1. Compass magazine
  2. Industry

Waves of opportunity

To achieve environmental, business and social sustainability, key players in the extended maritime value chain are transitioning into a technology-equipped, industry-wide coalition that embraces new business models, digital governance and data-driven operations.

To achieve environmental, business and social sustainability, key players in the extended maritime value chain are transitioning into a technology-equipped, industry-wide coalition that embraces new business models, digital governance and data-driven operations.

Shipping is crucial to world commerce, and it’s under severe pressure from regulators to become environmentally sustainable. But the industry is so varied, with many competing interests, that agreeing on a strategy for cutting the industry’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is a challenge – especially when the Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development projects the industry’s 2.6% of total GHG emissions could more than triple by 2050 as the maritime trade volume also triples.

Harsh penalties – introduced by countries around the world and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the specialized United Nations agency that regulates shipping – aimed at curbing pollution have increased the number of maritime companies pursuing data-driven business models, says Christopher Pålsson, head of consulting and managing director of Maritime Insight at Lloyd's List Consulting, part of the 300-year-old Lloyd’s List shipping intelligence service.

Pålsson says that industry-wide integration, where ships and landside operations are “data irrigated” and intimately connected, is the key to unlocking the social, environmental, and business benefits of carbon reduction. Integration helps by creating conditions where companies form coalitions to innovate, combining their knowledge, experience, and data to create scenarios via a cloud-hosted enterprise platform, and then testing them virtually to understand impacts and identify the best options.

“Virtualization is attractive for maritime companies of all sizes that need to demonstrate green credentials and future-proof capital investments,” Pålsson said. “It allows them to accurately visualize their operations and thereby make environmental, business and operational decisions based on the precise data that enables them to fully understand impacts of circumstances and choices within and beyond the enterprise.”

A breath of fresh air

Reducing CO2 and GHG emissions is a priority for every facet of the maritime industry. Exhaust emissions from ships contribute to climate change and include toxic fumes containing very fine particulates that trigger health problems including asthma, heart disease and cancer.

“Globally, shipping is responsible for about 16% of premature deaths due to emissions from transportation,” said Dan Rutherford, marine and aviation program director, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). In the UK alone, ICCT estimates that shipping emissions contribute to more than 3,000 deaths each year. The ICCT reports that the UK ranked fourth for the total number of people dying prematurely due to shipping fumes, exceeded only by China, Japan and India.

Pålsson, who has worked in the industry for more than 30 years, said virtual twin experiences can help operators see where they are wasting fuel, which lowers profits and causes avoidable pollution. Modeling fuel consumption with virtual twin experiences, he says, can reduce fuel demand by 5% to 10% through evaluating its usage and running alternative “what if” scenarios before making real-world changes. This process simultaneously reduces emissions and cuts operating costs.

Efficiency through virtualization

Technology that transparently connects every part of the extended enterprise helps companies compete sustainably using their core strengths. For example, a ship operator might use a virtual twin to optimize ship operations for maximum productivity and CO2 reduction.

“Virtualization is attractive for maritime companies of all sizes that need to demonstrate green credentials and future-proof capital investments.”

Christopher Pålsson, head of consulting and managing director of Maritime Insight, Lloyd's List Consulting

“Efficiencies such as weather routing and speed adjustments can, when they are fully virtualized, be improved to increase profitability of voyages and better understand and react to global market trends,” Pålsson said. He cites the example of a cargo ship, which can be quickly re-routed based on virtualizations that indicate opportunities to take advantage of both weather and market conditions to save fuel, reach ports faster and, thereby, operate more profitably.

The fragmented nature of the maritime industry means that achieving virtualization is not always plain sailing.

“Each of its parts from shipyards, ports and logistics, to ship owners, operators and financiers is vastly different, with its own issues, priorities and strategies,” Pålsson said. “Small fleet owners, who form the majority of the industry, have very different aims and resources than industry giants, such as container or cruise ship owners. It’s an uneven playing field in which the development and enforcement of universally ratified standards is hard.”

Collective intelligence

Having worked across railways, ports and the maritime sector, Vincent Balandras, vice president and partner at global consulting, technology services, design and digital transformation company Capgemini Invent, understands the industry’s need for rapid delivery of innovative, practical new business models.

“The global and very dispersed nature of the maritime industry has led to vast differences in the uptake of digital technologies,” Balandras said. “Many operators have no digitalization plans at all and think that change is not necessary.”

However, some operators and port authorities, notably Marseilles, Rotterdam, Singapore, and three major ports on France’s River Seine – Le Havre, Rouen and Paris, which collectively operate under the name Haropa Port – combine and leverage cloud-hosted data to achieve greater efficiencies. By integrating their enterprise data on unified digital platforms, each port operator achieves commercial and environmental capabilities through enhanced insight, understanding and control over its multimodal operations.

Numerous computer applications for land and seaborne operations offer point solutions that cover many aspects of the maritime industry – but the proliferation of these systems actually works against the goal of creating a well-coordinated industry, Balandras says.

“To achieve progress, organizations need to share data on a single, universally accessible digital platform,” Balandras said. “When this happens, the availability of relevant data from multiple sources will produce collective intelligence that helps the maritime ecosystem innovate and thereby perform better.”

“To achieve progress, organizations need to share data on a single, universally accessible digital platform.”

Vincent Balandras, vice president and partner, Capgemini Invent

In fact, Balandras says that virtual twin experiences are “absolutely key to advancing physical asset design and operations.”

Bridging the gap between real- and virtual-world operations, virtual twin experiences are real-time virtual representations of a product, platform or ecosystem that can be used to model, visualize, predict and provide feedback on properties and performance. Real-time data is shared via virtual twin experiences to enable collaborations among multiple stakeholders to better understand, fully analyze, monitor and master challenges.

Money talks

Companies that succeed in capturing and acting on data that improves the sustainability of their operations gain another important advantage – the ability to attract sustainability-driven investment capital.

For example, the Poseidon Principles Association, the governing body of the Poseidon Principles framework, helps financial institutions align their ship finance portfolios with responsible environmental behavior, using the power of their investments as an incentive for the industry to decarbonize.

“The operational efficiencies and environmental and associated reputational benefits that virtualization delivers certainly make it easier for low-carbon ventures to attract investment from Poseidon Principles’ existing and potential signatories,” Pålsson said. “Unifying data and viewing the big strategic picture, along with the minute details of ship design or contracts, pays dividends. Financial and environmental costs can be very accurately measured and monitored, and then improved and optimized. This is very appealing to investors because, when digital visualization is deployed, operational and system efficiencies can be introduced at every stage and their carbon benefits assessed and demonstrated in advance of investment.”

Interconnected industries

The advantages of virtualization don’t stop at the dock. Shippers, railway operators and landside logistics companies are now collaborating and sharing data to facilitate environmental and commercial benefits. These industries, which have operated in silos for centuries, are now connecting to new and existing services via shared digital platforms, Balandras said.

“Maritime and land-based industry actors can easily join a data-sharing platform and digitally evolve at their own pace,” Balandras said. Once these cross-industry connections are established, commercial advantages – which include process, asset and route optimization, port entry procedures and autonomous land and sea-based operations – benefit from fuel and time savings, coupled with reductions in CO2 intensity and other polluting emissions.

“Once the connections are in place via a shared platform, maritime has no limits in what can be achieved using 5G and the Internet of Things, together with smart equipment and systems that provide data on ports, ships, buoys, containers and infrastructure,” Balandras said. “Connecting with railways and onshore logistics data allows entire supply chains to be better understood, operated, maintained and optimized for better commercial and environmental outcomes.”

Pålsson agrees.

