Digital twins: By Joshan Cherian Abraham, Guilherme Cruz, Sebastian Cubela, Tomás Lajous, Kayvaun Rowshankish, Sanchit Tiwari, and Rodney Zemmel
Companies can leverage digital twins in a way that delivers significant value today—while building the engine for the enterprise metaverse of tomorrow.
Organizations are set to look dramatically different in coming decades. We envision a world where the lines between physical and digital environments blur. Every asset, process, or person within and related to an enterprise will be replicated virtually—and connected. As a result, nearly every aspect of work can take place solely digitally or, at the least, before it does so physically. Immersive experiences, enabled by augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR), will allow employees to gain real-world product design experience and training from their desks as they manipulate 3-D digital replicas of equipment. Mass simulations and AI technologies will use data streams from across and beyond the enterprise to help senior executives predict what’s next with tremendous precision and prescribe the best course of action in even the most turbulent of times.
About the authors
This is the enterprise metaverse—a digital and often immersive environment that replicates and connects every aspect of an organization to optimize experiences and decision making. The journey toward the enterprise metaverse, while still aspirational, has already begun with the development of the engines that will power it: digital twins.
Imagine this future in the enterprise metaverse: A digital version of your end-to-end supply chain, from raw materials to delivery, continuously replicates in real time.
It’s linked to supplier information so it provides an early warning of a disruption in one vendor’s production capabilities. Managers receive a real-time report of existing inventory buffers, alternative suppliers, and comparable parts. After agreeing to find a new supplier, managers can simulate their vendor transition plans and choose the company that minimizes the impact of the changeover.
Upon selecting the new source, vendor-onboarding and purchasing-order processes are automatically initiated. Now that a component from the new supplier has been chosen, the R&D organization receives a 3-D replica of it, and its impact on customers and existing processes is automatically simulated.
Next, your virtual factory simulates any resulting production disruptions and gives leaders recommendations to ensure that production quality remains high by optimizing workforce and shipping schedules during the changeover.
Your virtual retail store proactively sends store managers recommendations for updating store layouts and product mixes to fill any temporary gaps on shelves and for training employees so they’re ready to answer customers’ questions about any product changes.
The result: the time the item is out of stock falls from months to days, financial costs are near zero, employees experience minimal disruptions, and customer satisfaction increases.
The enterprise metaverse could make this scenario a reality.
Much of the discourse today has been about a commercial metaverse where consumers and their avatars can interact with brands and buy physical and digital products. However, we believe that the impact of the metaverse could be as high in the enterprise as in the consumer space—if not higher. The metaverse could enable optimized decision making from the C-suite to the front lines, customized and immersive employee and customer experiences enabled by augmented and virtual reality, autonomous AI use cases (such as proactively self-healing equipment) that aren’t possible today, and entirely new product development mechanisms and processes.
Although it will take time for this vision to fully materialize, leading companies around the world are already building its foundations: digital twins. Ultimately, the enterprise metaverse will be powered by dozens of interconnected digital twins that replicate everything from physical assets (like products and office buildings) to people (such as customers and employees) to core business processes and often interact with the physical environment without human intervention.
Sufficient technology and know-how exist to build digital twins today, and doing so creates significant value now rather than taking years. One telecom and technology player, for instance, reduced its capital and operating expenses by 10 percent thanks to a digital twin of its network assets. The twin can optimize capital spending, regulate usage patterns, identify failure points, and automatically initiate digital interventions based on unique network insights. Over the next decade, the company estimates that its digital twins will deliver billions of dollars in cumulative financial impact as they enable additional AI use cases and increase the amount of data-driven decision making across the organization.
In this article, we outline how companies at any level of digital maturity can begin the journey toward the enterprise metaverse by building out their foundation of value-driving digital twins today. It’s important to note that the enterprise metaverse is not the goal in and of itself. We believe that organizations are best served by focusing on iterating, evolving, and adding twins only if they could have a real impact. In this way, many firms could ultimately arrive at their version of the enterprise metaverse.