Accenture: Power of a digital twin for product development

By Janet Brice
AI-enabled digital double is the future of product development says Accenture who look at how you can implement virtual technology to drive business...

Accelerate your business by adding a digital twin to your operations. This is the message from Accenture who highlight AI-driven technology is the future of product development.

But what is a digital twin? This is a virtual digital double of a physical object, system or process and can be used to monitor, analyse and simulate their physical counterparts during the research and development stages.

“The digital twin done right enables companies to reimagine product development, but the true transformation is even larger. Ultimately, building these capabilities will determine the difference between companies locked in the past - unable to keep pace in today’s marketplace - and the living, evolving companies of the future,” comment Accenture.

“It also helps companies to focus their human experts’ time on new value streams and moving to market with new, ground-breaking products at speed. Design, prototyping, testing, and validation can all be done in a virtual space. This permits more experimentation. And every change can be rapidly evaluated for its impacts before the product is manufactured.”

Digital twins are likely to trigger a total process transformation which will boost efficiencies, speed up development and deliver better design options and generate new revenue streams for companies. 

The report, Twin-driven and AI-enabled is the future of product development, by Accenture stresses that digital doubles must be deployed with AI. 

“This enables companies to achieve new, intelligent and resilient product design. The physical manifestation of a product can be pushed closer to the supply chain and the customer. Design and manufacturing cycles shrink from years to weeks. And creativity is unleashed with unprecedented force,” comment Accenture.

It is reported that multiple goals can be achieved by using a digital twin, these include:

Customer-led design
AI has transformed traditional product life cycles of being driven by human engineers. The customer's voice can now be heard from the start and continues through manufacturing and into support as continuous monitoring directs the product to update itself. As a result, companies can create individualised experiences.

Agile product development

To transform a product development, everyone in the process needs access to a continuously updated single source of truth. The digital twin done right supports this kind of visibility. 

“Collaboration does not just have to be limited to human teams. AI assistants can work alongside human designers to streamline the data captured by the twin to create a seamless process,” comment Accenture.

Ecosystem-enabled innovation
R&D teams and designers currently act more like platform developers. They manage communities of suppliers, ecosystem partners and end users and are all responsible for different parts of the design process.
“To succeed, they need tools that operate across different deployments. Such tools must also be able to manage exponential quantities of data,” outlines the report.
“Accenture uses digital twins with AI to enable tools capable of handling feedback on this scale. Such tools support ecosystem management by identifying the most critical issues during product development. This allows for powerful collaboration on development efforts far beyond what we think of as traditional products.”

Two-dimensional journey

According to Accenture, transformation of product development will be an evolution from intelligent analytics to the full capabilities of an AI and a digital twin: full process automation.

“We see AI and digital twin capabilities as a two-dimensional journey… How far companies will get on their journey - and how quickly - depend on two dimensions: data and AI impact,” says the report.

Intelligent analytics is identified as a quick way to get started as this enables companies to augment the product development process with dashboards and control towers. Moving forward, the twin can support stakeholder synchronization. 

“The next level of maturity supports stakeholder coaching. That is, intelligent assistants' coach human stakeholders to complete activities. At the height of both data and application maturity, an organisation can reach full process automation. The digital twin automates individual tasks or a process so that it requires little to no human intervention.

“Digital twins can make the real world machine-readable and machine-controllable. That’s why combining twins with AI is such a powerful concept. 

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