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The Impact of Digital Twins on Strategic Decision Making

Digital Twins
  • Feb 13 2018

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‘Digital twins’ have taken the world by storm in recent years. According to Gartner, the concept was named one of the top ten strategic technology trends of 2017. And while the term has been around for over a decade, the recent development and widespread adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) technology has effectively laid the groundwork for digital twin technology to significantly gain in prominence and applicability.

What is a digital twin?Simply put, a digital twin is the digital representation of a physical object. This representation can draw on data from multiple sensors to create a comprehensive, data-driven tool that provides detailed information on the object that is updated in real time.

The inherent link between digital twins and IoT technology is clear: as more objects are connected to the internet and made capable of acting as sensors, the more data is available for an ever-more detailed digital model.

​This is especially the case when dealing with large, composite objects made up of many smaller parts, like offices and factories or cars and aeroplanes, as each smart device within the unit is a potential source of valuable information adding an extra layer of detail to the digital whole.

The strategic value of a “digital office”The impact of digital twin technology on the world of business cannot be understated. Let’s take a closer look at the particular use case of a “digital office” to highlight this value.

A “digital office” can be built with 3D-mapping technology that creates an interactive virtual model of an office space. This model can then be customised according to the layout and operational structure of the company, with information being available to various roles depending on their needs and authorisation.

This virtual office space is strategically valuable for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it offers a significantly deeper and clearer understanding of business operations. You can see exactly which areas in a physical office see the most foot traffic, and can allocate resources accordingly to maximise efficiency and usability.

Such a virtual representation can also be accessed and utilised by any employee’s mobile device. They can then feasibly see which meeting rooms are available for booking in real time without having to check in with anyone else.

​Visitors could also be provided with optimal routes through an unfamiliar office block to their desired meeting room or point of interest. This is especially valuable for companies that occupy large office complexes.

Optimise resource utilisationThis digital twin technology makes it possible for relevant building managers not only to optimise resource allocation and utilisation, but also to gain a window into real-time maintenance needs.

Norway’s northernmost wind farm in the Arctic Circle, Arctic Wind, is a great example of this. Mapping each wind turbine and creating a digital twin facilitates real-time monitoring without the need to physically check each device, which would otherwise entail engineers having to weather inhospitable conditions throughout most of the year.

​Arctic Wind’s digital twin technology also provides insight into the future state of their fleet of wind turbines. It achieves this by using available data to run simulations that can predict how the fleet will handle future situations, such as storms or changes in climate. This information is vital for the company to ensure its resources are being used as efficiently as possible.

Real-time information empowers strategic decision makingAspiring business leaders must recognise digital twins as a vital tool for effective strategic decision making, no matter the industry or working environment. Many of the most important decisions a business owner can make are difficult precisely because of a lack of clear data or visibility into the actual state of their organisation.

This is why it’s so valuable for decision makers to be able to eliminate much of the guesswork with a comprehensive digital model that leverages accurate, real-time data to illuminate business operations as they are on the ground.

If you’re an ambitious professional looking to hone your skills for success in a digital world, consider enrolling in an MBA programme at the University of Stellenbosch Business School. Among others, you will acquire expert decision-making skills and also the ability to understand the interlinked roles of organisational departments, allowing you to manage across functional areas, gain insights and make well-informed decisions.

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