Moving into the fourth industrial revolution: Industry 4.0 has introduced us to some of the most advanced technologies and tools, from enhanced global connectivity and increased mobility to IoT, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
The new era of business has paved the way for outstanding innovations. But as we know, innovations often accompany risks and the need to ensure security, reliability, and stability. This is where the concept of Digital Twin comes into the picture.
To better understand and analyze the feasibility, scalability, and reliability of a product or a service, enterprises today prefer simulating a virtual representation of plans and alternate scenarios to analyze and improve the existing production and operation line and to predict and tackle shortcomings.
Digital twins, in simpler terms, is a virtual proxy that combines a real-time simulation of system dynamics with a set of executive controls of a physical product or service offered in the physical world. The virtual representation effectively emulates all the parts of the object (or a set of connected objects), empowering the teams to understand and analyze the operations model, the output, and the performance of their product under multiple conditions.
Contemplating the buzz around digital twin technology, in this blog, we will look into the detailed intricacies of the technology and its implications and understand how digital twin technology is deriving the future of the business landscape.
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What is Digital Twin Technology?
Do you know that the notion of Digital Twin has been around since 2002?
Well, all thanks to IoT for democratizing and making this tremendously advanced technology accessible for businesses.
Internet of things (IoT)- connected objects are digitally replicated in order to enable simulations, easier testing, proficient modeling and continuous monitoring based on the data collected by IoT sensors. Be it for almost each and everything in the realm of IoT, the data is the most important invaluable output, of digital twins. As employing the digital replica of a product or service and then sharing the analysis of digital twin data can equip companies to make decisions which directly impact their key performance indicators.
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In layperson’s terms, a digital twin is a virtual model or a digital replica of a process, product, or service created specifically for testing, research, and learning purposes. This amalgam of the virtual and physical worlds manages facilities, systems, and machines to enable significantly efficient analysis of data and monitoring of techniques that help identify the loopholes and the areas of improvement, prevent downtime, build new opportunities and pave the way for a better understanding of the upcoming product simulations.
NASA presented the first proof of concept when they leveraged the idea of a digital twin during the Apollo program in the 1970s. NASA was keen to test and analyze the rocket’s performance under different circumstances.
When we say NASA and digital Twin, you might recall Tom Hank’s movie Apollo 13, depicting the portrayal of NASA’s digital twin. The space agency leveraged the Digital Twin technology to train scientists, analyze and identify hardware issues on the Spacecraft, and bring the astronauts back home after the failed mission of Apollo 13.
CPG goods multinational company Unilever introduced another example of Digital Twin technology in 2019. Employing the concept of digital twinning, the company implemented a digital replica of its operations at one of its factories in Brazil, aiming to connect 300 soap manufacturing plants worldwide, monitor performance, and test process improvements to elevate productivity, saving the company US$2.8 million.
Let’s understand the types of Digital Twins and how the technology works.
Types of Digital Twins
The digital twins, i.e., the virtual replica of products and services, are primarily divided into three broad categories depending on what they aim to simulate:
Product twins – The first category of digital twins is the product twin, wherein the digital replica aims to simulate separate objects.
For instance, the best example of a product twin lies in the manufacturing industry. So to better understand a specific product and how the product would operate under different circumstances, manufacturers often leverage a virtual prototype of the product before setting up the actual production processes.
The analysis of the virtual product digital replica helps them better control the end product, understand its functioning and also help make the necessary changes or improvements.
Process twins – The next type of digital twin is the process twin. Wherein enterprises create a digital replica of the processes to better understand the process and its implications under various circumstances.
Creating a process simulation helps the organization improve the production methodology, enable preventative maintenance, and avoid costly downtimes, making the process faster, more efficient, and more scalable.
System twins – The third category of the digital twin is the system twin wherein a digital replica of the entire operating system (e.g., a factory) is created. By creating the whole system’s digital twin, the enterprises aim to understand and analyze the system’s function, starting from data extraction to processing, gaining insights and creating new business horizons to optimize all the processes and support the system’s integrity.
How does a Digital Twin Works?
To create a virtual representation or a digital replica of a physically available product, engineers have to extract data from numerous sources and then attach sensors to the physical product aiming to seamlessly transmit the extracted data from the physical asset to the digital replica.
Once the data is extracted and processed well, the digital replica is merged with AI and ML algorithms to present a robust testing environment for analysis and experimentation.
The most crucial part of setting a successful amalgam of digital replica and the physical product is maintaining a constant, unbroken, and as-close-to-real-time-as-possible data stream to do the best possible analysis of the representation and predict the potential business outcomes.
Simply put, the three critical aspects of building a robust digital twin are:
Sensors – As read, the above sensors are attached to the digital replica of the product. The primary aim of these sensors is to better understand and analyze the operational behaviour of processes and assets under different conditions.
Communication network – To successfully replicate a physical product or object, there has to be an uninterrupted communication network between the digital replica and the physical object to transmit valuable data.
A digital platform – The third and the most significantly valuable aspect of building a digital twin is creating a digital platform that serves as a modern data repository that stores and processes the extracted data from business assets like ERP, MES etc.
Once the sensors, the communication network, and the digital platform are well integrated, the data sources are processed by implying data analytics algorithms to make the digital twin start operating as a digitally active mode of your physical product, ready for experiments.
