Digital Twin Manufacturing Examples

By Devon Maresco
Marketing Coordinator

Digital twins have become a staple in workplace governance across many sectors, but they’re rooted firmly in manufacturing. There’s an abundance of digital twin manufacturing examples that paved the way for the rise of digital asset management in other aspects. For example, a company might use a digital twin to monitor the condition of its HVAC system—a practice rooted in factory machine monitoring and maintenance.

As facility managers get familiar with digital twins, it’s important for them to look at the roots of this technology. Not only are there lessons in manufacturing that translate across industries, there are also clues about how to maximize the effectiveness of a digital twin in the face of an ever-expanding IoT.

Here’s a brief look at digital twins in manufacturing and why they broke sector barriers to become relevant far outside the factory environment.

What is digital twin in manufacturing?

A digital twin is a digital mirror of a real-world asset. In manufacturing, it’s a virtual replica of a specific machine, informed by data. This data can come from networked sensors or manual input, and when combined, provides a clear picture of the condition and history of the machine.

More than a representation of equipment, a manufacturing digital twin is vital for the opportunities it offers. According to Digitalist, the manufacturing roots of digital twins set the stage for their exponential potential:

Digital twins represent an enormous opportunity for manufacturers, including engineering, design customization, production, and operations. Digital twins are vital to improving situational awareness and allowing CIOs to test future scenarios that can enhance asset performance and proactively anticipate maintenance faults.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Kaizen philosophy of continuous improvement, in the world of manufacturing, digital twins provide the decision-making insights factories need to run Lean. As they seek to eliminate waste, manufacturers turn to quantitative insights from digital twins. These systems are increasingly essential as part of the Kaizen philosophy.

What is an example of digital twin in manufacturing?

The best example of a digital twin in manufacturing is a piece of equipment that’s outfitted with sensors. For the sake of example, let’s say it’s a machine with an electric motor and a driveshaft, outfitted with a vibration sensor, temperature sensor, and rpm meter. These devices all feed real-time data into a digital twin of the machine. There are several ways this digital twin becomes useful.

  • Real-time observation. A trigger programmed into the digital twin alerts maintenance techs if the vibration level, temperature, or rpms exceed a specific threshold. This incites real-time action to prevent long-term damage.
  • Historical data. The motor suddenly fails. During a root cause analysis, the maintenance tech reviews digital twin data and sees that rpms spiked several times prior to the failure, and the temperature rose dramatically moments before failure.
  • Preventive maintenance. Maintenance techs integrate the digital twin data with a CMMS platform. The CMMS schedules routine service based on average component lifespans and manufacturer-recommended service schedules.

These are just simple, practical examples of digital twins in manufacturing. Modern factories have much broader, more complex integrations that range from better machine maintenance practices to value stream monitoring.

Examples of digital twin in manufacturing

The more sensors and other data inputs there are to feed a digital twin, the more accessible insights become. In the factory environment, they lead to a bevy of lean manufacturing advantages:

  • Reduced waste. More insight into machine operation helps to create initiatives that reduce total machine waste, as well as peripheral waste in the value stream.
  • Improved throughput. The ability to keep a machine up and running at peak efficiency improves the total throughput of a line.
  • Better uptime. Stronger insight into equipment function and potential catalysts for failure allow maintenance teams to subvert them for more reliable uptime.
  • Equipment longevity. Better-maintained equipment lasts longer and performs more reliably, lowering the total cost of ownership.
  • Preventive maintenance. Instead of reactive maintenance, manufacturers can move toward preventive approaches that improve predictability.
  • Better asset ROI. Fewer problems and longer lifespan establish a better ROI for equipment as it continues to contribute to operational excellence.

The true purpose of manufacturing digital twins is to realize Lean philosophies. That means less waste, better equipment availability, proactive action, and better efficiency across the value stream.

Digital twins manage manufacturing’s complex environment

Step into any modern factory and it’s easy to see how digital twins got their start. There are so many intelligent systems running continuously, relaying data about everything from machine condition to throughput. All this data needs to go somewhere. Digital twins arose out of necessity and quickly became the foundation for smart factory operations.

Manufacturing is the original case study for digital twins, and it paved the way for broader application across other sectors. In the same way factories became smarter and generated more data, so too have office buildings. And, with the prospect of smart cities rising each year, it’s a safe bet that digital twins will continue to gain traction. As they do, professionals can look to manufacturing to see just how powerful these systems are.

