• What a digital twin is, and how it works

  • Why digital twins are a perfect match for asset management

  • Three real-life examples of successful digital twin applications

  • Why digital twins are especially important in the developing world

Digital twins: a brief introduction

A virtual mirror that helps us understand and shape the physical world

In brief, a digital twin is a virtual copy of a real-life asset, process, or system. It might represent an individual building or piece of machinery, a supply chain, or even an entire city.

Importantly, the digital twin is built using accurate, relevant data from the real world. It combines various concepts, technologies, and data sources to give a clear, meaningful view of the subject in all its complexity and show how it changes over time. 

For example, it might integrate data from your ERP with IoT sensor readings, and feeds from GIS and weather intelligence, so you can see how weather patterns affect asset usage and plan accordingly.

But a digital twin can do more than just help us to understand the physical world as it exists today. It can also be used for predictive simulation, to forecast the potential outcomes of decisions and compare possible scenarios – informing choices and helping us shape the physical world.

You could use one to optimise maintenance schedules, aid climate resilience planning, or compare potential traffic or water flows.

As digital twins grow in maturity, they can move from descriptive duties – collecting and visualising data – through real-time monitoring and prediction, to prescriptive and transformative roles, where they propose interventions and communicate machine to machine, to achieve the best result.

Tailor-made for asset management

Digital twins are ideal for asset managers who want to maximise returns

Today’s asset managers are faced with the unenviable task of realising value and achieving organisational objectives in a world that is increasingly complex, disrupted, and uncertain. In this context, the clarity and foresight provided by a digital twin can be invaluable, making decisions more accurate and effective.

In fact, a digital twin is a close match for the definition, aims and objectives of asset management, as defined by the ISO 55 000 series:

  • It is a virtual representation of an asset or system of assets;
  • It can replicate the activity of an organisation, to ensure that value is realised from each asset;
  • The intent of the organisation’s asset management policies, objectives, and processes are all embedded in the model;
  • It enables a risk-based approach, by modelling the intended system to evaluate the outcomes of decisions before committing real-world resources;
  • Modelling the systems and simulating scenarios also makes it easier to balance financial, environmental, and social costs – realising more value;
  • Continual real-time monitoring improves control and governance decisions, optimising value in real time while minimising risk.

Digital twins combine asset management with business, operations, and information technology – so you can make decisions that are more effective, and better aligned with your organisation’s goals. In short, they’re tailor made for maximising the value of each asset.

How to get started?

There are various starting points for your digital transformation journey. We explore three routes: 

  • Digital twins as an integrated part of your digital transformation

  • Digital twins as a part of operations optimisation

  • Digital twins as part of every investment project

We apply our Business Transformation framework to ensure a step-by-step approach to translating business strategy into concrete actions and projects. First, we help compose a strategy of guiding principles and policies. Then we focus on business design and information management. Finally, we formulate the actions and projects capable of meeting your goals.  

Business Transformation framework

A real-world solution

This isn’t just theory. Organisations worldwide are already using digital twins to maximise the returns on their asset investments. For example:

  • Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands is using a digital twin to optimise logistics and routing in its new terminal – satisfying passengers and minimising societal impact.
  • We worked with pump and motor manufacturer Hayward Tyler to build a dynamic, 3D virtual factory that can run a full year’s worth of simulations in a matter of seconds. This helps to maximise efficiency, profitability, and resource allocation
  • The digital twin we designed for Dutch Railways uses complex event processing and edge computing to lower cost of ownership. It helps with everything from predictive maintenance planning to customer departure information.

Crucially, these benefits aren’t limited to wealthy nations. In fact, we believe digital twins have even greater potential in developing countries like South Africa, where limited resources and ageing infrastructure mean every investment in an asset needs to be planned perfectly to deliver the greatest possible return. 

In the longer term, realising the full impact of this technology will need an ecosystem of digital twins, which can work together so different assets or systems can co-operate in harmony. 

That will need a great deal of alignment around issues like interoperability, security, and privacy, but it’s absolutely possible. 

If you’d like to discuss our vision, or to find out how a digital twin might help you realise more value from your assets, please feel free to contact us.