Industry 4.0 and the digital twin

Manufacturing meets its match

About the Report

Manufacturing processes are becoming increasingly digital. As this trend unfolds, many companies often struggle to determine what they should be doing to drive and deliver real value both operationally and strategically. In this paper, we describe the digital twin—its definition, the way it can be created, and discuss how it could drive value, its typical applications in the real world, and how a company can prepare for the digital twin planning process.


Viewpoints / key findings

A digital twin can be defined, fundamentally, as an evolving digital profile of the historical and current behavior of a physical object or process that helps optimize business performance. Indeed, the real power of it—and why it could matter so much—is that it can provide a near-real-time comprehensive linkage between the physical and digital worlds. Digital twins are designed to model complicated assets or processes. Figure 1 conveys the journey of interactivity between the physical and digital worlds.

The creation of the digital twin encompasses two main areas of concern:

  1. Designing the digital twin processes and information requirements in the product life cycle— from the design of the asset to the field use and maintenance of the asset in the real world
  2. The creation of the enabling technology to integrate the physical asset and its digital twin for real-time flow of sensor data and operational and transactional information from the company’s core systems.

When considering the business value that the digital twin offers, companies should focus on issues related to strategic performance and marketplace dynamics, including improved and longer-lasting product performance, faster design cycles, potential for new revenue streams, and better warranty cost management. Table 1 lists a summary of such values by category.

Most importantly, this is not a project that should typically end once a benefit is identified, implemented, and measured. To continually differentiate in the market place, companies should plan time to move through the cycle again in new areas of the business over time. Meanwhile, a company may need to integrate digital technologies and the digital twin into the complete organizational structure—from R&D to sales—continuously leveraging digital twin insights to change how the company conducts business, makes decisions, and creates new revenue streams.

Figure 1. Manufacturing process digital twin model

Table 1. Digital twin business values

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