From building a 3D virtual replica of heritage precinct Kampong Glam, to creating 3D models of individual trees for testing and simulation, digital twin technology has emerged as a critical component of Singapore’s Smart Nation drive across various sectors and industries. For the uninitiated, a digital twin can be best understood as a virtual representation of an object or system.
This could range from an individual tree, a particular location, the production line of a car manufacturer to even an entire nation. Singapore, one of the first cities to deploy digital twins technology worldwide, built Virtual Singapore in a S$73 million project in 2014 with capabilities across test-bedding, urban planning, decision-making and more. With the government paving the way and the world turning on its digital head to unleash a wealth of data, it is easy to imagine how digital twinning – powered from setting data in motion – can be the one winning factor for businesses today.
In auto-manufacturing, there is a significant amount of data that is created from the manufacturing process. This can come from supply and demand, ensuring that parts are at the right place at the right time, and from any glitches that take place. All of this real-time data can be fed into the creation of a digital twin, which will allow the car manufacturer to make accurate decisions based on when and why down-time happens, ensuring that the production line remains smooth from there on out. This is particularly critical for profits as the down-time in a production line, and consequently the lack of output, can seriously cost the business. This is but one example where real-time data twinning can save the organisation both time and money.
In the past year and a half, digital transformation has remained at the top of the agendas of organisations across most industry verticals. The retail sector has felt this most keenly, having had to digitally transform in an era when physical presence alone is no longer feasible. With e-commerce user penetration projected to reach 67.2% in Singapore by 2025, it is increasingly crucial for retailers to leverage digital channels for survival. Yet, online retailing comes with its own set of problems, particularly as customer expectations have dramatically evolved. Organisations in the retail space are no longer competing primarily on product quality, but on the entire customer journey from purchase to delivery. Creating a digital twin can help retailers make real-time decisions to do with pricing, stock control, delivery and even returns, ensuring that the demands of customers are reflected accurately and met fully.
Beyond business-to-consumer (B2C) sectors, the use of digital twins can also be exceedingly useful for organisations in the B2B space, through the accurate prediction of customer experience and the likelihood of losing clients. By creating a digital twin for each customer in the B2B enterprise market, a simple yet effective metric could be to monitor usage of the organisation’s own product or service against that of other customers. This could bring to light potential client losses, and allow businesses to mitigate these in time before they are lost to a competitor. With data as the one commodity that is in plentiful supply, especially in an increasingly digitised world, organisations should leverage the abundance of real-time data and put it to use for both winning new customers and retaining existing ones.
It is worth highlighting that the value of digital twins can be felt within organisations too. The pandemic has not only altered consumer and customer expectations, but employee expectations as well. Having experienced the flexibility and convenience of remote work during the pandemic, it is unlikely that employees will choose to return to offices full-time. Balancing these changing employee expectations with organisational goals will be key to employee retention in the post-pandemic work era, and the twinning of employees may help. Since organisations have access to their employees’ schedules, holiday dates and even pay grades, these real-time flows of data could make for some interesting conclusions around burnout and talent acquisition, as well as inform the policy decisions organisations eventually make with regards to flexi-work arrangements.
While governments around the world may have had a head start, it is clear that digital twin technology is an equally worthy investment for businesses. The post-pandemic digital era has made data an increasingly precious commodity, not so much in amount but value. Whether for customers or employees, businesses across verticals need to rethink how they are, and more importantly how they are not, moving their data. With the expanse of real-time data available at their fingertips, setting data in motion to create a digital twin could be as easy as opening their minds to the possibilities.