Digital Twins: Fail Virtually so you don’t in the Real World

September 13, 2019, Shaun Moran

Digital Transformation

Copy of Copy of MOQdigital July - Sept (16)Digital Twin technology is a recent invention that replicates either an physical-world object or an entity with a digital representation. What separates Digital Twins from past efforts is that it's not just a blueprint or a picture, it's a virtual working model with all the dynamics that reflects how the real-life Twin works. Gartner is predicting 40% annual growth for Digital Twins with the market reaching US$16B by 2023.

Organisations are using Digital Twins for several reasons including:

  • Improved maintenance and reliability by predicting faults before they occur reducing downtime and lost revenue.
  • Business process or asset optimisation by simulating efficiency gains and dynamically responding to market demand or other factors.
  • Research & Development by providing insights into how products and services are being used and how they can be improved.
  • New business models centred on guaranteed outcomes such as specific performance guarantees. Ie: No longer selling a product but selling a service and using a Digital Twin to provide that service guarantee.

Digital Twins brings two main business benefits to organisations:

1. Improved Situational Awareness
  • Whilst systems in the operational technology (OT) space often had sensors displaying information about the multi-million dollar asset, this information did not have a predictive model underneath it. Data was often trapped in OT platforms (such as historian servers) and required specialist engineers to be notified of alerts and try to determine what is occurring.
  • Because a Digital Twin is an actual virtual working model of the entity, it can provide this level of prediction without requiring specialist human analysis. Also, because the cost of sensors is dramatically reducing, Digital Twins can be applied to assets outside of the multi-million dollar range such as refrigerators or air compressors.

2. Enabling of Automation

  • Digital Twins can also tie into other IT systems (such as ERP). This enables automation of events such as the Digital Twin predicting that a bearing will fail in two weeks, check the inventory if the correct part is in stock, order through the procurement system if not and schedule through the dispatch system a technician to repair when it ships and schedule downtime through the operations system.

Digital Twins don't just apply to physical devices but can also apply to more abstract entities and can be applied to a specific process, product or across entire business operations. This is called a Digital Twin of an Organisation (DTO) and it has been on the Gartner Top 10 strategic technology trends for the past three years. ING Bank have used Digital Twins to optimise a specific business process resulting in 11% reduction in rework and 10 million fewer manual retouches per annum.

Data is the lifeblood of Digital Twins, without accurate data informing the Digital Twin of how the real-life Twin is operating, the Digital Twin model will be inaccurate. With Digital Twins of physical objects (such as pumps, motors, turbines, fridges, etc.) data is provided by sensors. For DTO scenarios the data is sourced from your existing business applications using process mining techniques.

Digital Twins is a technology that is starting to gain transaction and used in the right business context can deliver considerable value to organisations. However, as with all new technologies it is important to clearly understand what the business goal we are trying to achieve and focus your Digital Twins efforts around that goal. In addition, MOQdigital recommends starting with a small with laser focus on a specific item and then once that is delivered using your newfound learnings and understand of the technology to grow and expand your capabilities.

MOQdigital can help you understand your organisations potential benefits in this space using our deep expertise and skills in a variety of ways from design thinking workshops through to proof of concept implementations.

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Written by: Shaun Moran, Principal Consultant at MOQdigital