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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.

Digital Twins in Logistics

The virtual and physical worlds are coming together. Powered by the Internet of Things, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and advanced visualization technologies, digital twins are virtual representations of physical assets that change, grow and learn alongside their real-world counterparts. Take an in-depth look at what digital twins mean for logistics: their potential to improve the performance and efficiency of logistics processes, and the new demands that digital twin enabled businesses will place on supply chains and logistics activities.

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

Ben Gesing

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

Vice President
Innovation Europe & Trend Research

Dr. Klaus Dohrmann leads DHL’s flagship innovation center in Cologne, Germany, as well as DHL’s Global trend research activities. In his role, he is responsible for driving thought leadership and customer-facing innovation.

Klaus has a breadth of supply chain and logistics knowledge with deep sector expertise. He was previously Vice President Sector Development for DHL Customer Solutions and Innovation (CSI), where he led the global development of the Energy, Manufacturing and Energy sector, and oversaw the development of global sector strategies for Auto-Mobility, Technology, as well as eRetail & Fashion.

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