Keep reading: Digital Twins: A Revolution in Workplace Management


Warehouse Space Planning

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategist

It’s easy to think about a warehouse as one big space. Sure, you’ve got aisles and racks to compartmentalize inventory—but it’s all housed in one big building, right? It’s time to eschew old ideas about what a warehouse is and instead, reimagine the concept for the modern era. That starts with warehouse space planning. One peek inside of an Amazon distribution center or any other major retailer’s warehouse and it’s plain to see: warehouses are complex spaces with increasingly complex systems that govern them.

Whether it’s an e-commerce distribution center or a factory parts and materials warehouse, these spaces need special oversight. It’s not just about optimizing square footage, either. It’s about maintaining safe, efficient, organized warehouse operations, as part of a more succinct value stream.

Modern warehouses are complex

The complexities of modern warehouses have less to do with how they’re built and more to do with how they’re managed. Whether it’s pick-and-pack or ship-and-store, navigability and organization are the fundamental pillars of warehouse operations. Workers need to know exactly where they’re going and understand the best route to get there. This depends almost entirely on warehouse space planning.

Consider the process of retrieving a single product. Green Widgets live in Aisle 12, Bay 22, on the sixth shelf. Right away, workers need to understand the product’s location and its context within the warehouse, which means having some form of wayfinding present. Moreover, it’s vital to factor in the act of retrieval. For example, if Green Widgets weigh 150 pounds and are on the sixth shelf up, there needs to be enough room to operate a forklift in that space. Finally, there needs to be significance to why a product gets stocked in one location vs. another. Maybe Green Widgets are a consumer appliance, and Bay 22 is where consumer appliances live?

There’s a myriad of variables that go into orchestrating warehouse layout. It’s not enough to consider the products themselves. Space planners also need to consider stocking and retrieval, as well as maneuverability and navigability. In this way, static warehouse space needs to support dynamic operations.

How is warehouse utilization calculated?

With careful space planning comes the need to understand if your warehouse is efficient. That means taking a closer look at warehouse space utilization. Do you have space for everything you need to stock? More important, do you have the space necessary to house everything within the context of the organizational system you’ve developed? These are very basic questions, answered by observing key metrics of warehouse utilization.

  • First, is total warehouse size, represented in available cubic feet. Remember, warehouses utilize vertical and horizontal space, so total cubic feet matter more than square footage.
  • Next, calculate inventory cube size. Again, this is a simple equation that involves adding up the volume of warehouse product and dividing by available cubic foot space.
  • Finally, establish acceptable margins of utilization. Zero percent utilization is an empty warehouse; 100% utilization fills every cubic foot, which is impossible.

Industry metrics put average utilization rates for warehouses at between 22% and 27%, depending on the nature of operations. Below 22% utilization indicates you’re not using space efficiently; above 27% presents as overcrowding and potential stocking issues.

Tips to optimize warehouse space

Operational efficiency comes from warehouse space optimization. There are many different levers warehouse managers can pull to optimize floor plans, racking arrangements, and product layout.

  • Remember to utilize vertical space. Start with an efficient floor plan that utilizes square footage, then build up to capitalize on unused, unencumbered vertical cubic feet.
  • Create architecture that supports safer, more efficient maneuverability. Examples include mezzanines and other materials handling systems.
  • Implement a wayfinding system that’s intuitive and navigable, with proper signage and directional instructions. Make sure to post safety signage in addition.
  • Create a grid system to apportion warehouse equipment such as ladders, forklifts, skyjacks, and other essential equipment, to ensure it’s always accessible.
  • Centralize operations to bring conveyors and sorting equipment to the middle of inventorying systems. This is equally important for shipping, receiving, and sorting.
  • Establish material flow routes to prevent backups and space conflicts. This will help promote seamless movement in dynamic areas.

It’s critical to remember that warehouses feature static layouts within the context of a dynamic space. And, unlike offices or other commercial space, vertical height is usable space. To optimize warehouse space is to make it easily navigable on a two-dimensional plane, while maximizing the capabilities of three-dimensional space.

Lean into space planning software

Even within the context of smart environments, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking about warehouses as one big space. Warehouse managers can break this habit by relying on space planning software, to help them delineate space into zones. Segmenting the warehouse and treating different zones as unique starts by identifying and managing them as separate entities. Space planning software provides a top-down view that does exactly that.

