Digital twins and their application to improve product innovation success rates and business productivity in industry

Digital twins and their applications.

With Anastasia Rachman (ERNI Switzerland)

Today, more and more companies – from the manufacturing sector to the engineering industry – are starting to use digital twins to optimise products, refine processes and predict possible failures. What is the technology all about and when to take it into account – we spoke to Anastasia Rachman, ERNI Switzerland.

Can you briefly describe what digital twins are?

A digital twin is an intelligent digital image of a real product or process. Extensive data and information exchange takes place between the physical object in real space and the digital twin in virtual space. This enables companies, for example, to improve the performance of the product or process, increase quality, improve customer service and reduce operating costs. In addition, digital twins offer many other advantages and opportunities.

What advantages and opportunities does the use of digital twins offer?

There are a whole host of benefits for businesses, and with each additional deployment and associated development, there will be more. Here we have summarized the most important advantages:

  • Improve product quality and gain better insight into the performance of your products in different applications and environments in real time
  • Increased productivity e.g. by saving money thourgh scheduling maintenance downtime correctly or by producing at a higher quality, with lower resource consumption and lower risk
  • Faster production times by an optimised supply chain
  • Increased overall equipment effectiveness (GAE) through reduced downtime and improved performance
  • Reduction of risks in various areas, for example in the availability of products or reputation on the market as it revolutionizes product development because the building and testing of prototypes in a physical environment takes not only time but also investments.
  • Reduce maintenance costs by predicting problems before a potential failure occurs
  • More efficiency in supply chains as it enables modelling solutions and optimizations without any risk to the actual, functioning supply chain, and to move forward with the solutions.
  • Better customer service when customers can design their own products
  • New business opportunities such as mass customization, mixed-mode manufacturing and low-volume production
  • Increased profits

In which industries are digital twins used?

Digital twins are now being used in more and more industries. The automotive industry, for example, uses this technology to develop and optimize new models before actual production even starts. Digital twins can be used to simulate and analyse the production phase and eliminate potential problems. Other areas in which digital twins are frequently used include quality management, logistics, product development, aviation, smart cities, insurance, car racing and healthcare.

What are the risks of digital twins?

There are several risks of using the Digital Twin technology:

  • System access: If someone gains access to your digital twin, they can not only gain insight into the twin or the products or processes it represents. The far greater danger is that this someone can take control of the product or process – with unforeseeable consequences.
  • Intellectual property theft: If your digital twin is the design of an intellectual property (IP), hackers may be able to reverse the development process and reproduce that IP. This saves them from having to do their own research and development. There is currently a large market for this type of hacker crime.
  • Disregard of regulations: New regulations such as the Data Protection Regulation (DSGVO / General Data Protection Regulation GDPR) have increased the pressure on companies to be even more careful with data. Should your digital twin violate this, it ruins reputation and even puts in danger whole companies.
  • Reliability of your information: If someone has access to your data and can make unauthorized changes, your information loses integrity. Therefore, it is important to collect the right information, interpret it correctly and ensure that no unwanted changes can be made.

Therefore, one of the most important prerequisites for the use of digital twins is a high level of cyber security in the company.

How will Digital Twin Technology develop in future in your opinion?

According to experts, the market for digital twin technology will grow rapidly in the coming years. The reasons for this are the wide range of possible applications and the constant further development in all areas of the technology. The market for Digital Twins has been estimated at USD 3.1 billion worldwide in 2020. It is expected to grow to nearly $50 billion by 2026. This will also be helped by new standards such as the Gemini Principles or ISO/DIS 23247, which are designed to ensure that new applications of digital twin technology are secure, functional and valuable.

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