Digital twins are entering the mainstream

Popular in manufacturing for decades, digital twins are gaining ground across all industries.

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To address increasingly complex operations, customer demand, compliance and sustainability challenges, companies across a wide spectrum of industries are increasingly turning to digital twins.

A new CapGemini survey of 1,000 organizations from life sciences, consumer products, energy and utilities, discrete manufacturing and infrastructure managers found that 80% of them employ digital twins to develop new products, improve operational efficiency, improve security of employees and meet sustainability goals.

“Our research shows that digital twin deployments are driven by both top and bottom lines, as well as security, sustainability and brand reputation,” according to the Reflecting Reality – Digital Twins: Adding Intelligence to the Real World study. “Organizations working on digital twins have already seen an average of 15% improvement in metrics such as sales, turnaround time and operational efficiency, as well as a greater than 25% improvement in system performance.”

Survey respondents also reported a 16% improvement in durability from using digital twins. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they plan to increase the deployment of digital twins in the next five years.

According to MarketsandMarkets, the digital twins market was valued at $3.1 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow to $48.2 billion by 2026, a compound annual growth rate of 58%.

What is a digital twin?

In its simplest form, a digital twin is the virtual representation of a real object or process, such as the movement of a robotic arm, an entire assembly line, or a supply chain. When linked together, digital twins can represent massive systems-of-systems that can track events and processes in real time.

Operators can enter changes in the digital twin and have those changes reflected in the real world, or the real input can be displayed in the digital twin alerting operations teams to potential issues with shipments, machinery, manufacturing, business processes, and the like.

The popularity of digital twins is increasing in part because the vast amounts of data generated by technologies such as AI, cloud, 5G and edge computing are improving their usability and effectiveness. With this data, organizations can develop highly detailed models that were not possible in the past.

“The greatest value of a digital twin comes from being able to predict or simulate the impact of a given change on the entire ecosystem,” the report said.

But the biggest impact, cited by 71% of respondents, is an organization’s ability to quickly understand large amounts of data coming from various sources and locations within the organization.

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Digital Twin Adoption Drivers

The top five reasons organizations invest in digital twins are:

  • Save costs (79%)
  • Advanced technology in their organizations (77%)
  • Shorten time-to-market for new products and services (73%)
  • Introduce new business models (67%)
  • Increase customer focus (65%)

Increasing employee safety and improving sustainability efforts were 64% and 60% respectively.

“Digital twins enable organizations to improve a number of metrics such as cost, operational efficiency, lead times and sustainability. Our research shows that organizations have achieved an average 13% cost reduction across the various use cases of digital twins and a 15% increase in operational efficiency,” the report said.

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Cybersecurity a big problem with digital twins

Because digital twins ingest massive amounts of data from systems in an organization and its partners, cybersecurity is a serious concern, the report said. Because the communication between digital twins and the systems it interacts with is bi-directional, hackers who gain control of a digital twin can wreak havoc by taking control of real systems, manipulating or stealing sensitive data, and/or introducing malware which can spread to other systems.

“The privacy and security risks associated with the implementation of digital twin are many,” the report said. “Reinforced data security and privacy measures are therefore indispensable prior to the implementation of digital twin – a sentiment shared by 69% of organizations surveyed, who plan to make major changes to their end-to-end cybersecurity.”

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