Industrial EquipmentJune 23, 2023

The new way to sell production lines

Industrial manufacturers need flexible production lines to keep up with the rise of mass customization. For line builders to demonstrate they have exactly what it takes to meet these production requirements, they need to sell lines in new ways. Virtual twin-based 3D quotations promise to transform the sales experience for the better.
Avatar Lening Zhang

Demand for customized products is on the up and manufacturers must adapt their production processes to keep pace. Everyone across the automotive, consumer packaged goods and retail industries face similar challenges: their product portfolios continue to expand, and they need the flexibility to accommodate smaller, individualized manufacturing orders in a cost-effective manner. It’s putting pressure on downstream players in the value chain to do things differently. For line builders it’s about transforming the way they quote, sell and build production lines.

From 2D to 3D to virtual twins

Leading line builders have already begun to modernize their sales experience – moving from 2D blueprints to 3D models of production lines in their commercial proposals that show realistic depictions of the lines within a plant setting. To make their offer more attractive, some also create computer-generated animations so that potential customers can see how the line will function. Virtual twin-based 3D quotations go a step further.

The evolving production line sales experience:

  • From 2D to partial 3D model of line
  • To partial 3D model of line with video animation
  • To a true virtual twin of the production line.

A virtual twin is a digital replica that matches the physical asset in every respect. Within this realistic 3D virtual environment, line builders can define and validate shop floor layouts at the pre-sales stage and share potential designs with customers. Backed by operational data, they can simulate different virtual line flows and compare and evaluate performance to determine ideal configurations. Compared to a 2D-based approach, this virtual process might seem cumbersome in the beginning, but it often provides a more accurate and effective way of developing customized production lines – impressing customers and, ultimately, delivering significant business value.

Key benefits of virtual twin-based 3D quotations

As the pressure intensifies for line builders to innovate, virtual twin capabilities provide the opportunity for them to develop highly flexible and optimized production lines packaged up within a digitalized end-to-end solution. This presents numerous benefits including the ability to:  

  • Improve sales hit ratios: Until now, it’s been difficult – and cost prohibitive – to capture all design and performance details of an entire production line within a basic sales proposal. A virtual twin quotation changes that.

Backed by data-driven accuracy, line builders can show precisely how production line components will fit within a specific plant and function right from the quotation stage. Customers can easily customize, test and finalize their production line ahead of purchase, all within a realistic and tangible 3D digital environment. This highly accurate and immersive sales experience boosts customer confidence and secures more business.

  • Save time and money: The virtual twin supports line builders to create a catalog of machinery, equipment and production line templates. From here, they can drag and drop equipment into the virtual production line and speed up the quotation and initial design stages. By putting in this detailed work upfront, line builderscan also expect to accelerate the rest of the development cycle, including detailed design, virtual acceptance, installation and operational maintenance as most of the design and functional parameters have already been captured.

Line builders are also better positioned to accommodate their customers’ individual needs as they can create and test highly flexible and customized production lines in the virtual world without the need to build expensive physical prototypes.

  • Support next-generation business models: The industrial equipment industry will inevitably shift to outcome-based business models such as equipment-as-a-service (EaaS). Through EaaS, manufacturers will move beyond selling pure assets (equipment) and instead deliver them as part of a bundle covering everything from ongoing maintenance and modernization to operational monitoring and optimization.

Virtual twin-based 3D quotations support this transformation by connecting the entire production line lifecycle from the pre-sales stage. Once a deal is closed, the initial 3D proposal will continue to evolve, forming the basis for detailed design, engineering, manufacturing, commissioning and, eventually, aftersales service.

Building virtual twins on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform

The 3DEXPERIENCE platform delivers all the capabilities line builders need to create fully functional virtual twins of their customers’ production lines. By achieving a seamless digital thread from the quotation stage all the way through to final delivery and beyond, they can enhance the sales experience, accelerate development cycles and improve operational performance.

Living within the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, the virtual twin serves as the foundation for managing the production line throughout its entire lifecycle. It’s also the collaboration environment for all stakeholders to communicate with each other, provide their input at the right moments and keep track of all changes.

Here’s how two of our customers already use the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to test and optimize production line setups in the virtual world:

  • Robot at Work delivers innovative, turnkey production line solutions. Today, with the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, the Italian company has the capabilities to define each production line solution at the greatest level of detail and determine which robots are best suited for which tasks. At the same, its customers avoid the costs, delays and mistakes that come from a traditional approach of physically installing a new line and trying to debug and optimize it on the shop floor.

“Because we have completely changed our way of making offers to customers, we now stand out from other standard integrators on the market,” said Lorenzo Codini, administrator at Robot at Work. “Our customers can now see a complete simulation of their production line upfront before they commit to the full investment of setting it up physically.”

  • CenterLine (Windsor) Limited in Canada specializes in advanced production systems and technologies. It uses the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to virtually simulate products, processes and factory operations. This allows it to visualize and verify robot movements to optimize use of shop floor space, material flow and ergonomic safety.

Through simulation, the company has reduced tooling-related issues and rework by up to 90% and saved programming time on the floor by as much as 75%. Its customers are more satisfied too.

Like most digital transformations, the move to virtual twin-based 3D quotations is a journey. Line builders can start small by testing out the technology in complex projects where twinning presents real business value and can be a basis for learning and growth.

However, this isn’t a question of if this will happen or not; it’s more a case of when. Virtual twin capabilities will inevitably transform entire industry experiences and 3D quotations will play a fundamental role in the transition.

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