“Simplifying asset and operational complexity through technology provides maritime industry players with informed choices and the flexibility to benefit themselves, our environment and the whole of society’s sustainable development,” he said.

  1. Compass magazine
  2. Business

Achieving zero-emission mining

As worldwide efforts to limit climate change accelerate, progress on sustainability is becoming an increasingly important valuable competitive differentiator for mining companies. As a result, companies across the mining value chain are collaborating to speed up innovation and create solutions that benefit their businesses and the planet.

As worldwide efforts to limit climate change accelerate, progress on sustainability is becoming an increasingly important valuable competitive differentiator for mining companies. As a result, companies across the mining value chain are collaborating to speed up innovation and create solutions that benefit their businesses and the planet.

Triggered by intense scrutiny from investors, customers and supply chain partners, the mining industry is stepping up to the sustainability challenge. By mid-2021, S&P Global reported on its Market Intelligence website that seven of the world’s 10 biggest metals and mining companies had pledged to reach net-zero emissions or achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 or earlier.

But promises are no longer enough for the industry’s stakeholders; they want proof of how companies plan to achieve their goals. “With each passing year, pension funds, institutional investors, and the environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment community demand more specifics about how companies plan to move from strategy to execution,” consulting firm Deloitte reported in its Tracking the trends 2021 report.

At Gold Fields, a leading global gold producer, innovating to decarbonize operations has become a business imperative.

“It takes tremendous resources and support from within companies to set targets and align with the industry movement towards decarbonization,” said Gavin Mann, mining studies manager at Gold Fields in Australia. “But doing nothing isn’t an option. The conversation around decarbonization has really been heating up, especially in the last 18 months or so in the mining space. A green profile is becoming a requirement for entering the industry, and it makes access to capital easier.”

As a result, Gold Fields is embracing renewable energy technology to reduce Scope 1 (generated on-site) and Scope 2 (off-site sources such as power generation) carbon emissions in its Australian operations.

“Around 60% to 70% of our on-site infrastructure runs on electricity, so the low-hanging fruit is to transition to the most readily available carbon-reducing technology in the market,” Mann said. “We often operate in remote locations, so renewable energy micro-grid power setups give us some independence from larger scale power. That gives us control over our Scope 2 emissions and enables a big step toward our carbon reduction target. In addition, as the cost of renewable power is now equivalent or marginally better than carbon alternatives, a roadmap is emerging for the electrification of vehicles and other carbon-producing equipment on site.”

Gold Fields is not working alone. As part of the Electric Mine Consortium (EMC), the company is collaborating with mining and technology providers around the world to achieve the speed and scale of innovation needed to accelerate sustainability across the industry’s complex supply chains.

“The EMC includes battery suppliers, original equipment manufacturers and other players in the market who are keen to define, develop and demonstrate the services the industry needs,” Mann said. “Government groups are also eager to jump in behind that with job creation and training, to ensure that the relevant skills will be available when they’re needed.”

COLLABORATIVE INNOVATION

EMC’s origins lie in a collaborative investigation by global research platform State of Play, to establish the potential value of electrification as a key enabler for decarbonization in mining. It found a strong desire among companies to electrify their operations – along with concerns about a lack of established technologies and processes to help them do it. The result: a resounding demand for companies across the mining value chain to help each other overcome the obstacles.

“Asking companies to redesign their mines and invest in new equipment is a big issue in terms of risk, especially when metal prices are high and their focus is on productivity,” said Graeme Stanway, State of Play’s founder and chairman. “Gold Fields, along with a lot of the base metals producers we were working with, understood that they needed to achieve a certain scale in accelerating trials to influence the supplier ecosystem, shape policy and communicate the benefits. This is what the consortium supports. When companies can see the data and see the solution in action, they’ll push it into their pre-feasibility studies.”

Participating in the EMC gives companies a platform for collaborating with peers across the industry value chain and gaining access to trials and conversations. For instance, Gold Fields and IGO, an Australian metals producer focused on clean-energy materials, are working with universities to advance energy storage design.

“They’re looking at technologies outside lithium, which has some degradation issues, and they’re going to trial large-scale pilots in gravity kinetic batteries, vanadium and sodium,” Stanway said. “Once that technology has been demonstrated, I think we’ll move quickly toward full-scale renewable mines that are self-supporting.”

SCALING UP WITH SIMULATION

New solutions will emerge from collaboration, and the technology used to create and test them at scale is tried, trusted and widely available.

“[Computer] simulation technology – which has been proven in many other industries – brings huge increases in speed and scale and enables people to experience innovative solutions in the virtual world,” Stanway said. “When companies started applying it in the automotive and aerospace industries, for instance, vehicle and aircraft design was quickly transformed. Reliance on decades-old models gave way to the simulation, testing and analysis of multiple design variations – created by humans and algorithms – in the virtual world.”

By using a single source of data to create virtual twins – scientifically accurate, real-time 3D models of entire systems and operating environments – companies across the value chain can collaborate to develop the solutions they need now.

“Companies are looking at how better ore body knowledge can help them optimize mine design in terms of inclines versus shafts, for instance,” Stanway said. “That, in turn, will enable early adoption of different ventilation approaches, or equipment that doesn’t require heavy batteries. Business models are another big innovation area as electrification brings new contracting and financing models, with huge opportunities for service providers to enter the industry and innovate around bottlenecks.”

Being able to rapidly evaluate different scenarios via virtual twins is a big advantage for a company like Gold Fields, Mann said..

“Time is one of our most valuable resources. With simulation, we can quickly gravitate toward the better overall scenarios in terms of mining configuration. We can take it all the way down to the block model, which is the key input to any mine design, and then build a completely different scenario from the ground up. It also enables proactive management against productivity targets. By running simulations to identify the best path for meeting end-of-year goals, you’re putting yourself at least one step ahead of the game, whatever happens. You’re chasing those targets down instead of reacting to events.”

Mining has been slower to embrace simulation technology than some other industries, but the need for rapid progress on sustainability means that the technology’s moment in the industry has now arrived.

“Mining is a variable and sprawling industry where things break, and this might explain why simulation hasn’t yet found the penetration it has in other industries,” Stanway said. “Collaboration changes that. We’re at the start of an exciting curve of applying simulation to risk models, design and commissioning. Within the EMC, even some of our harder-to-convince members have been asking why we weren’t doing this before electrification.”

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  2. Business

De-risking innovation for a carbon-neutral economy

Virtual twin technology could be a game-changer as the mining industry tackles its carbon challenges.

As the mining industry moves to decarbonize, opportunities are emerging for better design of equipment, ventilation systems and the mines themselves – improvements that could deliver significant safety, cost and productivity benefits across the value chain.

For instance, replacing diesel-powered equipment with electric-powered units reduces particulate levels, creating a safer environment for miners while reducing the need for – and cost of operating – ventilation systems. Meanwhile, electrifying a mine’s  vehicle fleet creates an opportunity to automate it too. Automation radically reduces requirements for roadway widths, ramp steepness and equipment size and opens options for the type of energy used to power it. In turn, those changes may influence the choices for energy companies and equipment manufacturers that supply mines.

But mines face gaps in the availability of products that could help them decarbonize. Although investors have redirected their funds toward environmentally friendly operations, some mining executives and finance providers also remain unconvinced about the value of new solutions and processes.

How can we de-risk innovation so that all stakeholders can feel comfortable with the future they’re shaping. that the answer is not only obvious, but readily available: Computer simulations of new solutions allow mine operators and investors to virtually experience how these innovations will work before they are even built. Seeing is believing, and believing makes investing easier.

