By Elton Bondi, CEO of Business Science Corporation (BSC)
Although a relatively new term in business, Digital Twinning is an established concept in engineering.
In simple terms, a Digital Twin is software that is coded to replicate and behave exactly like a real-world object or system. An “object” could, for example, be an engineering asset such as a turbine, a truck, a specific production system, an industry-wide supply chain, or a market – anything with characteristics that can be quantified and measured.
Different mathematical modelling techniques, such as equation-based modelling, simulation, statistical modelling and machine learning combine to ensure that all attributes of the real world are accurately replicated in extreme detail and high fidelity. A combination of different technologies, including 3D visualisation and Internet of Things [IoT] sensors, synchronise the real world with its synthetic version or digital twin.
Examples of characteristics that would be modelled in a Digital Twin of, for instance, something like a turbine, would include performance attributes like speed, output, and fuel consumption; physical factors like vibration, temperature and pressure; as well as the material properties such as the tensile strength of metals, abrasiveness and hardness. Modelling these (and many other) attributes will result in software that will behave exactly like its real-world counterpart. A well-calibrated Digital Twin is able to inform a wide range of design, operational deployment and commercial questions. For example, how would the productivity of an asset improve if the operating parameters were slightly altered, and how would these new operating parameters impact maintenance costs and ultimately total return on investment?
Digital Twins are effectively used for design work; or to discover optimal operating procedures; for diagnostic purposes and even for prediction, such as determining equipment failure.
An exciting application of the Digital Twin is to replicate not only a specific asset, or process, but an entire enterprise, thanks to IoT.
The enterprise Digital Twin will translate the plethora of metrics that IoT devices collect from across an enterprise (and market) in order to accurately calculate the economic consequences of existing or proposed changes to policies and operations, as well as provide a detailed diagnosis of underlying causes of past important events. A twin can then also tell management how best to improve a situation in real time.
Industry experts predict that by 2021 at least 50% of enterprises in the US will be using Digital Twins and this will yield productivity improvements of more than 10%.
The first time our company applied Digital Twinning, we were fortunate to yield a sustained 25% improvement in our client’s operating efficiency. However, like all promising 4th Industrial Revolution technologies, generating value is as much about how technology is implemented as it is about the technology itself.
In more practical terms, we deploy Enterprise Digital Twins to business in order to enable and achieve three things:
- Validate plans – understanding in detail the chances of attaining business objectives, and the greatest risk areas.
- Optimise plans – Once we have mapped the art of the likely, and the science of the possible. We are able to understand how well a business could perform if changes were made, both in theory and then realistically.
- Merge synthetic and real worlds to build a real-time solution – such a solution constantly tells decision makers what’s happening in the enterprise, why, what’s likely to happen and how to improve the current reality.
Digital Twins integrate the engineering, operational and commercial realms with detail and accuracy and in a holistic way. The result is a technology that constantly reveals in real time, both intended and – importantly – unintended consequences of decisions, or of changes in the environment.
Simply put, digital twinning is about high fidelity, highly accurate real-time modelling. A Digital Twin is an intelligence asset built to ensure greater efficiency and effectiveness.
It has specific application in all physical manufacturing processes, in back-office administration processes, in call centres, and even in measuring and predicting market response to different campaigns.
With massive increases in computing power, and in the number and type of IoT sensors, the Digital Twin concept is being tested in a wide range of other applications. For example, the biological-health Digital Twin. Imagine having a twin of your body comprising all your physiological parameters, and your full biological and family history. Such a “twin” would be able to predict both your short-term wellness and longer-term longevity based on, amongst other things, what you consume, your activities, your heart rate, your blood type and pressure, your body temperature, even real-time analysis of blood and waste matter!
The future is exciting for those who sincerely embrace this technology. For early adopters, the enterprise Digital Twin will provide a significant competitive advantage. Today, most business decision makers will understand that great insight and value is lost in averages and in monthly planning spreadsheets. This technology is detailed, comprehensive and it is real time. Digital twinning technology will be a must-have addition to the arsenal of any business seeking to prosper.