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Automotive Product Finder Magazine | Digital twinning making a difference
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Digital Twinning technology has been a revolution in terms of management of large fleets. It contributes significantly to improve the rate and efficiency with which one can work. Anup Patil explains even though too much cynicism among the transport and logistics fraternity has dented the application of Digital Twinning, presently vendors are more welcoming toward the technology than before.
When it comes to the efficiency of commercial vehicles, there are certain aspects that cannot elude the conversation. Vehicle Health is one of them. Going by the conventional methods to ascertain and maintain the overall health of a vehicle, there are two ways to do it – routine maintenance and repairs post-failure. However, both these methods are highly inefficient.
Ways to fix the problem
At any point of time, if a driver finds that the vehicle’s pick-up has decreased, the underlying issue could be with any of the following components – the air intake system, the fuel intake system, the transmission system, or the engine cooling system. I, as a driver, would be unable to pinpoint the precise problem because the ‘Check Engine’ light does not tell me what part to check exactly. It just tells me that there is an issue. Whether it is an issue as minor as a fused tail lamp, or something as major as an engine failure, one cannot tell. And therein lies the inefficiency of the process. The need of the hour is a system that not only pinpoints the exact problem, but also guides you on how to go about fixing it. If, for example, there is an issue with the RPM sensor, it should state so – just the way a targeted drug delivery system works. Deliver the drug where it is actually required, no guesses! Thankfully, Digital Twinning has made its way to the automotive/OEM sector of India, creating an ecosystem of highly efficient and extremely reliable vehicles by automating the processes of maintenance and tracking.
When it comes to vehicle health, we are talking about creating a whole array of prognostics, backed by symptoms and causes. Previously, there was no way to determine if a driver stating he was having issues with his vehicle was actually having those issues or if he was bluffing. Now, we have systems in place that tell us the precise problem and the exact part of the vehicle that has it, and figuring out how to fix it takes only a few minutes. This is what we stand for, bringing efficiency to the entire process of maintenance. To attest to this, a large fleet operator operating vehicles in the country’s inter-state transport undertakings has managed to improve his entire fleet’s fuel mileage by 8 per cent, using an automated monitoring device that employs the concept of Digital Twinning.
Here is an instance – a fleet operator has 108 vehicles spread across 35 hubs that operate 24 hours a day, with vehicles arriving at or leaving from a particular hub at any time of the day. This fleet needs three people at every hub to cover an equal number of shifts in a day. A total of 105 personnel will be required to check the time a vehicle leaves from/arrives at a hub along with noting its odometer values, and only then will they be able to accurately calculate the total kilometres that has to be billed.
Effectiveness of the technology
Here is where advanced systems come in. With access to real-time odometer values of a vehicle, whenever a vehicle leaves or enters a geo-fence, the values get updated. This effectively brings down the number of personnel required to monitor this data – from 105 personnel down to just a couple! Moreover, the personnel monitoring this data do not need to be highly trained or technical at all. Anyone who knows how to work basic computers and numbers can manage/monitor this. Now do the math! This is the level of efficiency we are talking about.
In terms of OEMs, the entire ecosystem is shifting to more complex ones like BS-VI standardisation. Every day, more and more components and parameters are being added to the monitoring system, and efficiency is the need of the hour. Traditionally, the threshold (optimum range in which the system and all its components should be working) was determined by very high-end devices with 80-90 CAN channels collecting data at rapid rates. The problem with those devices was that they were all offline devices and extremely costly – costing lakhs, while new-age devices that implement the concept of Digital Twinning can be installed today at a fraction of that cost, merely Rs 15,000-20,000, and can predict failures much more accurately and efficiently.
In another success story, the transmission failures for an intra-state transport company running fleets of hundreds of buses came down by 15 per cent. The company, using systems incorporating the concept of Digital Twinning, was able to successfully monitor the driving behaviour of the drivers such as parameters like top gear utilisation, driving in neutral or low gears, idling, free-running, etc. With access to actionable insights like these, the operator managed to create an ecosystem of drivers with adequate training so as to make them better drivers, and effectively increased the efficiency of the entire fleet.
Under-fueling and fuel-theft have been two of the biggest concerns for fleet operators and vehicle owners for years now. With the latest development of automated data collection, they can now keep track of the exact amount of fuel filled, along with location stamps, as well as track fuel-theft, if any. A fleet operator has been saving upwards of Rs 9 lakh per month, per hub in fuel-fillings, even though the number of vehicles in his fleet has increased.
BS-IV regulations require all vehicles to have AdBlue. This system requires that whenever the AdBlue level goes down to a certain point, it needs to be topped up. Using the concept of Digital Twinning, there is no need to assign people to keep track of and fill AdBlue when required. Instead, one person sitting in the control room can track the level, and instruct the driver to take the vehicle to the nearest filling centre to get it topped-up when this level drops. So, even with the complexity of the system increasing day-by-day, its management is getting significantly easier, and thereby more efficient. This is where and how Digital Twining companies are adding value, and they have yet to traverse a much-larger path into the BS-VI development. A fleet operator reported saving 90 tonnes of CO2 emissions in January alone this year, based on this system that enabled them to track their vehicles in real-time from the comfort of their headquarters. This can go a long way towards controlling carbon emissions, thus contributing to the environment too while hugely impacting the overall efficiency of the system.
The question to be asked here is what stops people from adopting such a revolutionary concept? The level of awareness and inefficiency of previous systems is to blame. There is no dearth of companies that have promised such solutions/devices to monitor vehicles, fuel levels, and driver behaviour in the past. But, they all have failed drastically. This has given way to much skepticism and wariness among the transport/logistics fraternity. Thankfully, the scenario is gradually changing. Awareness is on the rise and more and more vendors are accepting Digital Twinning technology to enhance the efficiency of their fleets.
A Masters in Material Science and Engineering from Clemson University, South Carolina, Anup Patil is one of the key founder members of Intangles. Before he started his term with Intangles as the CEO, Anup also co-founded Tavisca Solutions Pvt. Ltd. He also led the company to the list of the ‘Top 100 Best Places To Work in India’ in the SME category for 3 consecutive years. He is a serial entrepreneur by heart and has helped numerous companies in various industries attain their objectives.
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