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How to Create a Digital Twin of Your Business

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Read more about author Nahla Davies.

In an increasingly interconnected, fast-changing, and globalized world, business operations have entered a new level of complexity. Whether a company designs products, manufactures them, or provides a certain service – and in many cases, there are companies that do all of the above – the process has multiple layers. The end product likely goes through many different stages and passes through many different hands before being completed and sold to the consumer. 

Thankfully, in 2021, we have technology that empowers business leaders to review processes and procedures digitally to optimize production. Many successful companies rely on advanced business technology that helps them navigate through different processes and make informed decisions. In this article, we will talk about the concept of mapping a “digital twin” of your business that can help executive teams reassess constantly changing environments in order to act opportunistically. 

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What Is a Digital Twin? 

The first step to creating a digital map of your business is to create models that represent how profit is created in your company. If, for example, you are an automobile company looking to automate, you can map out where materials are ordered and how they get delivered to your factories. You can include how many workers it takes to assemble the cars and how long this generally takes and include a virtual model of the factory machinery and its output. A digital twin in this scenario would also include details regarding how final products are transported from the factory to the warehouse, and then distributed to car dealers, and so on. 

This digital model should contain as many details as possible so as to represent a virtual simulation of your current business environment, the surrounding market, and all external factors that may affect it. It should fully represent an organization’s assets in order to illustrate its business model from start to finish. This virtual model should be programmed with high-quality data about systems, expenses, security risks, processes, and procedures. It will ideally be able to respond to data inputs with simulations of likely outcomes, helping to inform decisions in the real world.

Digital maps, unlike printed maps, cannot be static and unchanging. They must rely on a constant feed of data that will map the pathways through which value is added to the company. Similar to Google Maps, it must take into account roadblocks, potential competitive traffic, and regulatory “speed bumps” to help organizations take the best route.

These tools can also be valuable for companies whose profit model isn’t as straightforward as creating and selling a physical product. The insurance industry, for example, must be aware of a variety of different external factors and be able to predict events in the future accurately. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a 50% uptick in people purchasing or considering life insurance. The first half of 2021 has seen life insurance sales grow in America at the fastest pace since 1983. 

With a digital twin of their business, insurance companies could view data regarding COVID-19 outbreaks in real time. They could then use this to make decisions about hiring additional workers to handle the uptick in both sales and new claims to provide better service or other business decisions.

There is a variety of software that offers this level of enterprise operational intelligence, and with the rise of AI, these platforms will likely become more powerful in the future. In fact, many experts predict that these business maps will be automated to make recommended courses of action based on real-time data. As this software is perfected, companies may opt to automate more and more decisions, freeing up personnel for future-facing innovation.

The Case for Digital Worlds

Digital twins and virtual worlds are powerful tools to help leaders make the right choice for their teams. By harnessing the power of AI and the detailed, macro-level view provided by virtual simulations, executives and high-level decision-makers can better focus their energy on enhancing workplace cultures or fostering values within their organization. 

There are many different ways in which a mapped, digital twin of your business fed with real-time data can improve operations. For example, if social unrest or COVID-19 cases are increasing in an area that you rely on for supplies, this could trigger an alert to begin looking for alternate suppliers. 

If inventory is dipping below a certain level, this could trigger an automatic reordering process. It could also help companies test new business processes in their digital world before implementing them in real life. 

Mapping the path your product or service takes before it begins to generate revenue can help leaders optimize business performance. This is especially valuable for businesses in the e-commerce space whose business models involve the design, creation, and individual distribution of each item to a customer’s home. This relies on external vendors, the use of tracking services, etc., and digital twins can help model all of these aspects.

Virtual worlds can also help local governments take better care of their citizens. By using high-quality data to properly allocate resources, balance loads, and predict future needs, municipalities can not only improve operations but also save money. 

Furthermore, digital twins are programmed to accurately map out how money is distributed and what the expected return on investment should be. When outcomes from a virtual model don’t match outcomes in real life, this could be an indicator of theft, money mismanagement, or another issue that needs further investigation. 

Conclusion

Every organization sits on a treasure trove of data that can be transformed into a mapped-out, digital doppelganger of the business. While designing such a virtual world is expensive, elaborate, and time-consuming, the return on investment can be huge. A digital twin helps leaders understand how their changes have a ripple effect throughout their organization and can underscore hidden-value contributors and pinpoint waste. 

With a digital twin, the guesswork is gone, as separate data points can be manipulated to produce different results with startling accuracy. Organizational digital twins will surely be a powerful weapon for competitive companies who want to make revenue-generating, data-driven decisions without being swayed by irrational fear, subconscious emotional reactions, or personal biases. 

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