Unlocking the digital twin advantage

Unlocking the digital twin advantage

Mariia Nalapko, Digital Twin Global Process Leader, Capgemini’s Business Services, explores the exponential benefits digital twin technology offers to businesses and tells us how organisations can unlock these advantages to ensure they are well-positioned for challenges as they arise.

As with most things in life, practice makes perfect. Take any high-performance musician, such as Benny Greb, one of the most respected drummers in the world today, or John Bonham, drummer of Led Zeppelin – they’re all underpinned by constantly refining and adjusting processes to achieve their goals. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible in business, where a constant test-and-learn approach could be an expensive and inefficient exercise.

Enter: digital twins. We know that there is a growing appetite across industries to realise the benefit of digital twins, in fact, implementation of the technology is set to increase by 36% on average over the next five years. Acting as a digital incubator, they allow businesses to test out new processes, run hypothetical scenarios to validate the return on investment or change for the organisation and identify possible inefficiencies across the business ecosystem – all with the assurance that the physical systems are free from any hindrances or disruptions and that resources are conserved.

While these mirrored worlds were originally developed predominantly for hardware, they’re now applicable in the information processing domains of many departments such as finance and accounting, human resources and supply chain management. This opens the door to digital twins of entire organisations and promises exponential benefits, such as greater visibility of business operations, higher productivity gain, more advanced monitoring and simulations of events that are likely to have an impact on a business.

The benefits are clear and demand is starting to snowball, so how can organisations unlock the advantages that digital twins offer?

Frictionless by design

The goal for any organization should be to connect the dots between all the different teams, from the C-suite to the suppliers, employees and everything in between. Doing so enables a seamless flow of information and fosters collaboration, producing a well-oiled frictionless machine which we call a ‘Frictionless Enterprise’.

Digital twins offer the perfect remedy for ironing out the crinkles – or ‘frictions’ – across an enterprize’s business operations. Complete real-time visibility across all departments can be used to monitor, analyze, and identify inefficiencies or specific bottlenecks from the happy path (industry benchmarks). Understandably, organizations will initially look to address any repetitive pain points, business-threatening challenges (e.g., invoices for crucial elements for production are not paid on time), or clear strategic issues because that’s the quickest way to see results. But the key is to develop a strong, well-defined, future-proof vision that is backed by managerial commitment. So at the end, thanks to Digital twins you can prove the change as everyone forgets how the as-is process was.

It’s essential to build a clear roadmap to help ensure that the necessary resources, workforce and funding are allocated appropriately. This is especially critical for those looking to avoid ‘pilot purgatory’ and can be achieved by defining a limited number of use cases that have the highest potential value and then seeing them through to completion. The learnings from these projects can then be used to create best-in-class methods for the future, ensuring the attributes that make the process frictionless can be scaled effectively.

Empower the network at scale

For a digital twin to mine, model, simulate, predict and monitor effectively, the integration of multiple data sources must be properly facilitated. However, it’s not uncommon to see large organisations dealing with hundreds or even thousands of stakeholders, partners or suppliers throughout their ecosystem. Scaling digital twins to encompass this complexity – inclusive of data that extends far beyond just one organisation – makes integration more challenging.

In order to combat this, it’s essential to get the buy-in of external partners and fully onboard them from the beginning to ensure that the relevant data is accessible and accurate. Organisations should also endeavour to become data-sharing masters by developing a robust data management strategy as part of a wider data ecosystem. This will help organisations qualify the right data, understand how the data flows across various systems and processes and transform the data into actionable insights. Collaborations, specifically through consortiums, can play a vital role in the design and development of digital twins. They can help tap into best practices and standard requirements and aid with developing resources and guidelines that can facilitate an increase in adoption.

Laying a robust cybersecurity foundation

As digital twins are scaled, it is paramount that security is not compromised. Digital twins, just as their name implies, are exact replicas. By their very nature, they implicitly contain sensitive information unique to a particular system. Therefore, it’s essential to understand the risk of any hack of an unsecured digital twin allowing immediate access to the internal data of the entire business system. And it’s crucial to secure the communication between the twin and its physical counterpart to protect the confidentiality and integrity of the business and personal information.

Prior to the deployment of digital twins, it is the responsibility of each company to ensure secured infrastructure architecture and privacy measures. We know that 69% of businesses are planning to make major changes to their end-to-end cybersecurity to accommodate digital twins. That said, enhancing an organisation’s cybersecurity resilience requires a specific skillset. Organisations should look to attract new talent or upskill existing employees to ensure they have the core business skills necessary for digital twin implementation. The key knowledge and competencies would be: embedded software, secure network architecture, network security, cryptography, system security, database security and hybrid cloud systems. It is critical to ensure that the system is not reachable from other network segments, that access to it is protected and restricted, and that the data handling (data-in-transit and data-at-rest) is done according to the industry’s best practices.

Successful businesses understand that change is constant and are well placed to face new challenges as they arise. Digital twins allow an organisation to evolve as circumstances change and are therefore critical for any enterprise looking to simplify workflows, exceed customer expectations, deliver value and future-proof their businesses.

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