Since Facebook changed its company name to Meta, there has been a lot written lately about the metaverse. As a combination of augmented reality and video that people can experience virtually, it creates a lot of consumer excitement for the potential that it can offer by bridging the virtual and physical worlds. There has been a parallel movement in B2B markets (some argue that it's part of the same movement) in the form of Digital Twins. As is often the pattern in technology, it is likely that the surge in consumer interest will be followed with business adaptation. Get ready for Digital Twins.
What is a Digital Twin? A replica of an operating physical asset (or process) in a digital model. This video provides a nice explanation:
Why is this important to construction? Because it will become the basis of smart infrastructure, and smart infrastructure will become the norm in order to improve safety and reduce the cost of asset maintenance. Let's start exploring this by addressing some fundamental questions.
How is a digital twin created?
Very simply stated, a digital twin combines a BIM model used for design with geographic information system (GIS) data (for mapping) and enterprise asset management (EAM) data. They combine to provide a single view of truth for the project through design, construction and asset management. Because they require cross-industry collaboration, digital twins are usually created on platforms offered by major AEC software providers. Bentley offers its iTwin Platform for infrastructure. Autodesk provides its Tandem Platform for commercial construction.
What is the real value?
Digital twins provide the combined value of digital modeling, web collaboration and the Internet of Things (IoT). By incorporating these three disciplines, they improve accuracy; eliminate mistakes and avoid redundancy; and substantially reduce the cost of asset maintenance by replacing physical inspections with sensor feedback and drone images. The improvements will be so profound, we would go so far as to suggest that the adoption of digital twins in construction will be favorably compared with the implementation of the assembly line in manufacturing over 100 years ago.
What does this mean for manufacturers?
Increased market share... or obsolescence. As it always happens in technology, the change will seem to come overnight and many manufacturers will not be ready. Those who are ready will leap to the front as industry leaders while the others work to catch up.
How can manufacturers get ready?
To get products 'digital twin-ready', manufacturers must be able to create digital identities for their products. At its essence, this is what Idencia does. We serialize customers' products with barcodes or RFID tags and collect records in digital format. In this way, we create the basis for providing as-manufactured information about each product to a BIM model or digital twin. In the meantime, customers improve productivity in their plants and are ready for their customers move to digital records.
When will digital twins go mainstream?
Of course, no one really has an answer to this. But here are a few things we do know:
- With over $1 Trillion of funding coming from the recently passed infrastructure bill, states will have a LOT of money to put to work following headcount reductions resulting from Baby Boomer retirements and COVID. They need to find ways to be more productive.
- Construction contractors and manufacturers are enduring one of the worst labor shortages in memory. They need to find ways to be more productive.
- Tech companies like Bentley and Autodesk recognize their opportunities to sell technology as productivity solutions addressing these problems... digital twins among them. This will be hard to resist.
- Above all, we know this: In the near future, everything that is in the physical realm will have a digital twin in the virtual realm.
Do you have a Facebook account? There is your digital twin.
And Facebook just pivoted its entire strategy to take advantage of it.
So, our advice: become digital twin-ready sooner rather than later.
Would you like to see how much time and money this can save your plant right away? Please click below to complete our Cost of Not Going Digital Calculator.
Our mission at Idencia is to elevate the productivity of product manufacturers serving the construction markets. We offer tracking solutions that improve productivity and offer value throughout the value chain. As a cloud-hosted product tracking system that is seamless between manufacturers, contractors and asset managers, Idencia adds information value to all, eliminates redundancy and saves time.