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Digital twins: Redesigning logistics, creating new efficiencies

Global competition is driving change in the logistics sector and to remain competitive logistics companies need to offer customers security, speed and to remain cost effective. Customers are also seeking traceability and transparency from logistics solutions providers.

One way to meet these expectations is for logistics firms to offer digital twins. This process allows logistics providers to offer the increased transparency, by offering their partners complete visibility into a product’s lifecycle. In addition, logistics companies can use the design element from digital twins projects to increase operational efficiency.

What is a digital twin?

Digital twin is a term applied to a digital replica of a physical entity. The digital twin concept can apply to any physical asset, process, people, places, systems or devices. One example is can be seen in providing a digital replica to understand the dynamics of how an Internet of Things device might operate and perform throughout its life cycle.

Digital twin technology also helps to leverage big data analytics for uniting the physical and digital platforms. Some key players in the digital twins remote support space include Microsoft Corporation, IBM Corporation, Cisco Systems, Inc., General Electric, Accenture Oracle Corporation and Siemens AG.

New survey on applying digital twins to logistics

To assess how digital twins can be applied to the logistics sector, DHL has released a new survey called: “Digital Twins in Logistics”. The study outlines the concept of digital twins, setting out how it creates value.

Examples in the report consider how logistics providers can make better-informed decisions for optimizing material flows and monitoring supply chain processes. Examples of application include supporting activities like the optimal deployment of a forklift within a warehouse; the use of robotics to assist with sorting materials; and the utilization of delivery trucks.

The report also spells out how digital twins can assist with the assessing of events that might occur during transportation (such as damage or temperature excursions). The digital twins process also enables real-time updates to be gathered on the status of goods and assets throughout the supply chain. For the logistics provider this can mean faster responsiveness, as well as opportunities to reduce waste, achieve improved inventory control, and aspects like warehouse space optimization.

To maximize the advantages of digital twins, the report also notes the complexities involved. The challenge of logistics forms is to find ways to bring together cloud computing, artificial intelligence and advanced visualisation tools, to assist with the digital twins process.

According to DHL’s Matthias Heutger : “The market for digital twins is expected to grow more than 38 % each year, passing the $26 billion mark by 2025. Digital twins offer unparalleled capabilities to track, monitor, and diagnose assets. They will change traditional supply chains, with a range of options to facilitate data-driven decision making and collaboration, streamlined business processes, and new business models.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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