What is a Digital Twin? Why is their popularity increasing?
The digital twin is not a new invention, and has been well documented as a valuable tool in business, although the methods used in its creation are constantly evolving. The concept of pairing traces its roots to the early days of space travel, when NASA built models to help monitor and modify spacecraft that, once launched, were beyond their physical reach. As computer power increased, these analogue models turned into digital ones.
A digital twin effectively doubles as a database of everything that has ever happened to the original. This makes it possible to look into the future, and test for outcomes before going live and implementing changes to the original. This minimalizes the exposure of risk to a business's daily operations, while ultimately increasing efficiency throughout.
Among the many companies using the digital twin to great effect is the German engineering giant, Siemens, whose Amberg manufacturing plant produces industrial computer-control systems. Despite producing 15 million units per year, with more than 1000 product variations, the facility boasts that it has almost achieved the perfect “zero defect” rate, with 99.9988% of the units produced requiring no adjustment! They attribute this remarkable achievement to the use of the a “digital twin” methodology.
A digital twin can be used to optimize proposed and imagined operational changes in a 'safe' virtual environment without running the risk of causing unforeseen and potentially disastrous consequences in production. Simulating changes virtually can then be replicated in the real world if proven of value and effective. Such operational changes are not limited to manufacturing operations as described in the example, but can also be used in the context of individual business processes in all business sectors.
By default, the effectiveness of the digital twin model depends on reliable and economic data capture. Past data capture methods have often been found to have 'dark spots'. These are the hidden places in systems and processes where older tools have failed to find and capture vitally important data, often causing unforeseen effects. The old programming adage 'Garbage in = Garbage out' is still highly relevant here.
Thanks to advances in AI and ML the value of utilizing a digital twin is now well proven and its range of use cases is constantly increasing, but until recently, reliable and economic data capture was still a problem, and this is where a further evolution has occurred in the form of task mining, which is a software application that automates data capture, its collation and even its business-friendly presentation.
Not every company has the resources of NASA or Siemens, but thanks to recent technology developments all companies can start thinking about how to use a digital twin to achieve the same level of operational excellence as these two giants.
May be your company would benefit from a digital twin? Where would you start?
Contact us to learn how we can help you to make it a reality.