With help from recent technological advances, digital twins are more accessible and popular than ever before. Digital twins are a mainstay in many industries, and now that it’s cost-effective, more industries are adopting it. In fact, 75% of organizations implementing IoT already use digital twins or plan to within a year.
Read on to learn what a digital twin is—and how to create one.
What Is a Digital Twin?
A digital twin is a digital representation of a process, product, or service.
Digital twins have been available for nearly two decades, but advances in technology, combined with lower cost points, has resulted in a renewed focus on the benefits of a digital twin strategy. The Internet of Things (IoT) is one advancement that has helped enhance the accuracy and benefits of a digital twin. IoT is a concept that allows businesses to easily install sensors on physical objects (machinery, products, etc.) to collect data. These sensors capture information such as working conditions, processing speeds, temperature, or pressure. Then, the sensors transmit that data to a cloud-based system that is leveraged to analyze and predict performance and/or behavior.
Digital twins provide businesses with a big-picture view of what’s happening in their physical products or manufacturing spaces. With this data, teams can:
- Identify problems before they become all-consuming
- Recognize potential efficiencies
- Plan for future improvements or opportunities
NASA is a prime source for digital twin examples. NASA has used digital twin technology for decades. Because NASA engineers can’t reach their machines in space, they install sensors in them. These sensors collect data that culminates in digital twins. NASA uses the digital twins to operate, monitor, repair, and plan improvements for their machines from afar.
Today, there are many other digital twin examples. For instance, digital twin manufacturing is popular. Smart factories hook sensors up to factory machinery so they can tell whether their equipment is functioning properly. When they notice inefficiencies, they have an opportunity to fix them, resulting in increased up-time. They also use digital twins for thorough testing by simulating various scenarios for enhanced future changes.
The Three Pillars Required in Pursuit of a Digital Twin
A digital twin isn’t something that your business can craft in a day. First, you need the appropriate scaffolding. There are three pillars to consider when creating this internal infrastructure. Expert Dr. Craig Miller explored these three pillars in a recent PLM Quick 30 podcast. Dr. Miller focuses on digital twin technology in the federal aerospace and defense industry at Ansys, and has spent years developing best practices in the field. Securing his three pillars will help your business craft effective digital twins.
Senior-Level Management Sponsorship
Senior-level management sponsorship is the first critical pillar for building or deploying a digital twin. Sponsorship is not a term that is used lightly. Pursuing a digital twin strategy is a vision that requires dedication to changing how an organization works in order to reap the benefits. A strong sponsor will support the vision by understanding the business value, selling the vision, prioritizing the budget, prioritizing the expertise, reinforcing the process, investing in technology, measuring progress/results, and communicating the value to the business to reinforce adoption of a digital mindset.
At the beginning of the adoption process, some tactical items senior business leaders can do are as follows:
- Expedite approvals
- Inform the roadmap using big-picture intel
- Guide the implementation process
- Liaise between departments and business units
- Encourage enthusiastic adoption
Senior-level management sponsorship streamlines and bolsters the adoption of the digital twin. With a strong, supported start, your business will be able to reap the benefits of digital twins far faster.
A Data and IoT Strategy
Your data and IoT strategy is also critical to your digital twin pursuit. You need a comprehensive approach that explains how you will connect your physical assets to your cloud-based system.
You’ll need to determine the:
- Data your business wants to collect
- Types of sensors that will work with your physical assets
- Number of sensors that can effectively collect data
- Way your sensors will connect to the cloud (or whichever infrastructure you use)
- Process for maintaining and streamlining incoming data
- Decision-making process once you receive and analyze your data
With a comprehensive data and IT strategy, your teams will find it easier to collect and use data to create effective digital twins that help you achieve your business objectives.
Your business needs tools that can consume the data from your physical product and create accurate and flexible digital simulations. These simulations must be advanced enough to help you enhance the development of your product.
Top-notch software is a must-have. PTC is recognized as a global leader who has established a comprehensive technology suite that helps companies realize the benefits of pursuing a digital twin strategy in a reliable and flexible way. The use of CREO, ThingWorx, and Vuforia can help collect data that creates simulations resulting in highly accurate predictions. For example, teams can test a product’s reaction to a new temperature and determine the response virtually before testing the actual product.
Simulations empower your business to validate product enhancements quickly helping minimize waste in time and material.
Now that technology has matured to a point where companies can implement a digital twin strategy that is cost-effective, it is a game-changer for manufacturers. Digital twins use real-time data to create realistic simulations, empowering businesses to monitor, test, and plan improvements to their products, equipment, and processes. By implementing the three required pillars mentioned above, your business will be well-positioned to adopt digital twins and maximizing the benefits of enhanced manufacturing capabilities.
Need help forming your three-pillar digital transformation strategy? Schedule a meeting with us.