To understand warehouse space in the context of zones and needs is to run a more efficient environment. Whether it’s pick and pack operations or for inventorying purposes, a well-orchestrated warehouse promotes a more efficient value stream and better bottom-line performance.

Keep reading: Do You Need Enterprise Facility Management Software?


Five Important Hospital Facility Reporting Metrics

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategist

Modern hospitals are a living ecosystem of data exchange. From medical devices to manual input, real-time data is crucial to deliver the best level of patient care. It’s also important for coordinating facilities, to enable that care. Hospital FMs work behind the scenes to ensure facilities support the caregivers and patients relying on them. They’re looking at a bevy of hospital facility reporting metrics to make sure they’re hitting targets.

With so much data streaming around hospitals, it’s important for facility managers to pare down the most vital metrics and focus on those. This isn’t to say that all data doesn’t play a role in better facilities management—some metrics are just more timely, succinct, and insightful than others. Here’s a look at five of them, what they mean, and how to learn from them.

1. Bed availability and utilization

A hospital has a finite capacity for treatment, usually measured in beds. Hospital facilities reporting at the local, state, and federal levels focus on available beds as a way to measure their real-time capacity for caregiving. Typically, it’s a one-to-one ratio, one bed to one patient. This makes it the base measurement for hospital space utilization.

Knowing how many available beds a hospital currently has provides a baseline for establishing everything from admittance procedure to resource allocation. This was especially evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, when hospitals reached critical mass. It’s vital for facility managers to establish this metric and use it to inform space-related decisions in real-time.

2. Floor staffing and float

Not everyone comes to the hospital for the same thing, which makes staffing levels important to consider. How many nurses are in first-floor urgent care vs. third floor oncology? Where are the ultrasound machines within the context of facilities? What’s the bed utilization rate on floor five vs. floor six, and what resources are in proximity?

How you staff floors and allocate equipment depends on the real-time demands of facilities. If your nurse-to-patient ratio is 1:5 in one area and 3:5 in another, you need to know so you can adjust. The same goes for equipment allocation. If something is idle on one floor and in demand on another, it’s critical to adjust. This is often why hospitals operate a float pool. Good facilities management helps staff utilize that float better.

3. Asset uptime and utilization

Hospital facility reporting software with features to track assets can make a huge difference for hospitals. Why has echocardiogram machine 01 performed three times more scans than any other unit in the fleet? When is the CAT scan machine due for calibration? What’s the average time for each x-ray appointment? These asset-related questions and countless others need data-backed answers. Tracking asset uptime and utilization metrics provides necessary insight.

These metrics are important not only from a cost standpoint, but from an operational one, as well. When you know where assets are, how they’re used, and what condition they’re in, it’s easy to adopt a preventive and proactive maintenance approach, instead of a reactive one.

4. Mean time to repair

Better known in the world of manufacturing, mean time to repair (MTTR) is really an asset efficiency metric. If you’re using CMMS reporting software for hospitals, it’s an easy metric to find and one that’s worth looking into regularly. Hospitals can’t afford downtime for critical equipment. Monitoring MTTR helps facilitate a better maintenance approach.

When you consider the cost and importance of imaging machines, radiography equipment, laboratory equipment, and countless other devices, MTTR becomes a very important metric. How quickly you’re able to resolve problems and address the maintenance needs of equipment has a direct impact on everything from patient care to patient experience.

5. Utilization efficiency

Utilization efficiency metrics apply to every asset, resource, room, and person within the hospital environment. Where are you operating at critical capacity on a consistent basis? What resources go underutilized? How often are there conflicts over spaces and equipment? Examine utilization efficiency metrics to spot where adjustments could improve the efficiency of hospital operations. Then, build in new best practices, processes, and governance philosophies to bring balance to facilities.

All metrics matter in a hospital environment

Why these five metrics over others? Because they represent some of the simplest, most valuable data about hospital facilities. Without bed availability and room utilization stats, you can’t know whether you’re treating patients efficiently. Without access to staffing and float data, it’s difficult to manage medical personnel. Asset metrics and MTTR cover the many important pieces of equipment that make the hospital environment go round. Above all, utilization efficiency helps you make sure you’re helping people in whatever way they need it.

Hospital FMs need to track a broad scope of facilities data. At the core are these five metrics, and they have the power to drive significant, positive improvements in the way hospitals operate.

