As unique, virtual representations of potential or actual physical objects and processes, digital twins enable companies to design, visualize, monitor, manage, and maintain their assets more effectively. Led by the engineering, manufacturing, automotive, and energy industries, these simulated replicas help unlock new service-based business models built on valuable insights from operational data.
Key Developments & Implications
Fueled by parallel developments in the internet of things (IoT), big data, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, and digital reality technologies, the recent arrival of digital twins heralds a tipping point - where the physical and virtual worlds can be managed as one. Workers may simply interact and analyze the digital counterparts of objects and processes just as they would with the physical objects and processes themselves.
Warehouse digital twins are an ideal place for this technology to take hold in logistics. A virtual 3D model of the facility can be paired with inventory and operational data including the size, quantity, location, and demand characteristics of every item. This makes the facility digitally come to life in real time, allowing site managers, customers, and remote management to have full visibility of the operation. During the lockdowns and travel restrictions at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, this capability was acutely required as the number of on-site personnel was limited. In the near future, digital twins can support the design and layout of new facilities, allowing companies to optimize space utilization and simulate the movement of products, personnel, and equipment.
Digital twins of supply chains go one step further, beyond a single building, as the flow of goods from source destination depends on the orchestration of multiple elements including; ships, trucks, aircraft, order and information systems and, above all, people. While spatial models and operational data have existed for many decades, digital twins present the opportunity to perform simulation optimization based on machine learning to predict the future.
Aftermarket logistics services can be developed by linking digital twins of manufactured products with logistics services. With a digital twin of any physical object, such as goods or vehicles, the role of the logistics service provider can become extremely important, acting on insights from the virtual realm. For instance, if a vehicle receives damage and requires spare parts, the supply chain is able to react quicker (or even proactively) and more efficiently with notifications from the digital twin, detailing exactly the required parts and where they need to be sent.
Questions answered in this report:
- What is a digital twin and what does it mean for my organization?
- What best-practice examples from other industries can be applied to logistics?
- How will my supply chain change because of digital twins?
Talk to an Expert
Global Head of DHL Trend Research
Ben Gesing is a global innovation leader with 7+ years of experience developing technical solutions in the logistics, telecommunications, and consumer electronics industry. Today he leads the Trend Research activities at the DHL Innovation Center near Bonn, Germany. He and his team are responsible for shaping the overall innovation agenda at Deutsche Post DHL Group through producing industry trend reports and piloting cutting edge technologies like artificial intelligence, computer vision, and robotics in live logistics operations together with startups.
Dr. Klaus Dohrmann
Sector Development Engineering, Manufacturing and Energy
Dr. Klaus Dohrmann is Vice President Sector Development Engineering, Manufacturing and Energy Sector for DHL Customer Solutions and Innovation (CSI). In this role he leads the strategic development for one of DHL’s global cross-divisional focus sectors - Engineering, Manufacturing and Energy. His role involves driving the success of the global sector in close collaboration with DHL’s top accounts and beyond through, strategy sessions, customer events and innovation workshops. He is also responsible for setting the global sector strategy, identification of new business opportunities, support of product development and execution of selected strategic initiatives.