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When to use Digital Twin technology?
Though the digital twin technology can be used in any possible space, experts suggest the use of Digital twin be broken down into three broad types:
- Digital Twin Prototype (DTP) – The first business situation when a digital twin can be used is right before the creation of the physical product.
- Digital Twin Instance (DTI) – The following business condition is when the product is already created and manufactured, but you require a prototype to run tests and experiments on the product under various circumstances.
- Digital Twin Aggregate (DTA) – The third instance is wherein the DTI information is accumulated and analyzed to better understand the capabilities of the physical asset, analyze operating parameters and run prognostics.
With all that we read till now, it is easier to conclude that a digital twin can primarily be used to save time and money in business scenarios where you envision scaling the product or service by experimenting more with your business asset.
Now that we know when to use the digital twin technology and how it works, the next important step towards understanding the relevance of the digital twin technology concept in terms of business, so without further ado, let’s get to that.
What are the Benefits of Digital Twins – A Business Perspective
The aim behind any organization that deploys a digital twin, should not only be to gather data or infromation, instead the primary aim should be of utilizing the derived data into making informed decisions that caters specific business goals..
As modeling and analysis are especially valuable outcomes of employing digital twins, these digital replicas proffers alot more than just visibility into how remotely-located equipment is functioning, thus the data collected from digital twins should actaully be leveraged to evolve how the entire business functions.
However to entirely leverage the essence of the digital twin technology, business leader would need to consider partnering with top digital transformations firms or recruit more experienced data analysts and technically-focused operators with a proven track record of interpreting data models to help support the digital twins and drive business change in an informed way.
Leaders envisioning to get ahead of their competitors in the busines marketplace, especially in the manufacturing and engineering industries, have to consider the implementation of digital twins now if they want to stay ahead of the competition.
Further, here’s goes an elaborated compilation of the top business benefits of the digital twin technology:
- Improved customer satisfaction
Being part of a highly competitive business era, one of the primary goals of any business is customer satisfaction. And to become customer-centric, companies have to understand customer, their needs and expectations when they interact with a brand.
Leveraging the digital twin technology can help businesses better understand the implications of their product or service and analyze whether their offerings are catering for the needs of their target market. In case of any discrepancy between the expectations and the actual product, the digital replica can also pave the way for experimenting and improving the product and services.
Thus helping enterprises become customer-centric and improve their end-user experience.
2. Accelerated risk assessment and production
As read above, building a digital replica of the product before actually introducing it into the market can help better understand and analyze the actual implications of the product, identify process failures, synthesize unpredictable scenarios, help build mitigation strategies, enhance the operation line reliability and accelerate the risk management process.
3. Reduced time to market
Leveraging digital twin technology to create a virtual replica of the product proffers continuous insights into the development and helps analyze the market trends and demands, thus helping in better plan improvements, innovations and product efficiency.
Utilizing digital models and simulation tools enables enterprises to substantiate the product performance before getting to the actual physical prototyping, resulting in significant savings of costs and time, accelerated pace of experimentation and reduced time-to-market.
4. Inform and drive sustainability efforts
In addition to competitive advantage and becoming customer-centric, the tangible goal of today’s enterprises is to drive sustainability in as many efforts as possible.
Leveraging a virtual replica of the product can help analyze the product’s environmental impact and proffer the data, visibility, visualization and opportunity to improve the product’s performance by making more sustainable choices.
5. Enhance supply chain agility and resilience
The inflation and widespread global supply chain disruptions resulting from rising demand, trade restrictions, factory closures, rising freight rates and reliance on ‘just-in-time’ inventory systems.
Amidst these economically uncertain times, enterprises can benefit from leveraging digital twin technologies. Utilizing an amalgamation of digital replica and data can help leaders gain visibility into their supply chain, such as lead times, and help them make real-time adjustments internally, thus helping mitigate supply disruptions and operational discrepancies.
6. Improve operational efficiency
One of the common predicaments of business leaders is often finding ways to improve operational efficiency but not knowing the starting point. By utilizing the best of emerging digital twin technology and more significant data insights, businesses can have real-time monitored insights into the operational efficiencies and the value chain.
Especially regarding business processes, real-time information on asset and production performance can help identify bottlenecks and implement potential solutions that could improve the overall strategy and ultimately enhance the business’s operational efficiency.
How can you leverage Digital Twin Technology?
With all that we read, it’s no exaggeration to say that digital twin technology has begun dominating the business landscape by spreading its roots in different industries, with no signs of slowing down. As we stand at a unique precipice, where new technologies are continuously being invented and embraced, competing in this tech-advanced decade will require much more than just tech and innovation skills.
As for businesses looking forward to benefiting from the digital twin technology, you need to have a truly competitive vision, where you have a clear understanding of what these future worlds will look like and for what your enterprise will need to become to succeed in them.
However, to accelerate the business pace by leveraging technology, the best way is to connect with renowned business transformation consultants with an unprecedented proven track record of helping entrepreneurs digitally transform their businesses.
Being one of the top digital transformation consulting companies, we at Copper mobile are equipped with a proficient team of business transformation consultants who have helped numerous businesses thrive by melding exceptional user experience and data-driven methodologies with emerging technologies and meticulously building strategies. Get in touch with us today to put forward your first step towards a successful business transformation.