By Dr Tariq Aslam, Head of MEA, AVEVA

In February, South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni vowed in his first post-pandemic budget speech that the government would not rest until the structure of the economy had been fundamentally altered through lower barriers to entry, improved productivity, and a reduced cost of doing business. Digital transformation offers a shortcut to those goals for South African companies looking to build back better in the wake of a life-altering pandemic.

But unless digital solutions are embedded at the very core of the value chain, their transformative capabilities will not fully benefit organizations. When Industry 4.0 technologies such as artificial intelligence, the cloud, and the internet of things are deployed concurrently, they can deliver accelerated benefits such as optimized business processes and value efficiencies while improving staff productivity.

At the heart of this clutch of technologies sits the Digital Twin. As a live replica of potential and actual physical assets, processes, people, systems, and devices, a Digital Twin presents deep data insights, highlights process efficiencies, and accelerates worker automation. Across the industrial sector, companies use Digital Twins in several ways, from trialing new
assets and processes to operational improvements and training systems.

The Digital Twin at work

In manufacturing, a Digital Twin can track the effectiveness of plants, machines, and other fixed assets on the factory floor in real-time. Overlaying the technology with machine learning and IoT capabilities delivers a holistic view of the asset and predicts maintenance requirements well in advance, avoiding unscheduled downtime.

When used across a supply chain, the technology can offer end-to-end visibility so producers and customers know at all times exactly where a shipment is, the route it has taken, and exactly­ when it will arrive at its destination.

Similarly, when put to work in mining, a Digital Twin provides visual intelligence across the asset lifecycle. By virtually simulating extraction operations, it can provide readings on asset temperatures, electricity consumption, pump pressure, and flow rates, while allowing engineers to remotely model virtual scenarios around blasting, metallurgy, and process control for optimum performance.

With a single-window view into their operations, businesses gain functional intelligence that ignites innovation and increases enterprise value in many ways. Predictive analytics results in improved operations and maintenance, generating billions in cost savings, either directly or by avoiding downtime. Moreover, the technology offers the opportunity to model what-if scenarios that comply with safety and regulatory requirements, calibrating the highest-value route to next-generation products or processes.

“In the race to rebuild, Digital Twins can ignite industrial innovation through optimized business processes, value efficiencies and improved staff productivity, says Dr Tariq Aslam, Head of MEA, AVEVA”

Four steps to Digital Transformation

Using a four-pronged strategy, Digital Twins contextualizes new and existing data into new insights that help enterprises close the loop towards continuous process improvement without the burden of risk.

  • Establish a Digital Twin model powered by accurate data feeds to pinpoint asset performance and modify key control points for short and long-term value.
  • Ascertain how Digital Twin simulations and predictive analytics can improve enterprise-wide value through operations or process improvements and risk control.
  • Draw up a Digital Twin strategy to map out program and project planning for digital transformation.
  • Deploy the Digital Twin to map out connections between current and future developments and determine how the enterprise or project responds to internal or external changes.

Gartner estimates that by 2021 Digital Twins will exist for potentially billions of scenarios. In South Africa and elsewhere, companies that leverage the intelligent master data management of Digital Twin technology will realize the trifecta of business innovation, bottom-line improvements, and stakeholder value for generations to come.