Virtual twin technology holds the key. With virtual twins – scientifically accurate computer simulations that precisely model both innovative equipment and operating conditions – innovators can test ideas in the virtual world before building or buying them in the real world. For mining companies, it means they can experience how a battery will work within their existing fleet of trucks, or what a battery electric vehicle fleet might mean for their mine design, workshop set-up, resource recovery and so on.

When decision-makers can experience what a change will look like and how it will affect their operation, they can confidently demonstrate that solution to the board or executive committee to justify and de-risk the investment. Virtual twins enable anyone who wants to understand a topic to experience it for themselves. They equip people to demonstrate outcomes to those who aren’t in the room or who have less technical expertise – from investors and executives to regulators and local communities.

As a member of the Electric Mine Consortium, Dassault Systèmes is proud to bring the mining industry our deep experience of applying this technology in sectors that include not just mining, but also industrial equipment, automotive and aerospace. By working together through organizations like the EMC, we can collectively identify the gaps in the industry’s net-zero mining picture and work with companies to co-create the solutions that will meet that need.

Now is the time for companies across the mining value chain to seize that opportunity. By working together, we can unleash new ideas and take the lead in something that is critical to our planet.

Michelle Ash, CEO, Dassault Systèmes GEOVIA

Read more about how companies throughout the mining value chain are collaborating to create sustainable solutions

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  2. Design & Manufacturing

A new day for design

Are standard design practices contributing to the take-make-waste economy in which valuable resources end up in landfills rather than being reused? A new installation at the Design Museum in London, co-created by Mamou-Mani Architects and the Dassault Systèmes Design Studio, demonstrates how a change in thinking can contribute to more reuse, recycling and regeneration.

Are standard design practices contributing to the take-make-waste economy in which valuable resources end up in landfills rather than being reused? A new installation at the Design Museum in London, co-created by Mamou-Mani Architects and the Dassault Systèmes Design Studio, demonstrates how a change in thinking can contribute to more reuse, recycling and regeneration.

With the COP26 climate conference opening next week in Glasgow, people everywhere are asking themselves what they can do to reduce their impact on the planet. Curators at the Design Museum are asking this question of designers, too, in a new exhibition “Waste Age: What can design do?” on display through February 22.

“We must face the problem of waste,” the exhibit’s curator, Gemma Curtin, says in her introduction to the exhibition on the Design Museum’s website. “Instead of thinking of objects as things that have an end life, they can have many lives.”

That premise is exactly what AURORA, a free-to-the-public installation in the museum’s atrium through November 14, aims to demonstrate. Though it looks like an artistic swirl of crystal and gold at first glance, AURORA actually is a study in how decisions that designers rarely control can profoundly change the environmental impacts of their creations – and how what is created for one purpose, if designed with reuse in mind – can have many lives.

In the photos that follow, take a virtual tour of AURORA to discover its hidden design lessons.

Want to go? Purchase tickets. (Note: Museum members can attend free of charge.)

To learn more about the collaboration that created AURORA, including an interactive experience of the installation inside the Design Museum, visit https://www.3ds.com/design/aurora, click "launch the experience" and then click the ? to enter the exhibit via your smartphone’s camera.

  1. Compass magazine
  2. Life Sciences & Healthcare

Improving accountability

The life sciences industry, a beacon of hope during the COVID-19 pandemic, is making constant advances that enable people to live longer, healthier lives. But pressure for the industry to mitigate the sustainability impacts of its activities is growing. As the industry seeks to bring its social, workforce and environmental impacts into balance, digital technologies provide solutions.

The life sciences industry, a beacon of hope during the COVID-19 pandemic, is making constant advances that enable people to live longer, healthier lives. But pressure for the industry to mitigate the sustainability impacts of its activities is growing. As the industry seeks to bring its social, workforce and environmental impacts into balance, digital technologies provide solutions.

The life sciences industry’s recent success in developing COVID-19 vaccines in record time offers a glimpse into how the industry can accelerate its positive impacts on improving sustaining human life – including its role in meeting increasingly demanding sustainability goals.

On average, it takes 10 to 12 years to bring a new drug to market. The COVID-19 vaccines were developed and made available within just a year. After only 18 months, more than 5 billion doses were administered. How? A common global mission among researchers, regulators and manufacturers set a new milestone for collaboration and technological innovation.

“Accelerated innovation cycles are going to become the new normal in life sciences,” said Daniel Matlis, president of life sciences industry analyst firm Axendia. “This new paradigm is a synchronous process where all stakeholders have full visibility of the drug development cycle and can collaborate and share insights and feedback at every stage. Regulatory reviews can also be accelerated through what the FDA calls the review of the future. This approach will help all organizations to understand the potential of a drug early on and accelerate time to market for safe and effective candidates.”

The industry’s ability to pull together for the sake of humanity has given rise to renewed optimism for how it can do its part to tackle other global challenges, including climate change.

“Investors are increasingly evaluating life sciences companies based on criteria beyond margin and top-line growth, including how their solutions contribute to sustainable development goals linked to the health of individuals, societies and the environment,” Pamela Spence, global health sciences and wellness industry leader at professional services firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young), wrote in a recent LinkedIn article.

As a result, despite all the good they do, life sciences businesses also must demonstrate that they are up to the challenge of meeting carbon emissions targets, along with other sustainability goals.

“The focus on sustainability is not just about the environment anymore,” Matlis said. “We’re hearing a rallying cry for the industry to transform and operate at the convergence of sustaining human life, the environment and business. Regulatory agencies are actively encouraging innovation. This is the time for modernization and digital transformation; we need to see life sciences companies take advantage of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, modeling and simulation, machine learning and virtual reality to transform the way they discover and bring new drugs to market.”

SUSTAIN THE ENVIRONMENT

International non-profit organization Health Care Without Harm estimates that – if the life sciences industry were a country – it would be the fifth-largest greenhouse gas emitter on the planet. With this year’s COP26 UN climate change conference opening on October 31, life sciences companies know they must significantly reduce their carbon footprint, especially in the manufacturing stage.

“Since 2015, we have reduced our carbon emissions from operations by almost a third and our water consumption by almost one fifth.”

Pascal Soriot
CEO, AstraZeneca

UK-based biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is doing precisely that through its “Ambition Zero Carbon” strategy, which uses renewable energy for both power and heat. The goal: to achieve zero carbon emissions from AstraZeneca’s global operations by 2025 and ensure its entire value chain is carbon negative by 2030.

“Since 2015, we have reduced our carbon emissions from operations by almost a third and our water consumption by almost one fifth,” AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said at the beginning of 2020.

In Singapore, meanwhile, biotechnology company Amgen opened a next-generation biomanufacturing facility designed to make its manufacturing process leaner, greener, faster, more productive and less expensive. The plant has a flexible, modular design that allows the company to easily scale up production and quickly switch between different types of equipment so that it can make different products – a critical ability for disease outbreaks, for example.

The new factory reflects a growing trend among life sciences manufacturers to move from batch to continuous manufacturing – an approach widely adopted in other industries. Unlike batch manufacturing, which involves many stops and starts as a product moves from stage to stage in production, pharmaceuticals made using continuous manufacturing are produced in a never-ending stream.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) credits this switch with allowing pharmaceutical manufacturers to respond more nimbly to market changes without having to scale up their equipment and increase their footprint. Eliminating repeated stops and starts also reduces waste product and lowers the likelihood of drug shortages. Global consulting firm PwC estimates that continuous manufacturing could reduce the industry’s carbon footprint by as much as 80%.

“Embracing continuous manufacturing will send a signal to the general population that pharma companies are using the best of new technologies, not only to improve efficiency but to ensure they are on track to play their part in meeting carbon reduction targets,” the PwC authors observed in their report, “Towards a Net Zero future in pharma – the role of continuous manufacturing.”

