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Digital twins began as a way to harness engineering simulation to improve product design. Omniverse opens up digital twin tools and techniques for a much broader set of use cases. At Nvidia’s recent GTC conference, executives from Lowes and Kroger explained how digital twins are transforming retail, customer experience, and logistics.
The most important takeaway is how digital twins make it easier to visualize complex relationships between physical things, including product placement, physical customer journeys, and the paths that robots can traverse in store aisles for inventory and fulfillment. floor cleaning.
Managers and staff can explore how layouts, schedules, team movements, and customer journeys interact in one visualization tool. They can also visually assess the impact of a new store layout, hours, or technology that could impact cleaning, restocking, and staffing requirements.
Digital twins also have the potential to improve customer experiences in a number of ways. They could help customers connect the dots between home improvement projects, materials needed, and material costs. They could also help improve physical customer journeys within stores by organizing shopping order lists to align with a path through the store.
Supercharging 3D at Lowe’s
Cheryl Friedman, vice president of Lowe’s Innovation Labs, described the company’s work on a new iOS app that automatically captures data about a home to simplify home improvement projects.
Homeowners and contractors can quickly measure a room and the app can estimate the amount of materials and the cost of different options. You can also have homeowners find out what specs they may need when replacing appliances to minimize return trips. Consumers can also compare the cost of different paints, windows or doors vary by approach.
“There are few DIY projects you can do without requiring some facts about your home,” Friedman said. “All of that information introduces some friction for home improvement journeys.”
Emerging technology like digital twins, mixed reality, and computer vision help capture data about the home and keep track of every detail to reduce this friction. Lowe’s app takes advantage of the lidar built into the latest iPhones to quickly capture home measurements.
Lowe’s attempted to work with 3D and simulation tools using various commercial and proprietary tools in the past. But this introduced friction when employees wanted to move data between departments. “We’re excited for Omniverse to embrace Pixar’s USD because it creates an ecosystem that is open to everyone and this will enhance our ability to use 3D at Lowe’s,” Friedman said.
Omniverse also helps bring all your 3D data together in one place to see relationships between previously isolated data. This makes it easy to compare planograms that describe desired store layouts with actual store layouts. In the future, he hopes more simulation will help them better plan for heavy store traffic on Black Friday or optimize the scheduling of the robots that clean floors and inventory shelves.
Keeping it cool at Kroger
Kroger is exploring how digital twins can improve product freshness and streamline logistics. Kroger is building digital twin models that reflect product freshness, meat cutting programs and physical product designs. The goal is to ensure that all these moving parts work smoothly so that lines are short, meat cuts and produce are always fresh, and warehouses are well organized.
Wesley Rhodes, Kroger’s vice president of technology transformation and R&D, said, “It’s like a dance that you have to practice ten times and then you do it right. Technology makes something complicated look easy.”
Kroger has been experimenting with various time optimization tools for some time. But these were difficult for frontline workers to grasp quickly. The visual nature of the latest Omniverse integrated digital twins helps workers and managers quickly visualize trade-offs and get feedback when things don’t go as planned. For example, they were able to see how a new design could cause traffic jams.
Rhodes has found it helpful to borrow techniques from the airline industry. For example, airlines use video analytics to analyze the boarding process. New computer vision tools could similarly capture data about existing processes to reflect actual operations. This could help recalibrate the assumptions built into digital twins to increase the accuracy of the simulation.
In the future, digital twins could also improve product packaging, said Richard Kerris, vice president of the Omniverse Developer Platform at Nvidia. The packaging of a product is the first thing a consumer sees when buying a product. But packaging designers have always struggled to understand what a container would look like after it’s dropped, under different lighting, or when stacked on shelves with competing products.
“You can get a true-to-life duplicate of the product packaging you’re designing and see it in different contexts,” Kerris said.
For example, designers could simulate how different materials will look in the store or how a package will behave when it is lifted or dropped. Designers can also simulate how different package designs might affect case packing arrangements or individual shipping. It could be better packed and shipped efficiently and safely. Product package digital twins help simulate and visualize what a product package might look like after being stacked in a shopping bag with many other products on the way to a customer’s home.
“You don’t want something that can break or get crushed,” Kerris said.
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