Digital Twin – is it cool enough to replace PLM?

Digital Twin – is it cool enough to replace PLM?

You probably noticed a growing popularity of “Digital Twin”. Check this picture below showing you Google Search trend. People are coming to “digital twin” much more often than before. And digital twin is a trending topic. In my earlier article this year – PLM buzzwords detox, “Digital Twin” got most of messages and support as one of a few buzzwords (names) that can actually survive to the future.

Wikipedia gives you a very interesting set of variety of digital twin descriptions. I captured some of them:

Digital twin refers to a digital replica of physical assets (physical twin), processes, people, places, systems and devices that can be used for various purposes. The digital representation provides both the elements and the dynamics of how an Internet of things device operates and lives throughout its life cycle

“In order to handle information during the whole life cycle of a product item, we propose using an agent-based architecture where each product item has a corresponding “virtual counterpart” or agent associated with it. Agents provide services for their physical counterparts.” (where virtual counterpart is an older synonym for Digital Twin)

“digital twin is a real mapping of all components in the product life cycle using physical data, virtual data and interaction data between them”

There are many publications about Digital Twin recently. You can find it everywhere. My attention was caught by ingenuity article What’s all the fuss about with this Digital Twin? Here are my  favorite passages:

The concept of the DT is not new. For more than 30 years, product and process engineering teams have used 3D renderings and process simulation to validate manufacturability. What is new, however, is that several factors have now converged to bring the concept of the DT to the forefront as a disruptive trend in the process industry. The DT is not a single technology but in reality, a combination of technologies including one single database for all the plant or product engineering data, simulation software, real-time data from the production environment and much more. With our ability today to easily access data from many sources, aggregate it into a dashboard style environment and to add contextual information into the mix, the DT, however, has become more powerful today than ever.

So, digital twin is all about a variety of data and its changes. Another interesting Siemens publication – Twins with potentials.

The digital twin has long since established itself in industry, where it’s revolutionizing processes along the entire value chain. As a virtual representation of a product, production process, or performance, it enables the individual process stages to be seamlessly linked. This creates a consistent improvement in efficiency, minimizes failure rates, shortens development cycles, and opens up new business opportunities: In other words, it creates a lasting competitive edge.

It is interesting to see benefits and structure of how Siemens is presenting digital twin of product (simulation of properties based on product mode), digital twin of production (production planning optimization flow) and digital twin of maintenance (predictive maintenance). These benefits are very much aligned with what we’ve heard earlier as benefits to apply Product Lifecycle Management to cover all lifecycle aspects from early planning to maintenance and support.

In the way it sounds, I found myself thinking about “Digital Twin” as a very cool way to present many aspects of business activities that before was sold to customers as “PLM” to solve similar problems with very much similar benefits.

What is my conclusion? PLM has a bad history and associated with expensive software licenses, complex customization, and projects running out of budgets. Opposite to that, Digital Twin is a new and shining replacement that can be positioned as a really cool alternative to “PLM”. Will it be a good move for PLM companies? I think it is a very nice move. It won’t solve all PLM problems automatically – in many situations technology is easy. What makes it complex is people and change management. And it will be still the same problem. But “Digital” is trending and these projects can get executive support and budgets. And it can make a difference because C-executives don’t like when their projects are failing. So, a rebranded child can get a better chance to survive and succeed. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.

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  • Roland Drewinski

    Oleg, thank you for your comment. As a marketer, I love the Digital Twin term because it provides such a simple, wonderful picture. We at CONTACT prefer not to lump it together with the PLM idea. People are very good at making models and digital and increasingly hifi product models supporting the design phase are at the heart of any PLM initiative. However, there is more behind the concept of the digital twin, namely to support use cases around the physical instances of a virtual product like capturing, preprocessing and analyzing the field data in almost real time.

    Yes indeed, there are also many similarities. In both the design and the operational phase it’s about digital product models. Otherwise, it would not have been comparatively easy for us as a PLM provider to develop a substantial IIoT offering around the digital twin using our Elements platform, which has its roots in PLM. So I see the point that it’s tempting to mix things up, let alone to start with a fresh term, where companies are willing to invest.

  • beyondplm

    @roland_drewinski:disqus thanks for sharing your insight and perspective on Digital Twin and PLM. I think, industry will be following $$$ in the way technology can be sold. It looks like budgets are flowing towards “digital” and marketing following $$$.

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