“The flexibility of continuous manufacturing production future-proofs facilities, equipping them to produce multiple current medicines as well as upcoming innovative therapies, reducing the risk exposure to investments.”

Digital transformation with virtual twins of manufacturing plants and processes enables the switch. Having a virtual replica of real-world pharmaceutical processes, products and plants from end to end manufacturing and beyond, ensuring that life sciences manufacturers can produce what they expect from the start of manufacturing.

IMPROVING HUMAN LIFE

COVID-19 has demonstrated more clearly than ever that health – and innovation – transcends borders. If the industry continues to collaborate globally, decisions will be made faster and regulators will be able to see critical data upfront to fast-track approval processes – and, ultimately, improve and save more human lives.

Business innovation platforms that coordinate the activities of all stakeholders via the cloud are an obvious way to achieve synchronous collaboration. These platforms also support virtual twin experiences, scientifically accurate 3D simulations viewed in the context of their environment. By allowing researchers to quickly try, reject or prove different approaches, these computer simulations help scientists accelerate development and testing virtually, without risk to humans, and can be used to identify the most effective treatments for individual patients.

As sustainability pressure mounts, the life sciences industry turns to digital solutions such as virtual clinical trials, testing and appointments, to reduce the CO2 generated by patient travel. (Image © AdobeStock/rh2010)

Korean health and dental manufacturer Meta Biomed is applying virtual twin experiences to better understand how biocompatible materials react and respond in the human body. Eventually, the simulations will help surgeons choose the most appropriate sutures and materials for each patient ahead of medical procedures, helping to relieve pain, ensure fast healing and deliver the best surgical outcomes.

“Meta Biomed will increasingly focus on personalized healthcare,” the company’s vice president, Yeon Chun Yoo, said. “In order to achieve this, data and simulation are very important. Our customers can get a glimpse of the predictions and results before and after surgical procedures so they can expect high-quality services based on accurate data. We expect that digital data and customer experiences will help us increase our innovation capabilities.”

SUSTAIN THE BUSINESS

Corporate Knights, which annually ranks the world’s most sustainable corporations, found that the top 100 earn 41% of their revenues from products or services aligned with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In contrast, companies listed on the MSCI ACWI stock index, which tracks the performance of more than 3,000 stocks in developing and emerging markets, earn just 8% of their revenues from SDG-aligned activities. 

Virtualization could help bring more of the industry’s profits into alignment with the SDG by modeling, testing and refining ideas, products and processes in the computer, where experimentation is quick and affordable, before committing expensive and limited physical resources.

“When you’re running a study in silico, you can run thousands of tests in the time it would take you to do a single physical trial,” Matlis said. “In early-stage R&D, virtual twins can be used to quickly identify promising molecules and compounds. Eventually, we’ll be able to leverage in silico trials, minimizing the need for in vivo studies” in live patients.

A study carried out by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that only 14% of new drugs make it all the way to market, with huge implications for the overall cost of drug development. More virtual testing could substantially increase this success rate.

Projects like the European Commission-backed SimCardioTest, an international consortium of 10 partners designing new predictive tools for cardiovascular diseases – aim to demonstrate how computer modeling and simulation can reduce development costs and shorten time-to-market for new drugs and medical devices.

“The long and expensive development, as well as the registration processes for new drugs and medical devices, are becoming unsustainable,” one of the project’s partners said. “Modeling and simulation can reduce these costs up to 50%.”

LESSONS FROM THE PANDEMIC

The months of the COVID-19 pandemic have sharpened the life sciences industry’s focus on strengthening health systems and adopting the latest technologies to transform the way drugs are brought to market, Matlis said.

“From a business standpoint, there are a lot of opportunities to become more cost-effective and resilient across the entire value network through sustainability initiatives – from raw material to patient,” Matlis said. “Sometimes, it takes a life-changing event to change behavior. We are encouraged to see that the technologies developed and lessons learned from the pandemic are being applied now and in the future. Because this isn’t the only disruption or threat we’ll encounter. Perhaps the next disruptor will be an extreme weather event or geopolitical unrest. Businesses will need to model for that to build resilience into their value network and minimize impact.”

Changing the industry’s approach to its business – and the attitudes of its regulators – may be one positive impact of the pandemic.

“Many organizations have literally been frozen in time, over-engineering their facilities to last 12-15 years, from the moment their drug application was approved until it came off patent,” Matlis said. “It’s resulted in inefficiencies across the value chain and lack of modernization. The vast majority of sites are still running things the way they used to, but we must change to always be leaning forward.”

Learn more about how sustainable healthcare serves people and the planet

  1. Compass magazine
  2. Industry

Sustainable healthcare serves people and the planet

If COVID-19 taught us anything, it is that we can solve the impossible. Humanity’s success in bringing a safe, effective vaccine to the market in under a year proved that when it comes to our survival, speed doesn’t preclude efficacy, competition doesn’t rule out collaboration and the physical distance does not compromise quality.

While the pandemic has frayed our socioeconomic structures, it also shone a bright light on life sciences’ role in bringing us closer to a vision of affordable, accessible and attainable healthcare that is sustainable for the industry and for the planet. And a common denominator in this quest is technology.

TECHNOLOGY DRIVES SUSTAINABILITY

Every aspect of clinical trials — the life-blood of life sciences — is being transformed by technological innovation. Today, we can more effectively recruit and onboard patients, manage trial supplies and collect, analyze and protect data. Behind these improvements are robust, collaborative, cloud-based platforms that eliminate the myriad of challenges that thwarted past trials.

Historically, geography determined if you could participate in a clinical trial, limiting the diversity of patients. Today, as trials become decentralized, we can connect patients living almost anywhere with the trial sites. This expands the pool of eligible patients and their diversity, generating results that can be extrapolated to people living in markedly different circumstances.

Technology is reducing the patient burden and improving the patient experience. Advanced medical devices allow patients to administer trial drugs themselves at home. Sensors and wearables collect and transmit detailed medical readings, without the need to travel to the study site. Less travel means a better chance that patients stay in the trial, as well as fewer emissions, resulting in a smaller carbon footprint for the industry. 

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) AND VIRTUAL TWINS FOR BETTER PATIENT OUTCOMES

Healthcare generates a lot of data. With more than 25,000 total trials, 1.5 billion+ images, and 7 million+ trial participants, Medidata has access to a wealth of clinical trial information.

We are getting more sophisticated with embedding AI-powered analytics into all phases of collecting, managing and interpreting health data. As a result, we are driving actionable insights for shortened timelines, business value creation and, ultimately, timely outcomes for patients. 

We can harness that information to build a synthetic control arm for a trial — an alternative to a placebo or standard of care in studies where all participants desire the therapeutic under development. This synthetic arm — a virtual twin — enables life science companies to create safe, effective and affordable therapies while reducing or eliminating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and natural resource utilization and realizing ethical and sustainable business practices. Virtual twin experiences such as synthetic control arms will transform the trajectory of healthcare. They will have a profound impact on patient outcomes while fueling our ambition for a sustainable planet. The future is here, and the time to act is now.

LIFE SCIENCES IN THE POST COVID-19 WORLD

It typically takes more than eight years to discover, develop and commercialize a medicine. To defeat COVID-19, the industry had to pivot. Researchers collaborated on an unprecedented level, and regulators moved fast without compromising safety. Decisions that pre-pandemic took weeks were made confidently in days, allowing the healthcare industry to develop and deliver a vaccine in just a few months.

Imagine just how far the industry can go if we unite around a mission and harness the technology and science as we did for COVID-19. We can eradicate scourges like cancer, or Alzheimer’s, or a host of rare diseases.

