How Digital Twins are driving innovation and change within Manufacturing

Digital twins enable organisations to develop an overarching digital model of their production process, from initial developmental stages through to the subsequent manufacturing and distribution stages.

New technologies and innovation are single-handedly driving rapid change across the manufacturing sector. The digitisation and connectivity of manufacturing assets are making it increasingly possible for manufacturers to meet customer demands with greater flexibility, deliver faster-to-market solutions and reduce their production costs.

At the forefront of this technological revolution is predictive digital twin and simulation software company, Lanner.

The Midlands-based company specialise in providing technology and professional services, that empower manufacturers across multiple sectors to:

  • Make smarter, more informed business decisions
  • Improve their processes – all through the power of predictive analysis and process optimisation

Lanner’s use of digital twins enables organisations to develop an overarching digital model of their production process, from initial developmental stages through to the subsequent manufacturing and distribution stages.

Armed with this invaluable outlook, companies can detect potentially unforeseen issues and forecast outcomes. This ultimately allows them to develop higher quality products and provide a better overall service to their customers.

What are digital twins?

Digital twins work by mirroring specific manufacturing processes (assets and business logic) that take place in areas where it’s difficult to predict the outcomes of an entire product lifecycle. They can be created for all manner of things, ranging from business admin functions to production and supply chains.

By augmenting digital twins with predictive capabilities including simulation and AI, Lanner help their manufacturing customers to gain invaluable insight into their complex operations so they can improve, optimise and innovate ahead of their competition.

Alternative options

Current alternative methods used to predict or simulate outcomes include human-based estimations and spreadsheet calculations.

However, these rudimentary models (often just spreadsheet calculations) tend to be prone to human error and non-stochastic calculations lack the flexibility and processing speed required to adapt to changing scenarios and complex underlying logic.

Another alternative is to test novel scenarios in real life, but the risks associated with this approach, in terms of cost and time, are profound. At best, it would be impractical to venture down this route; at worse, financially destructive and, in certain circumstances, possibly dangerous.

A multi-sector model

From automotive to cosmetics, through to food & drink and aerospace, digital twins harness large quantities of data to provide insights and foresights that are providing today’s manufacturers with a genuine competitive advantage.

Regardless of industry, essential actions can be carried out in the virtual world before taking place in the physical world, meaning any issues can be quickly identified and eradicated.

Thanks to this virtual predictive world, businesses can send products down the manufacturing line with confidence that they’re going to get things right first time around.

WITNESSING Lanner’s predictive performance

Lanner is currently involved in Factory-in-a-Box (FIAB), a Smart Manufacturing Accelerator (SMA) project which is led by an expert team from fellow exhibitors, the Manufacturing Technology Centre, based in Coventry.

The pioneering initiative aims to provide a rapidly deployable manufacturing and supply chain solution using the latest  technologies.


The Factory in a Box demonstrator in action - MTC

The Factory-in-a-Box demonstrator in action – image courtesy of MTC.


FIAB demonstrates, among many other things, how digital technologies can work together to manage manufacturing and production remotely and rapidly.

In the case of this particular project, Lanner’s WITNESS process modelling and simulation software and cloud services are being used to provide the predictive Digital Twin for the control centre within FIAB.

The FIAB team use these predictive capabilities of their digital twin to plan optimised production before any parts manufacturing commenced. The use of this fully integrated Industry 4.0 solution meant:

  1. Any problems could be identified and resolved through experimentation with alternative simulated scenarios
  2. Production could also be rescheduled for optimum throughput in the event of increased demand or reduced lead times

Matthew Gibbon, senior research engineer, Business & Factory Optimisation, MTC said: “Lanner’s cloud-based WITNESS.io software meant that a lot of the integration could be handled automatically, removing the requirement to build custom functionality to support data analysis – this was a huge plus for us.

“The team at Lanner have provided us with fantastic support throughout the project; not only in getting the most out of WITNESS and its integration with other solutions thanks to its full API’s, but also by advising on the whole IT architecture within the Factory in a Box.

“Their experience and expertise in predictive simulation meant that they were able to offer up new ways of working and ultimately help us to improve the overall efficiency and delivery of the project.”


Digital Twins - Lanner’s WITNESS process modelling and simulation software and cloud services are being used to provide the predictive Digital Twin for the control centre within FIAB - image courtesy of MTC.

Lanner’s WITNESS process modelling and simulation software and cloud services are being used to provide the predictive Digital Twin for the control centre within FIAB – image courtesy of MTC.


Looking ahead

The outlook for digital twins undoubtedly involves continued collaboration with other innovative technologies.

Currently, Lanner and Ynformed, a sister company of Royal HaskoningDHV and data science experts, are implementing predictive digital twins that leverage the infusion of AI and simulation capabilities. This is an area where there’s widespread untapped potential to further push the boundaries, which will create untold benefits for customers in the future.

Meanwhile, the benefits for manufacturers of tapping into this new form of business process automation is unprecedented.

Not only will they be able to stop doing the daily ‘fire-fighting’ but spend more of their time analysing how they can improve their business as a system, whether that be making it more sustainable or reducing op-ex, carbon footprint or energy.

The possibilities and potential are endless, and the opportunities are out there to be visualised and achieved now.