For centuries, people have used pictures and models to help them tackle complex problems. Great buildings first took shape on the architect’s drawing board. Classic cars were shaped in wood and clay.
Over time, our modeling capabilities have become more sophisticated. Computers have replaced pencils. 3D computer models have replaced 2D drawings. Advanced modeling systems can simulate the operation and behavior of a product as well as its geometry.
Until recently, however, there remained an unbridged divide between model and reality. No two manufactured objects are ever truly identical, even if they have been built from the same set of drawings. Computer models of machines don’t evolve as parts wear out and are replaced, as fatigue accumulates in structures, or as owners make modifications to suit their changing needs.
That gap is now starting to close. Fueled by developments in the internet of things (IoT), big data, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and digital reality technologies, the recent arrival of digital twins heralds a tipping point where
the physical and digital worlds can be managed as one, and we can interact with the digital counterpart of physical things much like we would the things themselves, even in 3D space around us.
Led by the engineering, manufacturing, automotive, and energy industries in particular, digital twins are already creating new value. They are helping companies to design, visualize, monitor, manage, and maintain their assets more effectively. And they are unlocking new business opportunities like the provision of advanced services and the generation of valuable insight from operational data.
As logistics professionals, we have been thinking about how digital twins will change traditional supply chains, and how the logistics sector might embrace digital twins to improve its own processes. Our objective in writing this report is to share our findings and to help you answer the following key questions:
■ What is a digital twin and what does it mean for my organization?
■ What best-practice examples from other industries can be applied to logistics?
■ How will my supply chain change because of digital twins?
Looking ahead, we believe that the adoption of digital twins across industries will drive better decision making in the physical world. That, in turn, will drive significant changes in the operation of supply chains and logistics processes.
In the logistics industry itself, digital twins will extend the benefits of IoT already being applied today. They will bring deeper insight into the planning, design, operation, and optimization of supply chains, from individual assets and shipments to entire global supply networks.