Human ingenuity will continue to fuel progress in healthcare, and digital and virtual capabilities will fuse sustainability into this progress. As long as there are patients grappling with diseases and desperate for hope, we have not a minute to waste. As an industry, we have a particular responsibility to deliver better experiences and better outcomes for patients — in less time, at less expense, and with less environmental impact.

Rama Kondru, Ph.D., co-CEO & head of R&D, Dassault Systèmes Medidata

Learn more about how virtual twin experiences are helping people live healthier lives

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  2. Consumer Packaged Goods & Retail

A new recipe for CPG success

Fast-changing consumer expectations – especially health and sustainability concerns – are putting tremendous pressure on consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies to reformulate their products, fast. Computerized simulation technologies that can help companies zero in on replacement ingredients and predict their influence on product performance are helping to accelerate the industry’s response.

Fast-changing consumer expectations – especially health and sustainability concerns – are putting tremendous pressure on consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies to reformulate their products, fast. Computerized simulation technologies that can help companies zero in on replacement ingredients and predict their influence on product performance are helping to accelerate the industry’s response.

What is one of the biggest trends in consumer packaged goods (CPG)? In a word: reformulation. In fact, a recent survey by Consumer Goods Forum found that 98% of CPG companies are reformulating at least some of their products.

Rik Pepermans, independent CPG industry consultant. (Image courtesy of Rik Pepermans)

"The C in CPG stands for consumer,” said Rik Pepermans, an independent consultant who focuses on the digitalization of research and development, and the former IT innovation lead at multinational CPG firm Unilever. “Consumers decide in-shop what they want to buy, and that’s a fast decision. The CPG industry spends a lot of effort understanding consumers. This evolving insight has to be translated into an evolving product – and this often means reformulation.”

Two strong consumer trends are driving the changes: health and sustainability. For example, Kerry Group, a global taste and nutrition company, in a report titled “Sustainability in Motion,” observed that almost half (49%) of global consumers today prioritize sustainability. In fact, it’s estimated that these customers will have spent more than $150 billion on sustainable products by the end of 2021.

Juan Aguiriano, group head of sustainability at Kerry, believes that to achieve such goals, the food and beverage industry has a responsibility to reformulate its products in a way that will meet these growing demands – and that it needs to do so as fast as possible.

Juan Aguiriano, Group Head, Sustainability, Kerry. (Image courtesy of Kerry Group)

“The food and beverage industry uses a lot of planetary resources and is responsible for over 25% of greenhouse gases,” he said. “At the same time, there are 2 billion people who are either overweight or obese, and 700 million that go to bed undernourished. We need all stakeholders to be committed to overcoming hunger and malnutrition. However, this is not only about securing enough food for our global population; we also need healthier and more sustainable food.

“Today, 30% of food is wasted,” Aguiriano continued. “If, as a society, we can reverse the trend of food waste, there would be more than enough food to feed the world. Consumers are waking up to these facts,” and Kerry addresses the challenge with a range of natural preservatives.

Kerry developed Acryleast, which reduces the formation of acrylamide, a suspected carcinogen, in baked goods, so that it does not affect the product’s quality, flavor, aroma or texture. Such breakthroughs are critical to reformulating foods to improve shelf life, sustainability and health. (Image courtesy of Kerry Group)

THE REFORMULATION IMPERATIVE

Reformulation is the key to making food and beverage CPG products last longer, be more nutritious, and use sustainable ingredients and production methods.

“In the food and beverage industry, we need to reduce the sugar, salt and fat in a wide variety of products, but without impacting the flavor,” Aguiriano said. “There is a growing awareness of food waste and a need for the food industry to do more. Most of our customers would like to extend their shelf life and, in doing so, reduce waste, but this is not a simple task. Changing one ingredient can have a significant effect on food safety and the food’s overall organoleptic properties. We also need to replace less sustainable ingredients and processes with ones that are fully traceable and that are produced with less energy and minimal resources.”

The sustainability challenge is particularly difficult.

“One might think that sustainability expectations just add a series of additional acceptance criteria to a long list: use only ingredients that are sustainably sourced; limit energy consumption; limit waste, and so on,” Pepermans said. “Of course, this is the case; but when products don’t meet expectations, they must be reformulated.”

Robyn Mandalakis, independent CPG industry consultant. (Image courtesy of Robyn Mandalakis)

P&G, for example, has launched a new Tide Eco-Box laundry detergent that contains 30% less water and uses 60% less plastic than its conventional product. Because of its smaller size, more of the product can be shipped with fewer trucks – resulting in a lower carbon dioxide (CO2) impact.

Consumers welcome such changes, but many also are paying more attention to the ingredients inside the package.

“Many consumers are now requiring sustainable ingredients that support a circular economy, healthy living and protect our planet,” said Robyn Mandalakis, an independent CPG consultant who spent 29 years with Colgate-Palmolive. “As we know, competition is all about speed. In order to achieve speed, roughly 90% of CPG product development is reformulation, while only 10% is delivering truly new products.”

CREATING A NEW RECIPE FOR SUCCESS

But how can firms be sure of optimal results? And how can they arrive at those results faster, to deliver the products that customers are demanding now?

“There are so many choices,” Pepermans said. “Which ingredients do you change? How much of each ingredient do you use? Which production process uses the least resources? What packaging is optimal? The number of combinations of these choices is far too big to be explored manually. There are simply not enough experienced formulators to keep up.”

Reformulation is a complicated business. Success requires firms to first understand their products, ingredients and processes.

Therese O'Rourke, Chief Technology Officer, Europe and Russia, Kerry. (Image courtesy of Kerry Group)

“That makes it easier to take the product apart and reformulate it,” said Therese O'Rourke, Kerry’s chief technology officer for Europe and Russia. “It is all based on the expertise of our development and application team, backed by analytical, taste, nutrition and sensory expertise.”

Kerry’s scientific expertise helps its teams to understand not only the ingredients used, but also the interactions between them.

“Our regulatory department has a deep understanding of food legislation and they are very future-focused, scanning impending changes so we can proactively support our customers,” O’Rourke said. “An example of this was the recent introduction of EU legislation, which limits the amount of acrylamide, a chemical that naturally forms in starchy food products during high-temperature cooking. We anticipated this change in legislation and, in response, we launched Kerry’s Acryleast, a natural ingredient, which can reduce acrylamide levels in baked goods by up to 90%.”

Kerry also has taste experts, flavorists, sensory and analytical scientists responsible for ensuring that the company can reformulate without compromise. “Our panel of expert tasters provides in-depth information about sensory profiles to ensure reformulation does not have an impact on product signature taste,” O’Rourke said.

But how can firms be sure of optimal results? And how can they arrive at those results faster, to deliver the products that customers are demanding now?

“Changing one ingredient can have a significant effect on food safety and the food’s overall organoleptic properties.”

Juan Aguiriano
Group Head, Sustainability, Kerry Group

“There are so many choices,” Pepermans said. “Which ingredients do you change? How much of each ingredient do you use? Which production process uses the least resources? What packaging is optimal? The number of combinations of these choices is far too big to be explored manually. There are simply not enough experienced formulators to keep up.”

THE DAWN OF DIGITAL

As with so many complex challenges, digital technology can lend a hand. With capabilities that include molecular modeling, digital simulation helps researchers to accurately predict the properties of an ingredient, how that ingredient will interact at a molecular level with the other ingredients, and the best processing methods to achieve the desired results – without the need for extensive and costly lab testing, and in a fraction of the time of physical tests.

