Understanding and Planning for Digital Twins
Adoption of digital twins is on the rise. Thirteen percent of Gartner survey respondents that have implemented IoT have also implemented digital twins, and 62% are working on implementation or are planning to implement them in the next year.
Companies that are considering making use of digital twins—and even organizations that wonder what they are and what they can do—will find a new white paper by Gartner, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting Digital Twins,” extremely useful. Its goal is to help companies that might be planning to or already implementing the technology by providing a thorough understanding of the types of digital twins, their relationships to existing business applications, and their potential impact on those apps.
What are digital twins?
A digital twin is a new type of enterprise software component: a digital proxy or virtual representation for a business entity, whether a person, process, or thing, most often associated with IoT-connected items. IoT provides a stream of real time data to analyze the state of business. Digital Twins are used to increase situational awareness to monitor the overall health of a part or process – does it need to be replaced soon? Is it wearing faster than usual? Digital twins help gain a better understanding of how business resources evolve and change—both of which then drive improvements in commercial processes and other forms of business value.
Gartner identifies three different types of digital twins and defines an emerging role for each, as well as their relationship to each other. Each type of digital twin monitors and optimizes a different scope of individuals, assets, processes, and operations within a company:
- Discrete digital twins focus on individual assets, people, and other physical resources.
- Composite digital twins involve a combination of discrete digital twins and resources.
- Digital twins of organizations (DTOs) maximize value across specific commercial processes or entire business operations.
Does Every Product Warrant a Digital Twin?
The key issue around digital twins is determining what really needs to be a digital twin. The larger, more complex a product is, the more likely a digital twin makes sense. For example, an airplane or ship would be ideal candidates for a digital twin because you would want to have proactive maintenance on those large assets and likely use IoT for feedback mechanisms on those parts and systems. However, if you make smaller products like a phone or something ubiquitous, having a digital twin on every serialized phone or part would not make sense. Perhaps only for major models or releases is where creating a digital twin makes sense.
Digital twins introduce massive amounts of data, and serious thought needs to be given to what data is being collected and where it is shared across the business. This is where a PLM platform like 3DEXPERIENCE comes into play, it is designed to help manage product variations and how information is managed for every major design and instantiation. Jonathan Scott from Razorleaf recently wrote an interesting article titled “Start Now:Profiting From The Digital Twin Can Take Time,” I’d recommend reading it as he outlines some of the challenges mentioned here in more detail.
Getting back to the Gartner paper — it details different digital twin design patterns and key characteristics, including proliferation, complexity, inheritance, organization, and interoperability. Common to all three types of digital twins are the two vital roles they perform for business: improving situational awareness and providing information to help companies make better business decisions.
Digital twins aren’t meant to replace business applications, but to extend their value. While they may come as an embedded part of newer, IoT-native applications, they can also be added to existing, pre–IoT era apps. Gartner offers suggestions for how to acquire them—whether they are part of purchased software, pre-developed modules to be integrated into existing software, developed in-house for integration, or outsourced for custom development—as well as recommendations for how to plan for and utilize them.
Want More Information on Digital Twins?
For a copy of the Gartner paper, please complete our Contact us form and we will email you the paper. Or, if you’d like discuss how you might incorporate digital twins into your organization, our PLM consultants would love to have that conversation. Contact us and we will be in touch with you shortly.