What Would You Have Your Digital Twins do?

As I mentioned in the original Industry 4.0 blog, nine key enablers support Industry 4.0 or Smart Manufacturing.  I list the nine key enablers below.  The adoption of 5G internet speeds will enable Digital Twins to add value for your customers.

Some of the key enablers of Smart Manufacturing include:

  1. Cyber Security/Blockchain
  2. Cloud Computing
  3. IIoT- Industrial Internet of Things
  4. Big Data
  5. System Integration
  6. Autonomous Robots-Cobots
  7. Additive Manufacturing- 3D printing
  8. Augmented reality
  9. Simulation/Digital Twins


We’ve all heard the comment that we can’t be in two places at once.  What if you could be in two places at once?  What would you have your digital twins do?  Today I want to provide some basic information on one of the key enablers of Industry 4.0- The Digital Twins.

First, let’s talk about what a digital twin is.  It is the digital replication of any physical object or system across its entire lifecycle.   The virtual model can be anything- an entire system, a bridge, a tunnel, a wind turbine, and an elevator, etc.

Sensors on the physical “thing” provide information to the digital model so that anyone looking at the digital model can understand how the physical asset is performing.  Some interesting outcomes come about by understanding how a physical asset performs in the real world.

Engineers can better understand how the asset performs.  By analyzing the data and turning it into useful information, engineers can predict when a maintenance issue might occur and can provide preventive steps to minimize downtime.  Being connected to a physical asset from a distance allows for troubleshooting and even maintenance from far away.  This is especially useful in an industry such as wind turbine farms where reaching the turbines may not be an easy task.

Another benefit is that you learn how physical assets are being used by the customer which provides tremendous insight into future revisions, service offerings, and product quality.  The collection of this information allows for shorter new product development cycles and ideation.  This leads to four major opportunities:

1.  Add increased value to your product offerings

Since you are collecting large amounts of data, what value-added services can you provide to your customers that will make their lives easier/better?  Can you provide better more accurate servicing of the physical assets?  Can you suggest when they need to conduct preventive maintenance so that they can plan it for optimum times?

2.  MRO improvements

Companies with asset-heavy strategies keep lots of spare parts on hand to ensure their assets continue running.  Often, they purchase too many repair and replacement items increasing their MRO spend or they do the exact opposite, they carry no spare items and hope that they can buy replacement parts quickly when something breaks.  If you can provide a data-driven spare item list, that is a great benefit to your customers.

3.  Shortened New Product Development Cycles

It’s great to collect data, but you have to turn the data into information.  Turning data into information will allow your engineers and designers to quickly develop new products that can address product shortcomings or issues.  Using asset information instead of focus groups will provide better insights into the needs of the customers.

4.  Drives Organizational Change

Using all of the information as a backdrop, your organization will have to become more flexible and agile to succeed in a digital environment.  It won’t be new product development then operations, it will have to become new product development and operations.

The focus will be brought to removing silos that exist in the organization.  The organization will have to become more agile in the data collection, data interpretation, new product development, and manufacturing cycle to stay ahead of others fully engaged in a Digital Transformation.

As always it is an honor serving you and I hope that you and your company are getting better every day!

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