The challenge of creating digital twins in the transition to Industry 4.0

digital twin
Image credit: Mikhail Bakunovich /

One cool benefit of Industry 4.0 is the digital twin – a perfect digital replica of a physical product. But it requires a breakdown of organizational silos.

Changes in the manufacturing industry over the last ten years have been nothing short of amazing. But those changes have put pressure on manufacturers to reduce cost, increase quality, become more flexible with regard to the needs of their customers and take a more global approach to marketplaces.

These goals are consistently reflected in the IDC annual C-Suite survey. C-level executives from enterprises across the Asia-Pacific region are noting that they need to increase productivity, decrease cost, expand into new markets and address customer requirements while also embracing innovation in the way they bring those products to market.

Manufacturers today use technology to support aspects of their operations. The majority of manufacturing processes demand technology support. In fact, IDC’s IOT semi-annual spending guide for IoT highlights manufacturing operations as the last single spend use case for APeJ, accounting for $156 billion by 2021.

However, the scale and nature of these technologies within company ecosystems varies hugely. While some manufacturers will have their finger on the pulse and adopt the best available technology for their business as soon as it becomes available, others will tolerate legacy systems that do a certain job but limit the delivery of flexibility and innovation in the product life cycle.

IDC, along with other market commentators, recognizes that the world is on the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This change to Industry 4.0 brings with it the introduction of technological advancements delivered atop the Internet of Things, cloud and big data. These changes have highlighted the lack of alignment between the technologies that help manufacturers take things to the next level.

For example, the preparedness of internal systems toward realizing the “digital twin” is uneven. Though legacy systems within an enterprise may contain vast amounts of useful information that contribute to realizing the digital twin, IDC surveys show that manufacturers are consistently frustrated by difficulties in accessing data across organizational silos.

Adopting a platform approach towards the creation of product digital twins allows for the breaking down of silos in the enterprise. The goal of that twin is to create an experience of the product in the digital world that is indistinguishable from the physical product experience.

The digital twin for a product or overall system provides a source of information that is unique, authoritative and consistent across the entire product life cycle. The digital twin can lubricate the collaboration between engineering and manufacturing by mirroring the designed process and the manufac. It’s a velocity driver allowing for the movement of innovations from the conceptual stage to the market place in a fraction of the time.

Other applications include collection of feedback from the product in use to inform the design, engineering and manufacturing processes along with design and optimizing of the processes required to manufacture the designed product. Time and money benefits also be realized by making visible change made in the manufacture stage to product designers, improving the efficiency of the design to manufacture process.

Thanks to the higher levels of flexibility offered by the digital twin, its adoption will increase. Consequences for design, manufacture and servicing of products in use offer a tempting lure to manufacturers.

The challenge remains converging existing data into a common, easily accessible template which incorporates IoT data, design (both 3D and 2D), process and quality control data to provide a full life view of a product in service. Realizing this makes it easier to deliver not only personalized products but also personalized experiences around those products to customers. Organizations must also transform themselves to enable delivery of products that meet the personalized requirement of customer bases across different markets.

Enterprises in general, and manufacturers in particular, are rethinking their entire business model. Digital twin is a core concept that needs to be in place so that innovation around the increasing velocity of the whole manufacturing cycle move beyond modelling and 3D simulation.

Hugh Ujhazy, associate vice president of IOT & Telecoms at IDCWritten by Hugh Ujhazy, associate vice president of IOT & Telecoms at IDC | Originally published on LinkedIn

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