Digital twin: Virtual industrial facilities as a superlative for the optimisation of marketing, distribution, and services

junge Frau mit Handyreihe als Spiegel
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The digital transformation constantly enriches us with new buzzwords and challenges. Internet of things, okay. Digital twin, wait, what? What’s behind future concepts? Are they really as revolutionary as they seem?

Digital twin means much more than the mere virtual representation of a physical product. With the help of the digital twin, not only the physical elements but also the dynamics and processes behind them can be virtually mirrored. The benefits of this virtual representative cast a promising light on the horizon of new work.

From vision to reality

At the beginning of the year, when we speculated on which hypes will occupy us in 2018, we knew that halfway through the year we’d be able to find first uses of what we mentioned. The digital twin is our next stop on the journey of the IoT train. Because the virtual file of such an IoT device allows predictions that can improve all phases of a value chain.

An image is not the same as a twin

Whether service or maintenance – digital images of intelligent devices already exist. So far, however, the virtual representations were only visible on one side. Only the exchange between manufacturer and user turns separate digital images into »real« digital twins. For this, the data of the physical product must be available, for example, via a cloud. The analysis and evaluation of the device information are not only easier and faster but also have a positive effect on the big picture. Whether manufacturer or service provider, operator or consumer – all users benefit from the digital twin since operations and processes are available and scalable.

Digital umbilical cord

Physical and digital DNA can be accessed through a cloud portal. For example, manufacturers store documentation and equipment measurements, certificates, and manuals., Adrian Langlouis, Solution Architect in the discrete industries sector of the German software manufacturer SAP explains this option on the basis of the SAP Asset Intelligence Network:

» “By scanning the barcode of a machine, the operator of an installation arrives at the digital machine file, has problems with a device, puts a ticket in it, looks at spare parts in a 3D model and can order the parts directly.” «

The portal makes it possible, for example, to optimise delivery processes should the delivery of a spare part take too long. Thanks to the digital umbilical cord, printing partners are at the disposal of the operator, who can quickly produce a temporary spare part, for example with a 3D printing process, and then deliver it.

Digital DNA as a proactive service guarantor

Digital twins not only help to solve problems efficiently but also faster. They also offer the possibility of avoiding difficulties, for example when operating a device for the very first time. Thanks to the operating data of a machine, it can be seen whether the actual use matches the configuration. However, improper use of a device can be minimised by informing the manufacturer of common sources of error, registering them and using the appropriate operating information to help the customer optimise the handling of the device in the future or show the manufacturer how the next generation could be more user-friendly.

Not only does this proactive look to help improve usage and prevent downtime, but it also supports to identify early on whether another device may be more appropriate. If this is the case, the marketing wheels have to turn again. Strategies for cross- and up-selling should be a consequence in relation to user behaviour. The reintegration of the operating data into marketing via SAP Hybris makes this restructuring possible and enables it to react quickly if the offer of an alternative device is the best strategy. The digital twin machine thus also serves as a basis for interlinking marketing, sales, and services even closer. A smooth flow of these three processes not only has a positive effect on the customer experience, but also on the company’s success.

Even more services

Service optimisation knows no limits. In this context, digital twins are valuable drivers for making processes from resource planning to on-site care and maintenance even more efficient. Transparent device data is stored in a ticket via machine learning and forwarded directly to the responsible department.

The planning of necessary service operations is faster and more concrete, as unnecessary paths of communication are avoided. Of course, this increase in efficiency has a positive effect on on-site service. Thanks to forecasted analyses, service employees do not only have the right spare parts with them, but can also view the device’s digital file on the spot in order to familiarise themselves with problems and mistakes of the past, already completed services, and development status of the machine compared to other devices.

The digital gear

Marketing, sales, and services are inextricably linked when it comes to a successful digital strategy. Digital twins have the potential to take process planning and optimization around this triad to a new level. If the storing and exchange of the digital DNA of an IoT device takes place to the extent described here, the digital twin may indeed be understood as a new superlative in terms of increasing the efficiency of the digital strategy.

Download our annual Trend Book now!

HK TB EN CoverLooking for even more predictions and explanations from us? Then your next stop should be to get our annual Trend Book. Not only do we discuss IoT, but we also talk about »Future Retail and Brands in the Digital Age« that can only expand your way of thinking and view of the digital future. Download the file now, for free!

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