What is a Digital Twin?

A digital twin is a digital representation of an industrial function or physical space. 

In essence, it takes information collected by industrial sensors (IoT) and monitoring software to create a visualization of a process or space. 

They’ve emerged as an innovation of the connected factory, and can be instrumental in optimizing your product lifecycle management.

The term “digital twin” was first introduced in the early 2000s, but in practice, NASA has been using them for a half century as they worked to monitor and repair space missions from Earth. This concept is pivotal to the digital transformation in many industries, especially manufacturing.  In recent years digital twins evolved from theoretical concepts to cost-effective ways to take a leap forward into Industry 4.0 and PLM.

image showing how a digital twin is a digital representation of a physical process or space.

Definition of Digital Twin

At a high level, digital twins comprise of three things: 

    1. A physical entity
    2. A digital replica
    3. The data connection between these two entities. 

This digitized loop is contributing to a major operational shift in manufacturing and other industries. 

By fully visualizing an environment with real, actionable data, companies who deploy digital twins have an opportunity to analyze current business problems as well as explore future opportunities without updating anything in their current physical space.

Benefits and Use Cases for Digital Duplicates

Digital twins enable a number of Industry 4.0 capabilities. Some of the most beneficial for manufacturers include: 

    • Analysis and predictive modeling
    • Product Lifecycle cost reduction
    • Optimizations to improve inefficiencies throughout the shop floor

For example, 3D modeling (e.g. CAD) is often used to project a view of a current physical space to enable a visualization of future modifications. 

A digital twin can capture either a physical space/object or process which in turn makes it easier to understand or model business performance. 

With insights into these data-driven areas of your business, enacting further changes can be viewed as the prize/culmination of your successful Digital Transformation.  This will enable proactive not reactive decision making and create actionable opportunities (growth! expansion! yippee!).

Digital Twins Eliminate Paper

With increased visibility of the inner workings/productivity of the factory floor, manufacturers are poised to break through and drive significant innovation on old/out-dated production models, quality & product lifecycle processes (goodbye paper & pencils!).  

With digital twins, plant managers can accomplish a number of things to drive efficiency.  Increase productivity by optimizing inefficient workflows by finding and solving root cause of various issues in your plants’ processes.

Digital Twin for Shop Floor Workers

With increased visibility of real-time performance data, factory floor workers also benefit from digital twins.  

Improved data visualization reduces risk and translates into quality improvements. It makes more impactful collaborations possible across departments and business functions by creating a shared, data-driven reality on the shop floor.  

Further, it empowers plant managers to achieve greater efficiencies by quickly identifying production bottlenecks, flagging & reporting quality issues, and ultimately contributing to larger margins.

The Future of Digital Twins

When implemented effectively, data twins ultimately contribute to better visibility and create pathways for optimization of existing business operations – whether it’s reducing critical errors in a production line or helping to drive faster product innovation, which is especially beneficial in the manufacturing industry. 

As manufacturers collect more information, it will be possible to use digital twins to model potential production scenarios to select the best possible course of action.