How digital twins are helping to improve sustainability
Digital twins play a vital role in helping organisations shape their future and achieve their objectives. Sustainability is often one of these objectives, and it’s a priority for many businesses.
Here we look at how digital twins are helping businesses drive sustainability goals. And we highlight four use-cases to inspire your own digital twin development.
Digital twin development to play greater role in businesses and sustainability
The profile of digital twins is rising. Organisations are set to increase their deployment by 36% on average over the next five years, says a 2022 report* by Capgemini Research Institute.
Businesses recognise the role of digital twins in improving sustainability. Just over half of respondents to Capgemini’s survey agreed that digital twins will help to achieve their environmental sustainability goals. In fact, enhancing sustainability is one of the key factors driving investment in digital twins for 57% of organisations.
Source: Capgemini Research Institute
Digital twins help you understand the bigger picture
A digital twin is a virtual copy of an organisation. It’s used to help businesses understand their inner workings, and to trial process changes and initiatives that generate continuous improvement. They help build resilience, reduce risk, identify opportunities, and more.
Creating and using a digital twin should not be a one-off operation. Once it’s live, repeat the cycle of capturing, modelling, testing and learning, using the most recent version of the twin.
How a digital twin models continuous improvement
Sustainability is about more than the environment
Environmental concerns and climate change are usually the first things many people think about when sustainability is mentioned. However, while these are of course important, other factors are involved.
ESG (environmental, social, governance) characteristics are increasingly being used to evaluate companies. Customers and investors, suppliers and employees – many groups are interested in how sustainable operations are.
ESG means different things to different businesses, and the importance of each factor varies depending on the type of company you run. These are only a few of the metrics it covers:
- Environmental – emissions, the type of materials a company uses, recycling, use of water resources, deforestation
- Social – employee development, labour practices, health and safety, housing, traffic management
- Governance – company board diversity, shareholders’ rights, anti-corruption practices
How digital twins are helping to tackle sustainability challenges: four use-cases
1. Singapore: mapping a country
A particularly bad series of floods in 2011 prompted Singapore to examine ways to tackle this ongoing problem. So in 2012, the island nation began a programme to represent itself digitally. However, initially the data collection took too long, meaning it rapidly became out of date. To solve this challenge, in 2019 Singapore turned to mapping and digital twin software.
The project’s scope has since expanded to include areas like national park tree mapping and planning solar energy rollouts. Singapore acknowledges the project remains very much at a development stage, and is excited about its possibilities.
2. Microsoft and Newcrest: building a more sustainable future
Microsoft announced a partnership with Australian gold-mining company Newcrest in March 2022. The first project involves creating a full value-chain digital twin at the New South Wales mining operation. The twin displays data from IT and operational technology, via 3D visualisations of the mining process.
This means operators can monitor the use of resources and make tactical decisions, in real time, to improve performance. Eventually, a scenario-planning tool will be added to the twin, allowing users to test simulated actions against live data.
Microsoft is also working on a sustainability data model with data analytics specialist Versor. The model is designed to improve sustainability and streamline ESG reporting.
3. Unilever: improving factory operations and processes
The consumer products giant is using digital twins to make its production processes more efficient and flexible. In creating models of its factories, it has gained visibility of all machines and processes across all levels. This has led to greater control over timing and speed of processes, and product ingredients. Digital twins operate at Unilever plants in North and South America, Europe and Asia.
Unilever’s digital journey is also making it more sustainable in other ways. It has used Microsoft Teams to share data between factories making batches of Dove soap. Everyone can access energy usage data and collaborate to reduce that use.
4. Transport for London (TfL): working towards a zero-carbon railway
TfL is partnering with Spinview, a digital twin start-up, to create a twin of the London Underground. The model will provide data on heat and noise levels, carbon emissions, tracks and tunnels in the rail network.
With some tube lines as deep as 30 metres, detailed mapping has been difficult. A digital twin is a real-world replica, with live and ongoing access to data. It will enable TfL to manage assets better, reach environmental targets, and future-proof the network.
Ready to start? Here’s how to get going on your digital twin
Using a framework provides a structured way to develop, apply and implement your digital twin. We’ve outlined six steps to get you started. Or, for more inspiration, check out these 10 use-cases.
We can help you design and build a digital twin
Whether it’s to improve sustainability or test other process changes, we can help you create a digital twin.
Via the BusinessOptix platform, you can associate ESG metrics with your processes. Use its mapping and analysis tools to identify emission reductions, best practices to cut consumption, or improve environmental reporting.
Discover more about BusinessOptix’s capabilities.
*Source: Digital twins: adding intelligence to the real world, Capgemini Research Institute, 2022. Capgemini surveyed more than 1,000 organisations from around the world, in industries ranging from consumer products to energy and utilities. It focused on organisations with an ongoing digital twin programme (80% of sample), while the remainder planned to start a programme.