Keep reading: Hospital Facility Management Software and the Patient Experience


Nine Tips for Better Healthcare Space Management

By Devon Maresco
Marketing Coordinator

Healthcare establishments have some of the most stringent and specific space demands of any commercial facilities. Between patients, staff, visitors, assets, and the facilities themselves, it’s no surprise that healthcare space management is one of the most complex facilities management modalities. There are also the many verticals to consider: everything from dentistry and optometry to critical care and oncology facilities. Facilities Managers have their work cut out for them.

While many conventional best practices can help optimize healthcare facilities, best practices aren’t always enough. These complex environments need more. Effective space management for the healthcare industry means going the extra mile to consider not just the needs of space, but also its context within the continuum of care. To that end, here’s a look at nine hospital space management tips to optimize space accessibility, utilization and effectiveness.

  1. Separate space and function. Identify static vs. dynamic spaces in the facility and coordinate around these parameters. You can use an urgent care room as a triage point in an emergency situation. You can’t repurpose the MRI room for anything other than imaging. Define and understand these parameters to get a clearer picture of space.
  2. Inpatient vs. outpatient. In the same manner as identifying static vs. dynamic space in facilities, distinguish between inpatient and outpatient. These two designations both have an impact on space utilization. They allow you to plan for quick, flexible space vs. extended occupation and more rigid governance. Both play vital roles in governing facilities, but require a different mindset to optimize utilization.
  3. Adopt agility. Ever wonder why general equipment is on casters? Mobility is vital. Healthcare happens in real-time, which means adopting agility and contingencies as demands change. FMs need multiple readymade plans for different segments of facilities, as part of scenario planning.
  4. Correlate processes. There’s not always time for a level-set when situations change. Strong processes for facility utilization are key in controlling how, when, and what space looks like at any given moment. FMs need to create processes with checks and balances that govern how space adapts to need.
  5. Standardize, but stay flexible. A strong baseline will pave the way for better flexibility in healthcare environments. Symposium Room B might be a vaccination clinic today and a PT environment on Thursday, but its core purpose is to host lectures. Establishing the baseline enables adaptability and extrapolates the opportunities of a given space.
  6. Consider visitors. Between security checkpoints and restricted access areas, larger healthcare facilities can feel like a maze to visitors and even float nurses who’ve worked there for years. Wayfinding is paramount. Make clear labeling and wayfinding installations part of the core premise of inclusive facilities management.
  7. Think about cost centers. In large healthcare facilities like hospitals, facility managers need to consider the different lines of business and how they coexist within a shared space. Stack planning is a great way to visualize specific cost centers and their prevalence within a floor plan. For example, if radiology takes up 22% of available space and is a static occupant within facilities—but only generates 12% revenue as a value-add service—does it make sense to keep it? High-level decision-making like this is imperative to keep facilities accessible and profitable.
  8. Make minor improvements. Small facility improvements go a long way in improving patient experience. Automated door mechanisms. Motion sensitive lights. Motorized curtains. These small amenities enhance the appeal of facilities and improve interaction with them. They have the power to contribute to a better patient experience, or even assist in delivering a higher standard of care.
  9. Emphasize CMMS. There’s a wealth of high-value equipment in healthcare facilities. It’s imperative that equipment remains functional and accessible, which means having a system to prioritize repairs and maintenance. FMs need to coordinate with on-site and vendor maintenance to maximize equipment uptime. A CMMS system is the best way to coordinate this, and to manage assets from a cost standpoint.

What is healthcare space management within the context of a care environment? For doctors, nurses and specialists, it’s the ability to access and utilize critical resources. For patients, it’s comfort and support as they navigate recovery. For visitors and family, it’s convenience and navigability in an unfamiliar place. Great space management enables all of this, and more.

Facility managers operating within the healthcare environment should heed the tips above as they assess facilities. Alongside FM best practices, they provide the mindset needed to think about space from every perspective, and make sure it meets all expectations.

Keep reading: Hospital Facility Management Software and the Patient Experience


Healthcare Facilities Management Improves Patient Experience

By Devon Maresco
Marketing Coordinator

Hospitals and healthcare facilities are scary, unfamiliar places—or at least, that’s the way we see them when we’re admitted. It’s one of the biggest challenges in the healthcare industry to make a hospital or clinic seem like a warm, welcoming, relaxing place. It’s tough, but not impossible. An above-and-beyond approach to healthcare facilities management has a powerful impact on patient experience—and even recovery prospects.

