Every organization is either actively transforming their business or determining how to transform their business. The new digital world seems to be driving this transformation, which is why many are incorrectly calling it a digital transformation. However, as mentioned before in my blog post Business vs. Digital Transformation, I believe we are going through a business transformation instead. There are many improvements we are making to our businesses which are not digital nor purely focused on technology. Examples of these non-digital changes are:
- providing more comprehensive product offerings across a particular value stream
- deciding to create completely new products
- providing more services around our business offerings
- improving the process of how we deliver our products & services
- even changing our businesses culture and mindset to better align us for success
One topic that has been consuming much of our mindshare these days is the ability to transform our business by implementing or leveraging the magical Digital Twin. Even with all the discussions and material about the digital twin, many are still unsure of what a digital twin is, why do we need it, what business challenges does it solve or to put it simply:
“Is the digital twin actually going to make my business more successful?”
So, Who Really Wants a Digital Twin?
Most of the marketing material we read or the presentations we attend are strongly positioning the digital twin as the “thing” that we need for our business. It’s no surprise then that is exactly what our industry seems to be asking for. I get the sense that people are asking for a digital twin solution mainly based on the marketing buzz and the idea that it will solve all our problems. At the end of the day, I am not really sure who wants a digital twin.
What we really want is the ability to solve our business challenges. The Digital Twin has the promise and the ability to solve many, but not all, of our major challenges. This is probably why many of us are talking about the digital twin; however, we cannot lose sight that our real goal is to solve business challenges. This may seem obvious but is extremely important so that we do not get too focused on building up a digital twin just for the sake of building a digital twin. This results in people implementing a digital twin without fully understanding which business problem it will solve. There have been several examples of organizations implementing a digital twin solution only to realize that it is not solving any of their major business challenges.
I am a big believer and supporter of the digital twin; however, I believe it is one way we are going to achieve our vision & goals. The digital twin is not a vision (your why), but rather just a means to achieve it (your how).
What Business Challenges does a Digital Twin Solve
While the digital twin has the potential to solve an almost infinite number of individual business challenges, fundamentally they can be broken down into six key categories.
It is no secret that the quantity and the size of our silos is large. The digital twin promises to eliminate the data & people silos within our organizations as well as across the entire supply chain.
Our industry has always been global. With the digital twin we will be able to collaborate and communicate with remote stakeholders around our digital data. The digital twin will also allow us to use more modern and visual methods of transferring and acquiring knowledge.
Find, Discover and Re-use Information
20% of our time is spent looking for information. With that as a reality, the promise of the digital twin being able to manage and organize our data, in a way that makes it easy to find the most up-to-date version of our information, is very appealing. Also, the ability to discover information that we did not know we needed or wanted has noteworthy value.
Last but not least is the ability to re-use digital information that may have been authored by various different tools, eliminating the need to manually and painstakingly re-enter the data.
The digital twin promises the capability of being able to better utilize our assets by monitoring current performance metrics, understand how our assets perform under certain loads or inputs, and better predict maintenance schedules or even avoid costly unpredictable failures. Overall, the digital twin will allow us to better understand our asset and maximize the value it generates for the business.
Ultimately the digital twin will allow us to make better, more informed decisions through easy access to various pieces of information and the ability to work as a real team. This becomes especially important as our products become increasingly more complex and our supply chains grow and become more intricate.
Drives & Supports Innovative Technology
AR, VR, AI, MI, Additive Manufacturing, Industry 4.0, IoT, etc.
With all this new technology that is available for us to leverage, we need the ability to have our digital information available and consumable by these technologies. The digital twin strategy is intended to support this.
Every organization is going through some sort of business transformation where they are looking at ways to improve their current products and services but are also investigating what new products and services they can provide. But despite the fact that technology is increasingly a common factor in all these transformations, they are fundamentally about business and not technology. However, both the enormous promise of the digital twin solving our business challenges and the technical possibilities that it can make possible has put it at the heart of many transformations.