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  • Writer's pictureIndustrial Tracking Systems

Leveraging the full potential of Digital Twins in the logistics industry

Ever since dealing with complex issues, people have been using certain tools including drawings, pictures, and models to aid them. Luckily, modelling capabilities have become more and more sophisticated over time having outdated previous methods with advanced modelling systems being able to simulate a products’ geometry, operation as well as behaviour.

There has been a long history of using high-fidelity simulation and a direct physical replica to support the operation and maintenance of an asset, dating back to the 1970s and NASA’s Apollo 13 mission. However, back in the day, building digital twins was a complex and costly task based on technologies that were neither advanced nor mature enough.

Thanks to rapid development in the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented, Mixed & Virtual Reality (AR/ VR), Cloud Computing, and API, & Open Standards, digital twins are a new innovative phenomenon that manages to close the gap between model and reality, linking previously offline physical assets to digital models that consist of data stemmed from the changes experienced by the physical object. The underlying and key enabling technologies, comprising low-cost data storage and computing power, the availability of robust, high-speed wireless networks, and cheap, reliable sensors have reached the level of maturity that is necessary to support the use of digital twins for enterprise applications. Nowadays, many products, for instance, consumer electronics, automobiles, and even household appliances include sensors and data communication capabilities as standard features.

Digital twins extend the benefits of IoT already being applied today, generating valuable insights from operational data, and thus aiding organizations in planning, designing, visualizing, monitoring, managing, and maintaining their assets as well as the entire global supply chain more effectively. The adoption of digital twins in, for instance, manufacturing within and across industries positively impacts decision-making in the physical world, and thus leads to significantly improved operation of supply chains and logistics processes.

Corporate interest in adopting digital twin solutions keeps growing while technology providers, including large enterprise technology companies, automation systems manufacturers, and start-ups, enter this potentially lucrative space to grab opportunities matching demand with supply. The digital twin market is projected to grow approx. 38% annually over the coming years, passing US$26 billion in 2025.

To dive into a little bit of detail, digital twins come in many forms and need to be clearly distinguished from other types of computer models and simulations. So what exactly is a digital twin?

Here are some key characteristics of a digital twin:

  • virtual representation or, in other words, digital counterpart of a real ‘thing’

  • simulates the physical state as well as the behavior of the thing

  • unique representation of a single, specific instance of the thing

  • connected to and associated with the thing, updating itself in relation and response to known changes to the thing’s condition and/ or context

  • provides value through visualization, analysis, prediction, and/ or optimization

So the question that comes to mind next is how digital twins can help and add value to my organization?

Digital twins can be used in various ways to add value to a product, process, user, or organization. The value available is highly application dependent, and thus can be of descriptive, analytical, diagnostic and/ or predictive nature. One thing is clear, early adopters of digital twins commonly report benefits in the following areas:

  • Data-driven decision-making driving stakeholder collaboration to resolve issues quickly

  • Streamlined business processes, for instance, the automation of time-consuming error-prone activities such as inspections, testing, analysis, and reporting with the result of allowing teams to focus on higher-value activities, and allowing manufacturers to monitor, diagnose, and optimize their assets remotely, helping to improve availability and reduce service costs

  • New business models such as product-as-a-service

Though challenges and limitations remain in computing resources, precise representation, total cost, data quality, and governance, industries are evolving to overcome these burdens. Clearly, improved outcomes and robust new business models are the direct results and benefits of digital twins.

Organizations (especially factories) generate gigabytes of data on a daily basis, from their processes and production assets. Still now, much of that data is locked away in disconnected systems.

Digital twins have already begun to change the way customers do business. Digital twins are more than likely to create a technology transition in any organization that implements them. Digital twins are becoming more and more a central element of the engineering and in-field support activities of many organizations. The “factory of the future” connects all its data seamlessly, and it extends those connections across the entire supply chain, upstream to suppliers, and downstream through logistics to customers.

It is of paramount importance that we look at the opportunities technology shifts like digital twins bring. Digital twins of factories and supply chains create opportunities for manufacturing organizations, and we are now seeing the impact of these new approaches on the supply chain strategies and service requirements of those organizations. We need to remain up-to-date and be open to new things and leverage the opportunity afforded by technology in such a way that they help us create business benefits.

Today, industries like engineering, manufacturing, energy, and automotive are at the forefront and are leading the way in leveraging digital twins to manage their most critical assets, followed by pharmaceuticals/ healthcare, the public sector, and even consumer retail. As the requisite technologies continue to become more readily accessible and available, the logistics sector has only fairly recently begun its digital twin journey and early examples of the first supply chain facilities and logistics hubs developed using digital twins have emerged.

The future will be bright, so connect with us at Industrial Tracking Systems to be at the forefront by starting with your digital twins' journey now and thus leveraging the full potential of digital twins in the logistics industry.

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