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Best Practices for Digital Twin Implementation

The possibilities of what you can do with digital twin technology are only as limited as your imagination

Today, forward-thinking companies across industries are implementing digital twin technology in increasingly fascinating and ground-breaking ways. With Internet of Things (IoT) technology improving every day and more and more compute power readily available to organizations of all sizes, the possibilities of what you can do with digital twin technology are only as limited as your imagination.

What Is a Digital Twin?

A digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical asset that is practically indistinguishable from its physical counterpart. It is made possible thanks to IoT sensors that gather data from the physical world and send it to be virtually reconstructed. This data includes design and engineering details that describe the asset’s geometry, materials, components, and behavior or performance.

When combined with analytics, digital twin data can unlock hidden value for an organization and provide insights about how to improve operations, increase efficiency or discover and resolve problems before the real-world asset is affected.

These 4 Steps Are Critical for Digital Twin Success:

Involve the Entire Product Value Chain

It’s critical to involve stakeholders across the product value chain in your design and implementation. Each department faces diverse business challenges in their day-to-day operations, and a digital twin provides ready solutions to problems such as the inability to coordinate across end-to-end supply chain processes, minimal or no cross-functional collaboration, the inability to make data-driven decisions, or clouded visibility across the supply chain. Decision-makers at each level of the value chain have extensive knowledge on critical and practical challenges. Including their inputs will ensure a better and more efficient design of the digital twin and ensure more valuable and relevant insights.

Establish Well-Documented Practices

Standardized and well-documented design practices help organizations communicate ideas across departments, or across the globe, and make it easier for multiple users of the digital twin to build or alter the model without destroying existing components or repeating work. Best-in-class modelling practices increase transparency while simplifying and streamlining collaborative work.

Include Data From Multiple Sources

Data from multiple sources—both internal and external—is an essential part of creating realistic and helpful simulations. 3D modeling and geometry is sufficient to show how parts fit together and how a product works, but more input is required to model how various faults or errors might occur somewhere in the product’s lifecycle. Because many errors and problems can be nearly impossible to accurately predict by humans alone, a digital twin needs a vast amount of data and a robust analytics program to be able to run algorithms to make accurate forecasts and prevent downtime.

Ensure Long Access Lifecycles 

Digital twins implemented using proprietary design software have a risk of locking owners into a single vendor, which ties the long-term viability of the digital twin to the longevity of the supplier’s product. This risk is especially significant for assets with long lifecycles such as buildings, industrial machinery, airplanes, etc., since the lifecycles of these assets are usually much longer than software lifecycles. This proprietary dependency only becomes riskier and less sustainable over time. To overcome these risks, IT architects and digital twin owners need to carefully set terms with software vendors to ensure data compatibility is maintained and vendor lock-in can be avoided.

Common Pitfalls to Digital Twin Implementation

Digital twin implementation requires an extraordinary investment of time, capital, and engineering might, and as with any project of this scale, there are several common pitfalls to implementation success.

Pitfall 1: Using the Same Platform for Different Applications

Although it’s tempting to try and repurpose a digital twin platform, doing so can lead to incorrect data at best and catastrophic mistakes at worst. Each digital twin is completely unique to a part or machine, therefore assets with unique operating conditions and configurations cannot share digital twin platforms.

Pitfall 2: Going Too Big, Too Fast

In the long run, a digital twin replica of your entire production line or building is possible and could provide incredible insights, but it is a mistake to try and deploy digital twins for all of your pieces of equipment or programs all at once. Not only is doing too much, too fast costly, but it might cause you to rush and miss critical data and configurations along the way. Rather than rushing to do it all at once, perfect a few critical pieces of machinery first and work your way up from there.

Pitfall 3: Inability to Source Quality Data

Data collected in the field is subject to quality errors due to human mistakes or duplicate entries. The insights your digital twin provides you are only as valuable as the data it runs off of. Therefore, it is imperative to standardize data collection practices across your organization and to regularly cleanse your data to remove duplicate and erroneous entries.

Pitfall 4: Lack of Device Communication Standards

If your IoT devices do not speak a common language, miscommunications can muddy your processes and compromise your digital twin initiative. Build an IT framework that allows your IoT devices to communicate with one another seamlessly to ensure success.

Pitfall 5: Failing to Get User Buy-In

As mentioned earlier in this eBook, a successful digital twin strategy includes users from across your product value chain. It is critical that your users understand and appreciate the value your digital twin brings to them individually and to your organization as a whole. Lack of buy-in due to skepticism, lack of confidence, or resistance can lead to a lack of user participation, which can undermine all of your efforts.

The Challenge of Measuring Digital Twin Success

Each digital twin is unique and completely separate in its function and end-goal from others on the market, which can make measuring success challenging. Depending on the level of the twin implemented, businesses need to create KPIs for each individual digital twin as it relates to larger organizational goals.

The configuration of digital twins is determined by the type of input data, number of data sources and the defined metrics. The configuration determines the value an organization can extract from the digital twin. Therefore, a twin with a higher configuration can yield better predictions than can a twin with a lower configuration. The reality is that success can be relative, and it is impossible to compare the effectiveness of two different digital twins side by side.

Conclusion

It’s possible — probable even — that in the future all people, enterprises, and even cities will have a digital twin. With the enormous growth predicted in the digital twin market in the coming years, it’s evident that the technology is here to stay. The possible applications of digital twins are truly limitless, and as IoT technology becomes more advanced and widely accessible, we’re likely to see many more innovative and disruptive use cases.

However, a technology with this much potential must be carefully and thoughtfully implemented in order to ensure its business value and long-term viability. Before embracing a digital twin, an organization must first audit its maturity, standardize processes, and prepare its culture and staff for this radical change in operations. Is your organization ready?

Originally posted here.

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