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Digital Twins for the Win

Digital twins are becoming both more sophisticated and more widely adopted by companies, utilities and governments, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

How they work: If you’re not familiar with digital twins, they are virtual replicas of real-world assets, whether equipment or facilities, that operators can both experiment with and use to adjust the physical structures in real time.
What’s new: In the past five years, the interest in digital twins has skyrocketed among companies in all sectors, according to the Journal.

  • Firms “are looking at the technology to help them improve processes, reduce costs, conserve resources, boost employee safety and productivity, or some combination of these possibilities, says Alfonso Velosa, a vice president analyst at Gartner.”
  • “Last year, 17% of organizations in a Gartner survey said they have or plan to deploy digital twins.”

Getting better: The technology has gotten much more advanced, too. Not only do today’s digital twins use sophisticated sensors to produce real-time data, but many now use artificial intelligence to make better use of that data and improve their predictions.

  • These new and improved twins “can eliminate the need for physical prototyping of products such as automobiles, and offer a way to test different configurations for spaces such as warehouses and stores, potentially saving time and money.”

Everybody’s got one: Digital twins are popping up everywhere, from San Francisco International Airport, which created a “centralized” digital twin in 2014, to Lowe’s department stores. 

  • “In one instance [at the airport], when a construction worker hit a water line at a job site, the plumbing team used the digital twin to direct the construction crew to the shut-off valve within minutes, limiting the damage and avoiding a costly delay, according to [Geoff] Neumayr [the chief resiliency and sustainability officer].”
  • Meanwhile, “home-improvement retailer Lowe’s Cos. is using the technology at a handful of stores to explore the impact of different store layouts, and to give associates insight into inventory stored in hard-to-reach places.”

Thinking bigger: Soon, every place you go may have a digital twin humming along with it.

  • “A collection of digital twins representing everything from stadiums to freeways to public parks has the potential to change the way governments build cities and provide services, experts say.”

Learn more: The Manufacturing Leadership Council helps manufacturers with all phases of technological advancement, including deploying digital twins.

  • Check out this MLC piece on how digital twins will enhance the “factories of the future” and this article on how to figure out whether digital twinning is right for your business. 
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