Understanding Digital Twins as a Key Part of Digital Transformation
Brought to you by The WHIR
One of the really cool parts of the digital revolution has been the work we’ve done to give analog devices a digital footprint. This involves manufacturing, healthcare, automotive, power, and so much more.
With that comes a new concept as we evolve traditional systems into the digital age – Digital Twins. To better understand this concept, it’s important to define what a digital twin actually is.
In the world of digital transformations, a digital twin is a virtual or digital representation of a physical asset, object, or even manufacturing process. The idea is to continuously learn and provide data insights around vast operations. Consider this, more than 800,000 digital twins of jet engines, locomotives, power generation equipment and more already are helping GE and customers to make their machines and processes more productive.
You can leverage information, data sciences, and powerful systems to enable digital twins of supply chain management, entire factory processes, and even inventory management. So, for example, your digital twin, coupled with the data and the applications which support it can help make tens of thousands of decisions that are required every year across the vast supply chain and factory operations.
As large enterprises continue to work through these digital transformation initiatives, they’ll be looking at more ways to be competitive and improve productivity. According to Gartner, digital twins help create the model of the physical object, data from the object, a unique one-to-one correspondence to the object and the ability to monitor the object.
“The adoption of, and hype around, digital twins is growing,” said Roy Schulte, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “Digital twins are the next step in the Internet of Things (IoT) driven world, where CIOs are increasingly leveraging IoT technologies in their digital business journey.”
Gartner further points out that digital twins add value to traditional analytical approaches by improving situational awareness, and enabling better responses to changing conditions, particularly for asset optimization and preventive maintenance.
What does this mean for the business? Lower operating costs, better utilization of capital expenditures, optimizing performance, and even extending the life of the physical object around which the digital twin is modeled. Ultimately, this helps organizations gain more insights and drive better decisions around process.
But is this something that everyone actually needs? When looking at digital twins – keep the following in mind:
- Keep it simple. You absolutely need to define and identify your use-case very clearly. Know which physical object your trying to define, know where there are processes wrapped around it all, and understand how a digital twin will impact this. Remember, you are introducing a new piece of technology and more data into your environment. So, you need to know how to use it. The last thing you want is a digital twin which introduces unnecessary complexity or is just overkill for your project.
- Make sure you’re actually ready for a digital twin. Processing this much data will actually require you to look at your data center and compute capabilities. Make sure there is an element of readiness within your organization to take this type of project on. This means ensuring wireless systems are up to par, that your data center can process this data, and that you have systems which can process the output and help you actually make better business decisions. Enabling a digital twin is a multi-step process involving a number of business, user, and technology components. Just make sure you’re ready.
- Align your business and process with your digital twin. This is a truly delicate process. Digital twins are powerful sensors into the business and the process which supports your entire organization. You have the ability to change the way you do supply chain management, asset control, and even enabling better consumer initiatives. However, you won’t get far if there are still gaps in the process today or if your business isn’t aligned. You’ll need to develop metrics around success factors so that a digital twin isn’t just a cost center. Rather, it’s a tool that’ll help evolve your business and improve your competitive market stance.
- Keep in mind – more data means more risk. When you create a digital twin – you also create more data that’ll need to be mined, correlated, and understood. Let’s be perfectly clear here; this data is NOT benign. It’s valuable to both you and the bad guys. When you create digital twins make sure you have good security best practices in mind. You’ll need to plan around security, data integrity, privacy, and even compliance in some situations. Protect your data and allow it to work for you to gain the biggest benefits from a digital twin.
- A recent research report from GE pointed out that by combining data and advanced data science, organizations and industry leaders build a digital twin—a digital model representing deep profile characteristics—of every targeted piece of physical technology, initiative, and even users. You can use these technologies to change and improve the life of the consumer or physical asset that you have within your own organization. However, don’t over-complicate it! Work with your partner to ensure that digital twins are right for your business and will actually simplify processes and various initiatives.