Digital Twins: The Backbone of Innovation in 2018

Lloyd Adams, East Managing Director, SAP North America
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Lloyd Adams, East Managing Director, SAP North America

Lloyd Adams, East Managing Director, SAP North America

In today’s fast-paced business environment, organizations continue to look forward for new ways to push their businesses forward and drive results. Making a smart investment at the right time that transforms business or creates new opportunities can be rewarded in spades–yet missteps can be costly or even punitive to business. So, many companies are looking for ways to balance the risk with ways to test and learn before they incorporate new solutions at scale.

This is particularly true in digital transformation and the tools that will bring what many organizations that are slow to innovate. At its essence, the Digital Twin establishes a direct connection between the physical product or asset and its digital representation. Simply put, Digital Twins provide enterprises with digital models to replicate and predict the performance of their products, processes and properties under various, customizable circumstances, allowing business leaders to identify risks, uncover opportunities and unlock value without a single investment in a physical asset. Those scratching their heads on the value proposition should look no further than the current innovation marketplace.

Manufacturers, suppliers and service companies today are faced with a market shifting toward complete customization and agile service delivery and away from Ford-style, one-size-fits-all mass production. Customers demand more attention to detail in the products and services they receive and expect the companies they work with to have the ability to scale their offerings in a minute’s notice. While it has certainly raised the bar for success, this rapid shift to customer centricity and product individualization emphasize the tremendous value Digital Twins can offer to enterprises.

The digital twin can be tailored and graphically represented in relevant formats for a variety of functions, like monitoring, manufacturing, production and maintenance. By leveraging real-time information from both the product and asset intelligence systems, you’ve created a dynamic, responsive and predictive product that is fully optimized to deliver the benefits to your business you’re in search of.

Product lifecycles are getting shorter and stakeholder expectations–from customers to stock holders–have never been higher. Digital Twins address this paradox. Manufacturing executives can design, calibrate and test intelligent assets, identify process areas for improvement and predict maintenance issues before they happen, ultimately increasing service levels for customers.

The Internet of Things is a crucial component for a Digital Twin strategy and an area where we’re seeing unprecedented advancements. Gartner forecasts that over 8 billion connected things will be implemented in 2017, reaching well over 20 billion by 2020. This growth is a powerful engine that could result in billions saved in maintenance, operations and value generation if leveraged effectively as a part of a comprehensive Digital Twins ecosystem strategy–and many global companies have taken notice. The most notable innovations are advanced IoT sensors embedded in products and assets that monitoring and transmit environmental, operational and structural dynamic information in real time.

All of this is to say that there’s tremendous value that can be generated by embracing a Digital Twins approach to process optimization and innovation and new advancements in IoT and machine learning are unlocking greater opportunities for businesses to experiment in this arena. The approach naturally lends itself to collaboration within enterprise and even extends throughout extended networks. The Digital Twins serve as the digital thread of proof, allowing businesses to connect processes through the entire product lifecycle, ultimately allowing the realtime exchange of information to develop new products, optimize maintenance and introduce new serves and business models.

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