Digital twin improves productivity in commodity handling

Liebherr is not only one of the world’s largest manufacturers of construction machinery, but it also enjoys success in many other industries. Liebherr uses simulators in their training hubs and customer locations worldwide, ensuring operator efficiency by training optimal use of their machines. The ship crane simulator developed in cooperation with Mevea is already in use in Germany, Austria, India, Russia, and Finland.

“Our CBG ship cranes are designed for high-performance turnover operations. Simulators help us improve the efficiency of these cranes by teaching the operators on how to use the equipment in the most efficient way. The Mevea simulation toolkit including a real-time physics engine is one of the main assets for us in developing our worldwide maritime training standard, the quality of which is crucial for the profitability of our customers’ operations,” says Christian Schneider, Product Manager for Digital Solutions and Consulting at Liebherr-Werk Nenzing GmbH.

Simulator training for the transshipment of commodities

The ship crane simulator is based on a digital twin of the latest machine model. It trains operators the handling of commodities like coal, iron ore and grain in transshipment operations. Liebherr’s customers are spread all over the world, and the ship cranes are mainly used at remote locations. Training at location with real machines would be costly and difficult. “You would have to ship out the operators to the crane by boat and use valuable commodity for training purposes. During training, the equipment would also be prevented from doing the work it is designed for. This would mean losses for our customers,” Schneider says.

“We started cooperation with Mevea back in 2016 because they proved to be very competent in physics simulation in combination with crane control systems. The Mevea physics engine has a very high grade of realism in wire rope simulation, which is a key part of our cranes. We wanted a partner that can help us simulate the behavior of wire ropes and lifting attachments as realistically as possible so that the operators have the right feeling and the right mindset on how to operate the equipment from day one. The results have proven very successful,” Schneider continues.

Digital twin helps improve operator performance

Training with the digital twin, the operators learn all the features of the Liebherr PLC (Program Logic Control) system. PLC is the heart of the crane giving commands to all elements of the machine, like hydraulic pumps and sensors. The machine’s SmartGrip feature automatically controls the wire ropes and fills the grab when the operator lowers it onto the material. “Before Mevea we had challenges integrating the PLC system into a simulation. For software features like SmartGrip, it is very important to have the correct process time between the simulation and the PLC system. The communication from the simulation now goes directly to the crane control system, ensuring the loop time is correct for features regulating the system,” explains Schneider.

The operators learn how to start up the machine in the right sequence, how to calibrate the PLC system for efficiency and get to experience the machine in a very realistic way. The motion platform offers the operator direct feedback on the behavior and movements of the machine. “We have also integrated our telematics and performance measurement systems into the simulation. The operator gets direct feedback on how many tons of cargo they have turned over, what the filling degree of the grab is, and can improve performance throughout the process,” he continues. “We are confident that developing digital twins will allow us to produce even better simulators, thus supporting our group throughout the design process of the machine as well,” he continues.

The Mevea simulation toolkit is one of the main assets for us in developing our worldwide maritime training standard. It has always been a pleasure to work with Mevea, knowing that Liebherr is quite a demanding customer.

Christian Schneider

Christian Schneider

Product Manager for Digital Solutions and Consulting

Liebherr-Werk Nenzing