Organizations everywhere are embracing the reality of digital transformation, gathering data from myriad sensors in factories and on logistics chains, and deploying artificial intelligence and virtual reality to improve workflows, accelerate responses and better understand customers. Manufacturers can now even obtain these far-reaching insights before they build the real-life systems: digital twins make it possible.

A digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical asset, process or system that is almost indistinguishable from the real thing. Digital twinning serves to build virtual production lines, even entire factories, showing the organization ahead of a real-life rollout what works and what doesn’t, where the potential flashpoints are for failure or down time, and which solutions are most effective.

Industrial modeling as such is not new: organizations have always built 3D models, first in the physical space and later using on-screen CAD, to test the viability of plans. What has changed with the advent of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the availability of huge volumes of data to apply in testing models and scenarios. With sensors collecting data from everywhere in the manufacturing process, engineers can create digital copies of entire production lines, and apply a range of complex “what-if” scenarios to these digital twins. With the power of IIoT-driven digital twins, organizations can not just analyze the past, but also predict the future.

Digital twinning is established

By 2020, an estimated 60% of discrete manufacturers will be building digital counterparts of physical systems as a way to raise product and service quality. Digital twins are also very much part of the landscape in Switzerland: the Swiss Railways (SBB) uses digital twins to create replicas of the entire railway history – the ultimate model railway if you like – and instantly test alternatives to problems. Swiss Airlines builds virtual aircraft – or “aviatars” – to deliver the latest information and data on the aircraft.

Look before you leap

Before organizations leap in, it’s vital to first assess operational maturity and technology readiness for this seamless connection between virtual and physical assets. Cognizant recommends the following basic checks:

  1. Is your organization ready – in terms of process and technology maturity?
  2. Does your organization have the necessary building blocks – such as clarity of concept, 3-D models and optimal detailing?
  3. Does your organization have an awareness of best practice – for instance, how to embed the twin into the value chain, and ensure long-term data compatibility throughout the service life?

To explore the concept of digital twins and find out if your organization is ready for operational practice, take a look at the detailed Cognizant roadmap in our white paper “Is Your Organization Ready to Embrace a Digital Twin?” It outlines metrics to assess readiness, explains the building blocks, and includes real-life examples of organizations that have benefited from Cognizant’s expertise. And to explore Cognizant’s concepts for smart manufacturing, visit Energize Your Smart Manufacturing Transformation at Cognizant online.