“Companies can develop products even faster if they have the ability to predict formula performance when swapping ingredients, without having to do any physical testing,” Mandalakis said. “If you manage to eliminate testing you not only gain speed to market, but also huge cost savings. Testing is both expensive and time-consuming. Sustainability demands and speed to market are the biggest use cases for reformulation technology today.”

With a digital solution that predicts successful results in less time, Mandalakis said, researchers can model many more formulas than would be possible with physical experimentation. “You can also optimize the ingredients in new and improved ways,” she said. “It’s a key selling point for digital transformation and formulation technology.”

Convincing scientists to trust the results – particularly for new ingredients that haven’t been modeled before – will take time, however.  

“In order to model a product and predict performance you need to have all the formulation data, together with all the test data on the ingredients and prior formulations,” Mandalakis said. “Only then can you apply machine learning to predict how the new formula will perform. A huge change management effort is still needed to get to this point.”

Nandakumar Subramanian, PLM/LAS/MES Customer Success Lead, North America, Tech Mahindra (Image courtesy of Nandakumar Subramanian)

In fact, many CPG companies still work in silos that separate scientists in R&D from production and manufacturing experts, who all need to collaborate to achieve successful reformulations.

“The globalization of the industry brings a greater need for effective collaboration,” said Nandakumar Subramanian, PLM/MES/LAS Customer Success Lead for North America at multinational technology firm Tech Mahindra. “We’re often dealing with multiple processes – they could be region specific – where teams working in different countries, or even time zones, can have trouble collaborating effectively. Or they’re business-unit specific, or anything else. What researchers need to do is to break down those process silos and harmonize those processes together into a single stream of work.”

Mandalakis believes that more success stories can help accelerate digital simulation adoption. 

“There’s a need for strong internal advocates who can sell formulation technology solutions to senior leaders with compelling business cases,” she said. “However, as more and more digital natives enter the scientific population, I think it’ll be an easier change-management effort to move companies into digital labs in the future.

Learn more about molecular modeling for CPG product reformulations

  1. Compass magazine
  2. Design & Manufacturing

Smart bathrooms

Modern consumers want spa-like bathrooms, but beauty is not enough. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with increasing awareness of environmental degradation, they also want products that deliver improved sanitation and a reduced environmental footprint. To discover and deliver these breakthroughs, product-makers increasingly turn to technology.

Modern consumers want spa-like bathrooms, but beauty is not enough. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with increasing awareness of environmental degradation, they also want products that deliver improved sanitation and a reduced environmental footprint. To discover and deliver these breakthroughs, product-makers increasingly turn to technology.

The average person spends over two years of their life in their bathroom, making it one of the most important places in our homes. Updating a bathroom also represents one of the best investments a homeowner can make: Remodeling magazine reports that in 2021, homeowners can expect to recover more than 60% of what they invest in a bathroom remodel; in some markets, homeowners can even expect to return a profit.

347

The number of gallons waster per year by a single faucet dripping 10 times a minute

Today, however, homeowners are demanding more from their bathrooms than comfort and beauty. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, and with growing awareness of climate change and other environmental issues, they also want their bathrooms to be sanitary and sustainable.

“I believe COVID-19 turned everyone into a germaphobe,” said Shea Pumarejo, owner and principal interior designer of Texas-based Younique Designs, and a member of the United States’ National Kitchen & Bath Association. “Anything we can do to limit our exposure to germs by touching surfaces will decrease our likelihood of getting sick.“ Solutions include touchless technology, which exists in faucets, self-flushing toilets, soap dispensers and hand dryers. Another innovation that is taking off is the use of anti-microbial technology such as Microban, which is baked right into tiles and countertops. These approaches have been used in hospitals for years, but since COVID-19, are becoming more popular in the residential market.”

On the sustainability front, conserving water, energy and even toilet paper can significantly lower a home’s environmental footprint. For example, a single faucet dripping 10 times a minute wastes almost a gallon of water a day, or 347 gallons a year, the US Geological Survey estimates. However, presence-detecting technology installed in a faucet can alert users to an incomplete shutoff, avoiding such waste.

“Technology can make a big contribution if it is used for the right reasons, rather than simply to add gadget features,” said Hugo Volpei, founder and CEO of French toilet designer and manufacturer Trone. Volpei points to the water jet featured on many toilets in Japan, which can reduce the need for toilet paper. Atomizing nozzles on a shower head, meanwhile, can control how the stream of water breaks up and disperses, reducing waste.

Efficient designs through simulation

Technology plays a significant role in such innovations, from the design stage to the user experience. For example, digital technology used in the bathroom can control the thermostat to save energy, manage the volume of water coming from taps or project entertainment and information onto mirrors.

Simulation software plays a significant role in creating more efficient designs in bathroom fixtures. From ceramic structural resistance, toilet flow simulation, electromagnetic compatibility between devices to a full virtual compliance of standards, simulation tools give the manufacturer the ability to optimize and improve the design sooner in the product development process which accelerates the time to market and reduces cost. For example, using a virtual model to simulate the flush of a toilet or the flow of water from a shower nozzle helps manufacturers identify which parts of the design are creating inefficiencies and improve upon them.

Image courtesy of Trone

“The idea is not to create objects connected to gadget functionalities, but to tackle the problems we face every day.”

Hugo Volpei, founder and CEO, Trone

Virtual models also allow manufacturers to be more sustainable. For example, they can help anticipate the shrinkage that occurs when a ceramic bathroom fixture like a toilet or a sink is fired. This process usually requires two or three rounds of physical molds. By creating and testing the model in the virtual world, not only is the overall cost of the design process reduced but fewer materials are wasted by eliminating unnecessary physical prototypes.

Finding sanctuary

While consumers want technology-enabled conveniences in their bathrooms, however, they want it to remain unobtrusive.

“This moment of our day is quite special, as it provides a brief escape from constantly connected technology,” Volpei said. “However, we believe that technology can improve our comfort, while respecting this moment of disconnection. For example, we are looking to integrate a patented technology into toilets that purifies the air and eliminates even the slightest odor by releasing ozone. The idea is not to create objects connected to gadget functionalities, but to tackle the problems we face every day.”

Pumarejo also believes technology can enhance the bathroom experience without intruding on the respite many people seek in the space.

“I believe a bathroom should be a sanctuary,” she said. “I love using ambient lighting in a bathroom to create a spa-like experience. I love designing a shower system that creates an experience for the user, whether it be with the use of body sprayers, a rain shower head, or even an aromatherapy system.”

Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet (image courtesy of Kohler)

For those who like a little techno-glitz, however, the Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet from Kohler, for example, offers a heated seat, Bluetooth speakers, ambient colored lights and Amazon Alexa integration, providing the ability to ask the toilet about the weather as you start your day. The Toto Flotation Tub, meanwhile, simulates a weightless, zero-gravity experience while you’re in the bath, and comes complete with massage jets, LED mood lights and a capacitive keyboard. And there is more coming: the global smart bathroom market reached a value of US$ 4.46 in 2020 and is expected to have strong growth in the next five years.

Options abound

The industry trend, then, is all about options: smart bathroom technology can simultaneously help homeowners feel good about environmentally sound choices while enhancing sanitation and improving relaxation. Whether looking for a simple moment of disconnect or a gadget-filled, futuristic experience, people have more options than ever when it comes to designing their dream bathroom.

“We all appreciate amazing lighting and shower systems at upscale hotels,” Pumarejo said. “Why shouldn’t we have that same experience at home every day?”


Discover how Perfect Connected Product brings together all elements required to launch the next generation of smart, connected consumer products.

