Digital Twins lead to better working conditions
Workplace stress is a growing problem at companies in all industries, and it is often related to unhealthy working conditions. Research within the automation industry shows that implementing new work practices involving Digital Twins will lead to better working conditions and increased job satisfaction among the employees.
It’s already well established that the use of Digital Twins in the automation industry gives rise to several measurable benefits. For instance, a significant amount of time and costs can be saved in the ramp-up phase, when you deliver a system with higher control software quality due to virtual commissioning with Digital Twins*.
But an ethnographic field study has found some surprising side effects from using Digital Twins. Effects that are perhaps less economically measurable but still crucial for any well-functioning workplace.
The research was conducted by The Alexandra Institute’s New Ways of Working Lab with the objective of identifying challenges and benefits experienced in the automation industry when working with Digital Twin modeling**.
Using qualitative research methods, The Alexandra Institute carried out a broad ethnographic field study at the PLC programming department of a Danish supplier of industrial automation solutions. The staff used Xcelgo’s software platform Experior for Digital Twin modeling and virtual commissioning.
First and foremost, the research results confirmed benefits such as better-quality solutions and reduced time and costs, but The Alexandra Institute also identified several positive side effects of working with Digital Twins and virtual commissioning.
More family time, better cooperation and less stress
For instance, employees experience an improvement of their working conditions. This is partly due to the staff spending less time away from home because of the shorter ramp-up time on-site – an important advantage for employees with families.
Another factor contributing to the improved working conditions is the increased possibilities for teamwork and knowledge sharing derived from working with Digital Twins.
If a supplier of industrial automation solutions implements Digital Twins and virtual commissioning, their development processes will undoubtedly change. The commissioning phase is significantly shortened, and the employees will spend more of their development time in the office.
The interviewed employees experienced that they are thus more likely to ask colleagues for advice and cooperate. This is a huge help, as one employee puts it:
My colleagues have helped me when I have been stuck. And then I can always ask if I can see that they have made something cool. People may have a lot of knowledge, but if you cannot pass it on, it is not worth a lot
The shift in development process also promotes both earlier and healthier interdisciplinary cooperation between the software and hardware people. This consequently ensures better alignment between the software and the hardware.
Another advantage of Digital Twin work practices is that it makes work much less stressful. The employees are simply better prepared, when the software is thoroughly tested virtually before they go on-site, and they are thus less worried and stressed. “There is a completely different confidence,” as one employee puts it.
Happy and proud employees
This confidence boost relates to another surprising side effect identified by The Alexandra Institute. The employees generally find more satisfaction and pride in their job. They now have a firm testing base, so they can go on-site with a finished solution that they are proud of. This removes stress and promotes a sense of being ahead of things. As another employee puts it:
The best thing is that you can feel it in the everyday work. People think: Let’s get out there and get this facility started. Earlier, people often had stomach aches the week before they were going. And there was a great pressure to finish on time. The ripple effect of this confidence, you cannot measure it
* Reinhart, G. & Wünsch, G. (2007). Economic application of virtual commissioning to mechatronic. Production Engineering – Research and Development, 1(4), 371–379.
** Fangel, A. B. (2015). Virtual Commissioning: New ways of working within automation. Aarhus N: The Alexandra Institute.