimise workspace layouts and validate safety and efficiency measures.

The Simatic Real Time Locating Systems (RTLS) tool measures distances between workers continuously, provides them with real-time visual feedback on their spacing from others, and creates a log of their movements and interactions over time. It facilitates safe distancing continuously, and provides other benefits, according to Siemens, which says that that the system could be implemented in a plant in a week or two.

Combining RTLS with a digital twin of a manufacturing environment will allow companies to model and simulate how their employees are interacting with equipment and with each other. This will help to optimise safety and productivity in the short term, and validate redesigns of entire operations before more costly physical changes are made.

To implement RTLS, transponders are embedded in badges worn as personal protective equipment by all employees. Receivers located throughout an operation can then track and record their movements continuously. When two employees are in a potentially risky situation – being less than 2m apart, for example – their badges will display a warning.

Data collected over time can be analysed to identify “hot spots” where risky situations occur frequently. Using the collected data, new manufacturing layouts or workflows can be simulated until one is found to deliver the desired outcomes – and can then be implemented.

Siemens is suggesting using a combination of personal transponders and digital twin software to help keep factories safe
Image: Business Wire

Manufacturers will be able to add traceability through on-premise systems or apps such as Siemens’ Trusted Traceability Application on its MindSphere cloud platform, which will help to perform rapid contact analysis in the event of workplace illness. All movements and contacts with affected employees can be visualised, allowing rapid notification to those who have come into close contact, as well as selective (rather than site-wide) deep-cleaning of physical environments.

“We are helping our customers create a safe work environment, which is extremely important as they look to produce efficiently and reliably under unprecedented circumstances,” says Tony Hemmelgarn, president and CEO of Siemens Digital Industries Software. “The combination of real-time distancing management and digital simulations will help companies maintain safe work environments today and make educated decisions about ongoing and long-term optimisation.”

“Siemens is providing a powerful, rapidly deployable solution that helps manufacturers take control of their operations and achieve better safety, productivity and cost outcomes today and in the post-Covid era,” adds Raj Batra, president of Digital Industries for Siemens in the US. “Our solution consists of proven technologies that can begin delivering results for most manufacturers in one to two weeks.”

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