If you search “digital twin” on Google News, the results will resoundingly be positive. Our recent search showed headlines like, “Unlocking the potential of digital twins in supply chains”, “Digital twin marketing worth to be around 131 billion by 2030, “Digital twins for the space sector”, and “Digital twins are primed to revolutionize the infrastructure industry”.
These are bold statements for the bold concept. If you’re not familiar, a digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical product, process, person, or place that can mirror and measure its physical counterpart.
However, when the rubber meets the road, are digital twins living up to the hype?
In a recent survey of 300 executives across a range of industries, the responses showed it’s getting there. Organizations are pursuing digital twin – only 5% of respondents did not have digital twin as part of their larger digital transformation strategy and 86% reported digital twins are an achievable goal worth pursuing or investing in today.
Companies aren’t using digital twins as a solution for just one problem, they’re implementing the concept to achieve a variety of improvements. For those of you still looking to understand what benefits digital twin could bring to your organizations, you’ve come to the right place. This post will outline the primary advantages of digital twins – and get you thinking how the concept could make a difference in your organization.
We are in an increasingly customer-centric marketplace and delivering customer satisfaction can be a competitive differentiator. Customers expect companies to understand their needs and research shows customers will spend more if they know they will receive excellent service.
Digital twins can support improved customer satisfaction though use cases like predictive maintenance, but because they collect real-time data on the product, they can also enable smoother customer service and repair operations, while informing future product improvements.
Our recent survey found that this benefit is a top priority for the aerospace and defense, industrial machine and electrical equipment, and pharmaceutical industries.
This benefit comes with time and data collection through digital twin. After initial investments have been made, generational improvements of a product – based on real–world operational data from many digital twins – can inform engineers and designers when developing a new product or version.
This benefit is a top priority within the following industries: Automotive, Chemicals, High-tech, Industrial Machine and Electrical Equipment (tie), and Medical Devices.
With digital twins, companies receive continuous insights into how their products are performing in the field. With these insights, they can iterate and innovate products faster and with more efficiency.
When used with digital models and simulation tools, digital twin enables engineers to validate product performance before physical prototyping. For costly products, this results in significant savings in both costs and time. Digital twins can help sidestep late-stage redesign and reduce time-to-market.
Given the acceleration of innovation over the past decade, this benefit offers a competitive advantage.
An increasingly prevalent goal for organizations is to drive sustainability in as many efforts as possible. There are opportunities across the value chain with digital twins. It can mean swapping out product materials for more sustainable options, reducing carbon emissions or scrap in the manufacturing process, or decreasing the number of service truck rolls.
When integrated into a greater digital transformation strategy, digital twin can provide the data, visibility, and visualization necessary to improve performance across multiple dimensions related to sustainability.
For example, a company could apply a plant-wide digital twin model to identify potential areas for efficiency by integrating disparate data models and uncover collective improvement opportunities. From these previously unavailable insights, the company can then take steps to reduce energy consumption or find ways to increase production capacity without additional resources.
Supply chain disruptions are plaguing companies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion, both of which have put a spotlight on agility and resilience.
A combination of emerging technologies and platforms have made it possible to pursue a digital twin of the physical end-to-end supply chain. With this type of digital twin, companies gain visibility into their supply chain, such as lead times, and can make real-time adjustments internally and with their partners.
Digital twins sometimes have a secondary benefit if you’re able to think about the possibilities. Celli creates beverage dispensers that are used all around the world. They incorporated digital twin technology into their dispensers to reduce maintenance costs and product downtime.
However, they soon realized the data collected as part of the digital twin wasn’t just relevant and valuable to their business – it could help improve their customers’ business. For example, the data revealed patterns in drink consumption, like which beverages were selling best and where they were most popular. They were then able to deliver these analytics for customers on a subscription basis. Restaurant and bar owners can use this data to better anticipate orders and stock inventories more effectively.
Businesses want to be able to execute with greater efficiency, but it’s hard to know where to start. Digital twins offer the insights necessary to gain those operational efficiencies across the value chain.
Particularly relevant to process digital twins, organizations can bring together different data sets to capture real-time information on asset and production performance. Not only can they see where there might be bottlenecks, but also how potential solutions could impact the overall process.
The challenge of employee turnover and retention is nearly universal across industries. When a skilled employee leaves, they almost always take their knowledge with them, creating a barrier that slows productivity. With digital twin, organizations can mitigate some of these challenges through remote monitoring and assistance.
Offsite experts can observe active equipment through systems that utilize digital twin technology. If an issue is detected, an onsite employee is contacted and could potentially be guided through the maintenance procedure with the help of augmented reality. If AR guidance is not available and a service technician needs to be deployed, they already have the information necessary to make the repair. This can reduce truck rolls and increase first-time-fix-rates.
Harpak-Ulma uses digital twin in this way. They’ve seen productivity improvements between 30% and 60%, depending on the specific application.
With digital twins, organizations are gaining greater visibility into their data, and then can use those insights to make an impact that’s felt by customers, employees, the bottom line – or all three.
There are innumerable ways to incorporate digital twins into your digital transformation – we may have missed a few! With digital technology and transformation strategies evolving with it, the benefits of digital twin will continue to multiply.
Nancy White is the content marketing manager for the Corporate Brand team at PTC. A journalist turned content marketer, she has a diverse writing background—from Fortune 500 companies to community newspapers—that spans more than a decade.