Examining the Data on Digital Twin Technology in the Manufacturing Sector
We at Altair have a hard time not talking about digital twin technology – after all, it represents the pinnacle of the convergence vision we’ve been pioneering for decades. By digital twin technology, we’re referring to the process of using data streams to create a digital representation of a real-world asset to improve collaboration, information access, and decision-making. These data streams require a smooth, orchestrated combination of simulation, high-performance computing (HPC), data analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to create a digital twin. Of course, they also require teams of experts well-versed in these respective disciplines.
But this article isn’t focused on what digital twin technology is (to learn more about that, read our digital twin overview) – instead, we want to examine how the technology is being used within the manufacturing sector.
Last year, Altair commissioned an independent, international online survey of 2,007 professionals employed throughout many target industries. The goal was to examine digital twin adoption, usage, sustainability impact, and more throughout different industries, organizational roles, geographic regions, etc. You can read our findings from that survey in our 2022 Digital Twin Global Survey Report.
This year, we’ve taken the data from that survey and shone a spotlight on the respondents that identified themselves as working within organizations in the manufacturing sector. You can read the full report, the 2023 Global Digital Twin Survey Report: Manufacturing, to see what we found. Here we’ll be highlighting the key insights we gathered from the manufacturing data.
Digital Twin Adoption and Usage
In our survey, we examined questions relating to the adoption of digital twin within the manufacturing industry and how manufacturing firms are using digital twin. We wanted to see what percentage of manufacturing organizations have already adopted digital twin technology, what technologies they’re using alongside digital twin, how the manufacturing industry stands in comparison to its counterpart industries, and more. What we found is that digital twin technology – far from being a conceptual technology or long-term goal – is already playing a big role in the manufacturing industry. Here and now, organizations around the world are using data streams, real-time simulation and data, and expansive HPC infrastructure to build digital representations of physical products. And for the most part, organizations who don’t currently use digital twin are looking to adopt it within the next few years.
First and foremost, 71% of respondents said their organizations already leveraged digital twin technology. Among the overall data, the manufacturing sector was the third most likely sector (behind heavy equipment and automotive) to say they leverage digital twin technology. Of respondents who said their organizations leveraged digital twin technology, 97% said it was “important” to their organization – and 58% said it was “very important.”
The data also suggested that the manufacturing sector is more mature in its digital twin adoption relative to its counterpart industries, as manufacturing respondents were the second most likely group to say their organizations adopted digital twin three or more years ago, behind only the aerospace (17%) sector. Overall, of those who said their organization leverages digital twin technology, 89% of respondents indicated digital twin adoption has occurred within the last two years or sooner; 19% said their organization adopted digital twins within the past six months or sooner.
We find the most important aspect of this data to be that the manufacturing industry is a leader in digital twin adoption along with the aerospace industry, which was the original pioneer in digital twin and similar technologies. That said, overall digital twin adoption is still very recent, mostly within the past two years. These numbers were consistent with the results we gathered in the overall survey. Of course, it’s also notable that almost every respondent said that digital twin technology was important to their organization, with more than half saying it was very important. Despite its recent adoption, digital twin is fast become an integral part of organizations’ operations.
Impact of Digital Twin Technology
We also sought to understand how digital twin technology was impacting firms’ operations, from efficiency and cost reduction to sustainability and digitalization. Now that the data has established that digital twin technology is relatively common in the manufacturing industry, we wanted to examine exactly what firms are using it for and what technologies they’re deploying alongside digital twin. Since no two organizations’ digital twin operations are identical, we saw a host of diverse responses. That said, we also saw common trends, including cost savings, real-time monitoring and maintenance, sustainability initiatives, and more.
To start, 94% of respondents who said their organizations used digital twin technology said it better informed the development of new products. 62% of digital twin users said it had reduced their maintenance and warranty costs.
Moreover, the manufacturing sector showed that it’s using digital twin technology to advance its sustainability objectives. Of respondents who used digital twins, 89% said it helped their organization create more sustainable products and processes. It’s interesting to note while this is slightly lower than the average across all sectors in the overall survey population (92%), this is still a very high number and just outside the study’s margin of error.
Staying on the subject of sustainability, compared to other sectors’ averages, manufacturing was more likely to say digital twin made their company more sustainable by making materials and products less wasteful and easier to refurbish/reuse.
The data revealed that the manufacturing sector felt strongly that digital twin technology helped advance organizational sustainability initiatives, whether that be reducing waste and pollution, cutting carbon emission, minimizing waste, fuel, and material usage, etc. This is a key development in the fight against climate change, since the manufacturing sector has historically had a significant environmental impact regarding carbon emissions, pollution, and material and fuel usage. As more companies (both in manufacturing and beyond) use digital twin technology to optimize products and processes, we can expect to see even greater sustainability achievements – which are desperately needed as demand for refined, electrified products continues to grow.
Expectations of Digital Twin Technology
Finally, we looked to explore the future of digital twin technology and what people around the world today believe the technology is capable of. As stated earlier, digital twin technology is here, but because of the technology’s short time on the scene, organizations are still finding out what it can do and where they can apply it throughout departments and regions. This means that we’ve only just scratched the surface of what the technology can do. As with any new, exciting technology, people are looking to the next five, 10, and 20 years and imagining what digital twin will encapsulate in tomorrow’s world.
One of the most interesting findings from the overall survey’s data was that 43% of respondents thought digital twin is already making or will make the need for physical prototyping obsolete within the next four years. Despite being slightly lower than the overall survey average, a considerable 40% of manufacturing respondents believe the same. Out of any single category, manufacturing respondents were most likely to say digital twin technology will make the need for physical prototyping obsolete in 5-6 years (26%); only 4% of respondents indicated they think it will never happen.
Additionally, of manufacturing respondents who said their organization doesn’t currently utilize digital twin technology, 55% predicted their organization would adopt it within the next two years. And 86% of all manufacturing respondents said their organization was either currently using or plans to use digital twin technology to reach organizational sustainability objectives.
Even for the most visionary experts, it’s a shock to imagine a world where organizations no longer need to test physical prototypes. Of course, based on the type of product and industry, physical testing may never truly disappear due to safety and regulatory restrictions (such as in the aerospace sector). But for many other industries and organizations, the data suggests many think the digital revolution will take the next big leap when it comes to product development and testing by moving everything into digital twin workflows. Is it finally time to say goodbye to the crash test dummy?
The data from the manufacturing vertical suggests that the sector is making key progress on sustainability efforts, and has demonstrated that it is a leader in terms of adoption. Moreover, people within the sector largely predict big things for the technology, namely the eventual obsolescence of physical prototyping in most use cases. Overall, the data unequivocally shows that digital twin technology in the manufacturing sector is already a force to be reckoned with. No longer a technology to watch out for in the future, it is already playing a vital role in organizations’ operations everywhere you look – and its impact will only grow as teams and the underlying technology improve.
To read the full report on digital twin in the manufacturing sector, click here. To read the overall global survey report, click here. To learn all about Altair’s digital twin capabilities, visit https://altair.com/one-total-twin.