Here's how logistics companies gain from digital twins. Source: Shutterstock

Here’s how logistics companies gain from digital twins. Source: Shutterstock

What are digital twins and how can they help businesses?

DIGITAL TWINS are not a new technology.

Instead, it’s the combination of technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT), used creatively to help the organizations harness data to optimize their operations and business.

A digital twin is the ‘virtualization’ of a product, thanks to the data from all the sensors and connectivity that is provided by an IoT-driven ecosystem, interpreted using analytics and AI, on a dashboard, in real-time.

To put things simply, it’s a digital version of any product you use or produce, built and maintained using real-time data.

What does it do? It lets you study the machine or your product in real-time, on a computer screen – without actually physically monitoring anything.

The technology is expected to revolutionize industries such as manufacturing, logistics, and even pharmaceuticals.

However, at present, the biggest impact is being felt by the logistics industry and understanding how they’re moving the market for some companies can help other industries see how digital twins can help them.

What can digital twins do for the logistics industry?

DHL, in a recent study, said that it believes digital twins could find a variety of applications in the logistics industry across the value chain, including container fleet management, shipment monitoring, and even in the field of logistics systems design.

IoT sensors on individual containers, for example, show their location and monitor for damage or contamination. This data flows into a digital twin of the container network, which uses machine learning to ensure that containers are being deployed as efficiently as possible.

Digital twins can be applied not only for individual assets but entire networks and ecosystems such as warehouses, combining a 3D model of a facility with inventory and operational data.

The system can, therefore, provide an overview of the state of machines and product availability and could make predictions and autonomous decisions about stock or deliveries.

The same principle applies to major logistics hubs or global logistics networks, DHL points out.

“Powered by IoT, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and advanced visualization tools, digital twins are becoming a more attractive and accessible option for companies,” said DHL Innovation and Trends Research VP Markus Kückelhaus.

“However, bringing these and other relevant technologies together into a full digital twin implementation is a complex and challenging task. Close collaboration between all partners along the value chain is therefore essential to fully capture the potential.”

Tetra Pak invests in a digital twin to manage logistics in Singapore

Most recently, food processing and packing company Tetra Pak announced that it will embark on a new project to build a new digital twin warehouse in Singapore.

According to a company press release, Tetra Pak combined the internet of things (IoT) with data analytics to bridge its physical warehouse with a unique virtual representation that monitors and simulates both the physical state and behavior of the warehouse assets in real-time.

“Innovation has always been at the heart of what we do at Tetra Pak. To keep the cogs of our operations turning seamlessly, it is vital that we have complementary warehousing and supply chain solutions that can meet the high demands of our customers,” said Tetra Pak Integrated Logistics, South Asia, East Asia & Oceania Director Devraj Kumar.

In the future, more digital twin champions are expected to leverage the solution to drive efficiency and boost productivity — its adoption in industries outside logistics and supply chain might be slow but experts believe that implementations will skyrocket in the near future.