Digital Twin is at the peak of inflated expectation according to ResearchGate publication and it keeps bringing topics for discussion. What does the Digital Twin catchy phrase mean? Is it a catchy name, technology, innovation, marketing? Will Digital Twin brings something new or it is another variant of what we have seen again?
Jos Voskuil is coming to the next level of definition art by bringing another negative (what is not) definition of Digital Twin. Here is the passage from his recent article Digital Twin for Everyone?
My statement: The digital twin is not new. Everybody can have their own digital twin as long as you interpret the definition differently. Does this sound like the PLM definition? That is the “game”. Coming back to the future of PLM. We do not need a discussion about definitions; I leave this to the academics and vendors. We will see the same applies to the concept of a Digital Twin.
So, we are entering a new phase of BYOD (Bring Your Own Definition) game. The ignorance about the definition is shocking, but not surprising. Lack of agreement about terminology and definition is leading to a complete mess in which you can call the same things by different names and then spend months (and if you get lucky years) of consulting to bring your organization “on the same page” to understand the strategy and what company wants to achieve. My usual recommendation to customers and companies is to simplify everything. Because simplicity brings the power of clarity.
The greatest challenge is actually stating the problem in a way that will allow you to find a solution. Famous Albert Einstein quote says that if he has one hour to solve the problem, he would spend 55 minutes to define the problem and then 5 minutes to find an appropriate solution.
So, what problem Digital Twin is actually supposed to solve? I agree with Jos Voskuil- the company doesn’t need Digital Twin or PLM. Companies need to improve their business outcome. PLM or Digital Twin are just tools to achieve the goal. For example, at OpenBOM (disclaimer – I’m co-founder and CEO), we are helping manufacturing companies to manage purchasing processes, while Bill of Materials, as well as all other PLM-ish features, are just tools to achieve the goal to optimize the purchasing process.
Digital Twin for everyone sounds cool? But why do I need a Digital Twin? According to Jos Voskuil, everyone can have a Digital Twin- you just need to decide which twin you need and pick on. If I need to improve my cycling performance I need a “me on the bike” twin. If I need to improve my financial asset allocation, I need my “financial assets” twin. Moving forward, Jos Voskuil offered so-called “virtual twins” for each part of the product lifecycle process and its virtual model.
So far, we have been discussing the virtual twin concept, where we connect a product/system/person in the physical world to a virtual model. Now let us zoom in on the virtual twins relevant for the early parts of the product life cycle, the manufacturing twin, and the development twin. On slides, they imagine a complete integrated framework, which is the future vision. Let us first zoom in on the individual connected twins.
The level of complexity goes up and you can find “Digital Production Twin” and later “Digital Development Twin”. I like both descriptions as they come straight to the point of the goal – improving production performance, organizing product development, and creating models to optimize it. Read the description and you will realize that there is nothing new there. Manufacturing problems are the same and the only thing that can help to solve them is a framework combining data, modeling methods, and tech (or software) to make it work. For simple cases, your model can be a set of data and a finite element method. For more complex methods, more sophisticated models will be needed.
So, let’s get back to various flavors, colors, and forms of Digital Twins. If you remove marketing and consulting packaging, you will see that these are combinations of models and technologies combining data and producing predictions of product, system, or process behavior. We’ve been doing it for quite a long time.
What is the difference between the past and future of Digital Twin? Why Digital Twin is peaking his hype expectations? In my view, the collection of technologies that became available and affordable combined with the computing power, and data management capabilities, made us believe that we can get on the next level of prediction about how systems will perform. This is the root of the Digital Twin hype. Will it work or not, time will show. And with the absence of a better word, the industry invented a new catchy phrase -Digital Twin, which I personally like very much.
What is my conclusion?
In the past, PLM (and not only) industry used a word – Framework to describe some set of practices, methods, and data to solve the problem. Google “PLM frameworks” and you will find many of them created for the last 2-3 decades. Some of them are easy to understand and some of them are like PLM consulting techno-crosswords. The same can be said about Digital Twin. It is a nicer and catchy phrase that is getting traction. The models that included in Digital Twin and tech to solve these models are important. Will it deliver what is expected? It will be actually dependent on technologies to make models, predictions, and, after all, to provide recommendations on how to improve a product, system, or behavior. Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers and their supply chain networks.