More organisations than ever before are embracing digital twin technology with the market expected to grow by almost a third over the next two years.
A digital twin is a virtual replica of a physical object or system that’s used to simulate, analyse and optimise real-world behaviour and performance.
Businesses can use the data produced to enable operational efficiencies, reduce risk and simplify business processes for greater efficiency and value.
Starting small and taking a use case driven approach is vital to ensuring that a digital twin serves a clear business purpose, whilst offsetting the risk of building a white elephant.
From a technology and procedural perspective, it’s important to get the foundations right to ensure your digital twin solution isn’t built on quicksand.
So, what are the first steps for businesses wanting to adopt digital twin technology?
1) Firstly, it’s important to define clear goals and objectives so that everyone in the business is clear about what you want to achieve with your digital twin, and how it will support your organisation's operations and goals.
2) You need to start with data that’s accurate, relevant and up-to-date and comes from your organisation’s most critical data sources. You can build from there. For your data acquisition, you need to ensure you can collect data from the existing physical system, sensors and other sources that can be integrated into the digital twin.
3) Engage key stakeholders from the beginning, including business, technical and operational teams, in the design and development of your digital twin and ensure it's aligned with your organisation's goals and needs.
4) Adopt an iterative approach by starting with a minimum viable product (MVP) and refine it over time based on feedback and results.
5) Invest in the right technology and tools to build your digital twin, and make sure they are scalable and flexible enough to meet the evolving needs of your organisation. You’ll need to have the ability to create a mathematical model of the physical system to simulate its behaviour and the capability to integrate the digital twin with other systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and Internet of Things (IoT) platforms.
6) Build in such a way that you will be able to scale the digital twin to meet the growing demands of the physical system, as well as accommodating new data sources and simulation requirements. To scale in an optimal manner, organisations need to ensure they have applied a strong, yet product oriented approach to data governance. Increasingly, organisations are adopting a federated approach to data governance and reinvigorating or further investing in data discovery solutions.
7) In order to gain insights into system performance, you’ll need to analyse data from the digital twin to identify patterns and predict future behaviour. More often than not this will include the adoption and implementation of graph database capabilities. To help stakeholders easily understand data from the digital twin and to identify opportunities for improvement, you’ll need to represent the digital twin and its behaviour in a visual format.
8) Make data as easily accessible as a quick Google search by putting metadata at the heart of data governance and creating clearly defined, purposeful and owned data products. The use of a query engine will enable users to interact with the data and analytics generated by the digital twin in a consumer friendly way.
9) Take steps to ensure the security and privacy of data and models in the digital twin, and to prevent unauthorised access and manipulation. Always be mindful of regulatory requirements.
10) Set up a process that allows for continuous improvement so that as new data, insights and feedback from stakeholders becomes available, you are able to update and refine the digital twin to reflect this.
Digital twins offer businesses the opportunity to safely transform and innovate at scale without any risk to day-to-day operations.
By getting the basics right from day one and going into your project with clearly defined goals and aligned stakeholders, you can ensure your organisation’s place in the digital twin revolution.
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