  1. Compass magazine
  2. Business

Interactive exhibits

As one of the world’s largest industrial trade fair operators, Deutsche Messe works to continuously innovate its trade show offerings – including its world-famous Hannover Messe fair. Its latest game-changer: an in-house agency for interactive 3D digital marketing assets that exhibitors can use in any setting, online or in-person. Thomas Rilke, division manager of the Deutsche Messe Technology Academy and its MEDIA FACTORY, explains the transformational concept.

As one of the world’s largest industrial trade fair operators, Deutsche Messe works to continuously innovate its trade show offerings – including its world-famous Hannover Messe fair. Its latest game-changer: an in-house agency for interactive 3D digital marketing assets that exhibitors can use in any setting, online or in-person. Thomas Rilke, division manager of the Deutsche Messe Technology Academy and its MEDIA FACTORY, explains the transformational concept.

COMPASS: How did the idea for your new Media Factory come about?

Thomas Rilke: The Deutsche Messe site – or ‘fairground’, as we call it – is the largest in the world. It’s like a small city. If you go back 20 years or so, we would have TV stations from all over the world come to our fairs with their own equipment and their own crews. So we built 12 TV studios to house them.

Thomas Rilke, Division Manager, Deutsche Messe Technology Academy and MEDIA FACTORY. (Image courtesy of Deutsche Messe)

Most media companies now use stock video; so, in late 2020 we transformed those studios into our MEDIA FACTORY – professional streaming studios our customers can use for online events, podcasts, lectures, discussions and more.

Before the pandemic, the demand for digital assets and digital showrooms was growing; over the past year that demand has gone through the roof. Unfortunately, many of our customers don’t have the expertise to create these assets. So we realized that there was a great opportunity for us to play an instrumental role in helping our customers – or any company that needs these assets, regardless of whether they exhibit at one of our shows – to create digital collateral.

What sorts of digital assets are you helping to facilitate?

TR: We’ve joined forces with third-party suppliers who have created truly ground-breaking technology that uses a new standard called glTF. It can take an engineer’s 3D product data and turn it into web-ready, interactive and reusable 3D assets to create a digital showroom. The fact that these are lightweight assets are what make them so revolutionary. You could always share 3D engineering drawings with your customers – if you and they had the right software and enough computing power. But now you can share them with anyone who has a simple web browser – even on their mobiles.

This will be incredibly beneficial, not only for our customers but for any company that recognizes the need to compete in the digital world. No longer do they need to build a physical product and then get media teams in to video it – this technology will save them considerable amounts of time, and a lot of money too.

One great example is the Fraunhofer IPA [Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation] spin-off project KUTOA, which created a mobile lab robot called KEVIN. KEVIN is designed to automate repetitive, manual laboratory work. Creating digital marketing assets from design data allowed the KUTOA team to expedite KEVIN's development and attract investors before the design prototype robot was built.

Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to turn and flip this glTF model of KEVIN. (Image © KUTOA)

How will this capability benefit Deutsche Messe?

TR: It means we can get closer to our customers – wherever they are in the world – since they will be able to access the tools virtually. It also means that more of our customers will be equipped to take a more hybrid approach to trade shows in the future, and this is where things are heading.

It’s important to recognize that 90% of our events are for really technical industries. Our typical exhibitors are machinery companies, or manufacturers of complicated components for machinery. They seldom build single products. They may have 30 or 40 different models, and many of these models can be customized, resulting in an almost infinite number of variations. So, you see, it’s impossible to showcase their entire offering at a physical event, which may mean they miss out on potential business.

By having really impressive 3D digital assets at physical events, our customers can present their entire product offering in a very realistic way. Visitors can even see inside the machines – how they’re built, how they work.”

Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to turn and flip this glTF model of a jigsaw. (Image © 3DEXCITE)

By having really impressive 3D digital assets at physical events, our customers can present their entire product offering in a very realistic way. Visitors can even see inside the machines – how they’re built, how they work – including functionality that sometimes is hidden behind, under or inside other structures.

These digital assets can also be reused in a variety of ways; not just at our trade shows, but at any event. In fact, our exhibiting customers are increasingly asking us for support at smaller, more focused events outside of trade fairs, because they want to be in permanent digital contact with their customers. The digital assets we create often form the basis of a digital showroom and add value to press conferences, at customer events, in social media and at customer meetings, either digital or face-to-face.

There is, of course, value for us at Deutsche Messe too. Our glTF capability lets us serve our customers in ways that no other trade show can match.

What response have you seen so far, and how soon do you expect to offer these new services?

TR: We have just run an email campaign outlining everything we hope to offer. We sent this to 1 million clients around the world and had a 10% open rate and a 2% reaction rate. For us, this is terrific. It shows that there is a big demand for these services.  We hope to be ready to launch in the next month. But that will be just the start – we also have something even more exciting in the pipeline.

Tell us more!  

TR: We see the digital asset production offering as the first step. The second will be the creation of an industry platform.

Let me explain: At the moment, if you go to an industry fair, you look up the exhibition website and find the companies you want to visit, along with the booth number. The website is mostly used immediately before, during and after the fair.

A typical exhibition website and database only provides the name of the company, the description of their products and where they can be found on the exhibition floor. You could call this a database 1.0.

What we want to build is a database 4.0. Using digital platform capabilities, along with those digital assets created through our MEDIA FACTORY, we can better showcase everything our exhibitors are offering. Visitors will be able to access so much more about the products they are interested in – their functionality, the technologies they can be used in conjunction with, and the platforms they integrate with, for example.

Not only this, but we see our industry platform facilitating collaboration between all the different players. Not only will visitors have the chance to connect with exhibitors, but they can connect with other like-minded visitors, who may have valuable experience to share.

This is where it really gets exciting. It will massively transform the trade show experience for visitors, for exhibitors – in fact, for everyone involved.

To discover even more glTF capabilities, click here, scroll down to “Meet Green Turtle Prototype in 3D” and click the “3DPlay” button. You can also learn more about:

  1. Compass magazine
  2. Aerospace & Defense

Smart sustainment

Frequent deployments of aging defense systems have taken a toll on the NATO allies’ military mission-readiness, sending government officials in search of smart strategies for improving uptime. Some have turned to virtual twin experiences – interactive, scientifically accurate 3D computer models that enable rapid testing and refinement of different strategies – to plan updates that will extend the assets’ useful lives and lower maintenance costs for legacy airframes.

Frequent deployments of aging defense systems have taken a toll on the NATO allies’ military mission-readiness, sending government officials in search of smart strategies for improving uptime. Some have turned to virtual twin experiences – interactive, scientifically accurate 3D computer models that enable rapid testing and refinement of different strategies – to plan updates that will extend the assets’ useful lives and lower maintenance costs for legacy airframes.

Keeping aging aircraft flying long past their originally intended retirement dates is a growing challenge for North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries concerned with unacceptably low mission-readiness rates – the percentage of time that defense assets are in adequate condition to perform at least one mission.

In the US, for example, only three out of 50 aircraft types met their mission-capability goals of 70% for most of the fiscal 2011-2019 period, the US Government Accountability Office recently reported.

Frequent deployments of decades-old aircraft over the past 20 years have taken a toll, particularly on American, British and French airplanes and helicopters. Heavy demands, combined with aging aircraft, requires more maintenance, upgrades and enhancements – also known as sustainment – for the aircraft to remain operational beyond their expected lifespans.

In contrast, commercial airline operators consider anything less than 98% ready-to-fly performance of their aircraft fleets unacceptable.

53%

The B-1B aircraft’s mission-readiness rate in 2017; but the target for US defense systems is 80%.

Adding to the pressure to extend the life of existing defense assets: NATO-member countries’ static defense budgets, exacerbated by the high cost of new technology. The combination makes it extremely to replace aging equipment with new systems, which can then take 10-15 years or more to develop and put into operation.

