Digital twin technology has emerged as a popular management practice, similar to artificial intelligence.
This technology involves creating digital replicas of physical systems, products, or processes that are identical and can be used for simulations, testing, monitoring, and maintenance.
The applications of digital twins are vast, ranging from reducing design and development cycles to generating digital copies of human organs for medical research and treatment. It's being employed in smart city initiatives, environmental, social, and government projects, as well as replacing outdated data-driven models for business strategy. Digital twin technology is incredibly versatile and is being used across various industries, which we will go over in this article.
Digital Twins are Transforming Operations and Supply Chains
The use of digital twins is gaining popularity in the operations and supply chains of production, providing companies with virtual replicas of their physical assets and systems. Through these replicated simulations, operations decision makers can gain insights into their processes, analyze various scenarios, optimize their operations for maximum performance and efficiency while cutting costs in the process.
Implementation of digital twin technology has become a must-have tool to keep up with the ever-evolving trends and stay ahead of the competitors. For example, a German startup called RIIICO has raised $1.5 million to speed up the development of AI-powered digital twins for manufacturing. The company's goal is to assist manufacturers in turning their industrial facilities into more efficient, technology-driven operations.
RIIICO uses deep learning on 3D scans to collect data directly from the shop floor and create a virtual representation of a product, process, service, or functionality. Their AI algorithms and meshing tools help manufacturers create transparent digital 3D models of their factory floors, which can be used for various purposes. The founders aim to help the manufacturing, supply chain, and automotive sectors overcome the challenges of incorporating new technologies and machinery. They have already collaborated with companies like Porsche, Siemens, Volkswagen, and Schaeffler, and aim to connect hardware and software from edge to cloud to build an industrial metaverse and transform the manufacturing industry.
Employee Management and Improving Work Environment
Companies have the opportunity to enhance their work environments with cutting-edge technology. Digital Twin Technology enables managers to generate virtual reconstructions of physical workspaces which provide more than just 3D models.
By using this emerging digital tool, critical decisions can be made quickly while also avoiding financial setbacks. Thanks to extensive real-time data analysis, workforce predictions, trends and behavioral patterns; industries such as manufacturing are able mitigate dangerous safety issues that would have been difficult to detect in advance by a human.
The application of IoT-connected sensors and cameras can facilitate regulation of space requirements by creating virtual traffic patterns while AI-powered analysis assesses the workflow patterns to modify workplace designs and protocols. Moreover, digital twins present a promising avenue for operators as they predict plant performance and enhance production levels through accurate information on physical assets' health and status.
As expected, this significantly extends asset life cycles, boosts uptime, minimizes failures, and improves the overall efficiency of various plant operations.
Finally, employees also benefit from training opportunities as they can train for emergency evacuations or receive instructions on how to operate machines via augmented or virtual reality.
Another example of practical application of digital twins within Tata Consultancy Services. TCS used digital twins to guide their return-to-office strategy during the late stages of the pandemic.
To effectively reopen, they needed to answer questions such as how many employees might get infected, who should be tested and when, and what the capacity of their quarantining facility should be. TCS created a digital twin environment with a unique machine-readable model of the area to predict and control the spread of Covid. The digital twin provided a quantitative tool to explain the current environment and support decision-making for a safe and effective return to the office.
Digital Twins in Life Sciences
In life sciences, digital twins are being used to research human organs, enabling new approaches to medical research and care.
Clinical trials are an essential part of the drug development process, but they can be lengthy and costly. On average, clinical trials to support a new drug can take six to seven years and cost around $19 million. One of the most significant challenges of clinical trials is recruiting enough qualified participants who match specific disease characteristics and target demographics, especially during critical Phase 3 studies, which require hundreds or thousands of participants to test an investigational drug.
To tackle this challenge, a startup called Unlearn is using digital twins, which are individualized computer simulations of people. By taking historical data about a particular disease and how it progresses on current treatments, Unlearn.ai encapsulates it within a computer model. Then, if someone enrolls in a clinical trial, their data is added to the model, which creates simulations of what might happen to them in the future.
The platform uses a combination of classical machine learning and generative AI, similar to what's used in generating images. They've been focused on Alzheimer's disease, and in a peer-reviewed article published in September 2019 in Nature Scientific Reports, they reported on the development of digital twins for Alzheimer's disease that generated detailed synthetic patient data on disease progression over 18 months that was statistically indistinguishable from the actual data.
By creating these digital twins, Unlearn.ai aims to reduce the size of the control group in clinical trials. Participants are still randomized into a treatment and control group, but the human control group can be up to a third smaller thanks to the added power of digital twin predictions. At the beginning of the trial, data from all participants
Smart Cities and Environmental Initiatives
The utilization of digital twins extends to the realm of smart cities as well. Los Angeles, for instance, has adopted this technology to create a simulation of transportation behavior and patterns, including activities like ride-sharing and self-driving drones, in order to enhance its mobility infrastructure planning.
Digital twins are also being used in environmental, social, and governance initiatives. The technology "leverages huge data sets of historical weather, travel, and physical infrastructure data to create a digital twin of any physical location," said Dan Versace, research analyst ESG business services at research firm International Data Corp.
To conclude, the application of digital twin technology has gained significant traction in modern management practices. This innovative approach involves creating virtual replicas of physical systems, products or processes for a range of sectors including manufacturing, life sciences and environmental initiatives. By offering digital simulations, this technology enables decision-makers to optimize their operational procedures across numerous scenarios by enhancing performance levels and reducing costs. Additionally, these virtual models help corporations understand work force patterns and trends effectively as a mechanism to disentangle safety issues from the labor environment related complexities.