Transition from (i) the current -, to the (ii) future way of thinking, way of modelling, way of working, way of organising, and way of supporting the enterprise
“Extracts from a PhD Enterprise Engineering research proposal“
What is a Digital Twin?
The concept of a Digital Twin originates from Michael Grieves’ 2003 presentation on product life-cycle management based on his work with John Vickers, (Grieves, 2014). Further, Grieves and Vicker’s motivation for developing the concept was to shift from the predominantly paper-based and manual product data to a digital model of the product which would become foundational for life-cycle management, (VanDerHorn & Mahadevan, 2021).
Why a Digital Twin?
In today’s dynamic business world, there is a need for real-time information that provides organizations with direct added value. It is important for organizations to grasp their current situation and to react accordingly, for example, making the right decisions at the right time, (Riss, Maus, Javaid & Jilek, 2020). However, such an ability enables organizations to adapt quickly and take advantage of existing business opportunities, (Rosemann, 2019).
Organizations need means that go beyond the established paradigms and exploit the full potential of enterprise modelling. They need more dynamic representations of organizational elements, which reflect changes in the organization immediately. Riss et al. (2020) mentions that Gartner’s proposal of the concept of Digital Twin of an Organization (DTO) addresses the above-mentioned challenges. The DTO concept enhances that of the established “digital twin”, which is mainly used in the context of the Internet of Things (IoT), (Kerremans, Searle, Srivastava & Iijima, 2018). The concept is now so successful that Gartner has claimed that digital twins will enter mainstream use and “over two-thirds of companies that have implemented IoT will have deployed at least one digital twin in production” (Riss et al., 2020).
To be agile, an organization must quickly perceive changes in its environment. A DTO is expected to do this because relevant changes will become apparent in the interaction with customers and partners during process execution, even if they are not reflected in the rather inflexible business information systems. In this way, changes also become appreciable to the DTO and can be analysed by managers and enterprise architects. Due to the growing speed of change these tests must be performed rapidly and at low costs, in order to try as many scenarios as possible. This should be done by means of DTO. Thus, the DTO becomes a proper instrument for increasing an enterprise’s agility, (Riss et al., 2020).
Application of a digital twin
A primary motivation for the use of a Digital Twin in many applications is the monitoring of the system as it changes over time. Tracking and modeling these changes within the virtual representation as a function of inputs to the system enables the representation and estimation of past, present, and future behavior to guide decision-making.
As an example, during product design phase, NASA and US Air Force apply the DT technology in vehicles development, so they can predict the future performance and status of vehicles by constructing ultra-high fidelity simulation models with the parameters of material properties and Manufacturing defects, (Glaessgen and Stargel 2012). In process design phase, DT is used to optimize tolerances, locator positions, clamping strategies, welding sequence, etc. to obtain good geometrical quality in the final product (Söderberg et al. 2017).
Monitoring, predicting and anticipating the impact of shifts and decisions in the business environment, markets, customer trends and or its impact on internal arrangements, organisational constructs, processes and key business capabilities are signs of organisational agility. The ET should be seen as an internal capability and asset that gives you the competitive advantage your business needs to compete and survive in a future world. It will give your business the ability to make data-driven decisions, faster.
The time is now
As a result of well documented and researched benefits, recent surveys of organization managers have shown that digital twins of physical objects are entering mainstream use, with 13 percent of organizations implementing IoT projects already using digital twins and 62 percent are either in the process of establishing digital twin use or plan to do so, (Parmar, Leiponen & Thomas, 2020).
Now ask yourself the question: Do you want to lead or lag?
About the author: Andreas de Boer, the founder and Managing Director of CUBE Engineered for the Future, holds a Masters degree in Industrial Engineering, with specialisation in Enterprise Engineering advise clients on their future-fit transformation journey. Helping business (and its managers) make the right moves is the primary motivation behind his PhD research topic, namely “An enterprise engineering approach to develop an enterprise twin”.
Andreas de Boer