The concept behind healthcare facility management isn’t much different from any other commercial space management. The building and everything in it need to support the actions and activities of the people using them. With an experiential focus, there’s opportunity to transform the hospital environment from a confusing, daunting place, to an environment conducive to comfort.

What is healthcare facility management?

Healthcare facilities management focuses on coordinating facilities, assets, and people to concentrate on delivering the highest standard of patient care. In the healthcare setting, there are also layers of compliance, security, and emergency planning involved. It all adds up to a functioning healthcare environment that’s enabling to medical professionals and comfortable for the people they’re treating.

Healthcare facility management needs to be agile, dynamic, and careful. These facilities move very quickly—whether it’s a one-hour outpatient appointment or a marathon inpatient procedure. That means coordinating space, people, assets, and resources with steadfast precision, to avoid delays that could be critical to a person’s health. There’s a lot of pressure—but at the same time, healthcare facilities are some of the best-run in the world.

What is the function of healthcare facilities management?

Whether it’s a hospital with 1,000 beds or a small urgent care clinic with five rooms, the core premise of healthcare facilities management is the same: to empower the highest standards of care. Whether they need a diagnosis or are in for a complex surgery, healthcare professionals need complete support from facilities to treat patients.

The function of facilities management is to enable caregiving in all forms, at the highest level. Other functions of healthcare facilities management include:

  • Facilitate a safe environment with minimal cross-exposure
  • Maintain patient privacy, comfort, and accessibility during their stay
  • Protect people and property, including records, controlled substances, and equipment
  • Simplify navigation for professionals, patients, and visitors
  • Coordinate the use of shared equipment and resources, to ensure timely care
  • Control costs associated with complex business lines

All of these distill down into an equally important benefit alongside the enablement of care: patient experience.

Factors that affect patient experience

Patient experience in the hospital environment hinges on so many factors. And while these factors vary from facility to facility, situation to situation, they’re all rooted in facilities management. Some common contributors from a facility standpoint include:

  • Time to wait, including for appointments, diagnoses, testing, and procedures
  • Comfort in facilities, including for inpatient stays or while navigating
  • Atmosphere, such as access to natural light, fresh air, and privacy
  • Transparency, or the ability to understand where they are and what’s happening

Numerous other factors contribute to patient experience, including their interactions with staff and their prognosis. Even these variables have roots in facilities. For example, well-coordinated floors can reduce the runaround for nurses, who in-turn have more time to spend with patients and who can be more personable since they’re not rushed.

The smoother the patient’s transition through healthcare facilities, the better the experience. The same goes for doctors, nurses, and specialists. When facilities aren’t a hindrance, they become an enabler of great patient care and a superior patient experience.

Tenants of good healthcare facility management

Good healthcare facility management comes down to two main factors: agility and control. You can’t have one without the other in a healthcare setting.

Say, for example, there’s a surgery scheduled at 2pm but a triage case comes in at 1:45pm. This situation doesn’t have time to develop—there’s a life on the line. Good facility management has contingencies to facilitate this shift from scheduled to emergent, and to do it quickly. Moreover, it needs to happen in a way that doesn’t compromise the health, wellbeing, privacy, safety, or integrity of either party.

This example and countless other real-world, everyday situations prove the need for agility and control as the two tandem variables governing healthcare facilities. Even in non-emergent situations—such as appointment clinics—a practice’s ability to deliver the highest caliber of patient care (and remain profitable doing it), stems from agility and control.

The powerful impact of facility management

A curious thing happens in well-managed healthcare facilities: people get better, quicker. Several studies show a strong correlation between a comfortable, stress-reduced physical environment and the healing prospects of patients. One study from 2012 titled, A Healing Environment, notes the myriad of ways in which well-orchestrated facility management positively impacts patients—from indoor air quality, to room orientation, to amenity comforts, and a dozen other factors.

For patients, their families, and the healthcare staff tending them, facilities management is imperative. It improves the patient experience, which folds into the primary objective of modern facilities: to heal with compassion. Whether it’s supporting healthcare staff as they administer care or enhancing the quality of life for those recovering, facility management is an imperative focus in the modern age of healthcare administration.

Keep reading: 9 Tips for Better Healthcare Space Management