One increasingly popular strategy for troubleshooting, repairing or upgrading aircraft? Using virtual twin experiences, which allow crews to visualize issues in interactive 3D and simulate the results of different approaches, to enable quick identification of optimal maintenance strategies.

“We’re building a blueprint for a unique approach to improving mission-readiness of critical defense systems – a blueprint that will become prevalent across the military – while helping the government to develop the requirements needed to standardize what we’re doing,” said Melinda Laubach-Hock, director of sustainment at Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR). “When other contractors follow in our footsteps, government customers will understand the level of fidelity they need in these computer models.”

Boosting mission readiness with virtual twins

NIAR, for example, is spearheading a project to demonstrate how virtual twin experiences can improve the sustainment of legacy airframes.

NIAR’s goal, which it is pursuing in cooperation with industry and government partners, is to help boost mission readiness of certain defense systems, including the B-1B Lancer bomber and the UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter, while reducing maintenance costs.

The B-1 Bomber is one key aircraft being disassembled, scanned,and reassembled as 3D models at the NIAR-NEST facility to demonstrate how virtual twin experiences can improve the sustainment of legacy airframes. (Image courtesy of NIAR)

Both aircraft were designed and manufactured mostly from paper drawings decades ago, but planned retirements for the B-1B and the UH-60L are now 2040 and 2050, respectively. Converting those drawings to interactive virtual twin experiences that enable rapid analysis of various sustainable strategies should greatly accelerate maintenance teams’ ability to identify, simulate, test, verify and implement maintenance strategies and upgrades.

Additional US Army and Air Force equipment will undergo the same process. The F-16 Falcon – more than 2,200 are deployed by air forces around the world – will be the next program targeted for virtualization. No retirement date has been set for the F-16, which entered operational service with the US Air Force in 1980. 

A memo from then-US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, establishing a goal of 80% mission capability for certain defense systems, prompted the NIAR initiative. For example, the B-1B’s mission capability was less than 53% in 2017. Congress responded to Mattis’ call to action by authorizing funding to employ technology to improve readiness.

“We’re building a blueprint for a unique approach to improving mission-readiness of critical defense systems.”

Melinda Laubach-Hock, Director of Sustainment, NIAR

While NIAR’s work may not bring the B-1B and UH-60L fleets’ readiness up to Mattis’ 80% target, the institute and its partners are confident of achieving significant improvements, said Laubach-Hock.

NIAR and its government partners strategically selected airframes for the program, targeting those where the addition of virtual twin technology will have the largest impact in extending the platforms’ service life. As a result, “now we’re starting to see military leaders include funding for digital engineering,” Laubach-Hock said.

Forecasting the future

The two current programs involve reverse engineering both aircraft, beginning with disassembling them down to the nuts and bolts and digitally scanning nearly every part to create 3D models. Using the scan data and legacy engineering drawings as a template, the NIAR team will then create manufacturing-quality, 3D computer-aided design (CAD) models. These models will be digitally reassembled to create the airframe’s virtual twin, an exact digital model of the airplane as it exists in the physical world.

In addition to the geometrically correct virtual twin, the team will develop high-fidelity engineering models and validated them, using stress and strain data obtained either through structural tests or airframe operation. Once validated, virtual “loads” can be applied to these models to forecast structural failures, fatigue, corrosion and cracking under different flight conditions over time – a predictive maintenance capability that largely eliminates the age-old approach of only repairing something after it breaks.

As of mid-summer 2021, NIAR is about halfway through the two-year UH-60L program and was digitally reassembling the rotorcraft. In parallel, a NIAR technical team is about 18 months into the six-year B-1B program and preparing to complete the digital modeling of its wing structure.

The UH-60L Black Hawk, with horizontal stabilizer, tail rotor pylon and tailcone are being disassembled, scanned and 3D-modeled to create a virtual twin of the aircraft. (Image courtesy of NIAR)

By producing a physics-based virtual twin, engineers can capture the digital heartbeat of entire defense systems. Each one will serve as a living record. People who service these aircraft will be able to use predictive analytics – the “experience” portion of virtual twin experiences – to devise and validate appropriate maintenance schedules and processes to optimize mission-readiness – including predicting when a specific part should be replaced, based on the mission profile and flight hours.

“We’re using digital technology to look at potential problems that could occur 10 or 15 years from now, so the Army and Air Force can become very proactive when it comes to sustaining their assets instead of having to be reactive,” Laubach-Hock said. “The virtual twin provides a single authoritative source of truth for all the data needed to maintain legacy systems.”

France’s 10-year plan

The concept of coupling virtual twins with the power of big data and analytics to achieve smart sustainment isn’t unique to the US Department of Defense.

In France, a business innovation platform for creating and managing virtual twin experiences is the centerpiece of a 10-year maintenance agreement between airframe manufacturer Dassault Aviation and the Aviation Maintenance Division of the French Ministry of Armed Forces. The project’s goal: to optimize the availability of 152 French Air Force and Navy Rafale fighter aircraft, whose readiness hovers around 70%, a Paris-based defense industry consultant said. The RAVEL (RAfale VEticalLise) contract covers most of the airframe of the multi-role aircraft, which is expected to remain in service beyond 2050, GIFAS, the French aerospace industry trade organization, reports.

Long term, Dassault Aviation expects to improve the availability, or “Maintenance in Operational Condition” (MCO), of the Rafale fleet to at least 76%. In addition, the ministry reports that extended logistics services will enable the fleet to carry out more operational missions. Predictive maintenance is considered the key to achieving this level of mission readiness, so the program’s integrated data environment is built on a common data model covering a defense system’s entire lifecycle, with all data relationships managed by the platform.

Using scanned parts and legacy engineering drawings as a template, the NIAR team creates manufacturing-quality, 3D, computer-aided design (CAD) models of the aircraft. (Image courtesy of NIAR)

The platform collects all Rafale usage across the fleet, which enables monitoring of RAVEL contract-stipulated performances, collects lessons learned and enriches predictive maintenance algorithms. It also can securely process data from the fleet and generate individual aircraft “health records.”

Thus far, France is the only European NATO member that has implemented the virtual twin approach to improving mission readiness. NATO’s other European members understand the concept but are not yet prepared to implement smart sustainment. As one European aerospace and defense consultant with close ties to NATO put it: “They’re still trying to figure out the art of the possible.”  

Future uses

In service, every aircraft behaves differently and requires specific maintenance based on its operational history. Therefore, a virtual twin experience may be integrated with individual vehicle health and usage monitoring systems to provide fleet operating insights. On-board sensor data and usage information for each aircraft provides a rich cache of data for analysis, to better understand system performance and reliability.

“A virtual twin allows the development team to perform more detailed analyses earlier, ensures a perfect fit during initial production and allows testing to begin earlier. This reduces risk.”

Dina Halvorsen, Program Director, Sikorsky Aircraft

Beyond sustainment, many defense contractors now employ virtual twins to develop new aircraft.

“The payoff of a virtual twin manifests itself across the entire lifecycle of the product – design, production and sustainment,” said Dina Halvorsen, program director at Sikorsky Aircraft, which manufactures the UH-60L. “It manifests itself in design with lower development costs and reduced time to field the product. A virtual twin allows the development team to perform more detailed analyses earlier, ensures a perfect fit during initial production and allows testing to begin earlier. This reduces risk.”

For NATO in general and the US Department of Defense (DoD) in particular, the use of virtual twins represents a new paradigm for extending the operational life of complex hardware.

“It’s not a matter of whether we’re going to apply this technology to more platforms, including ground vehicles, but rather what are we going to do next, based on the greatest need,” Laubach-Hock said.

Read more about the challenges and opportunities facing the defense industry today.

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