Innovation And Collaboration: The Story Of R&D And Digital Twins

Patrick Crampton-Thomas

Part 2 of the “Network of Digital Twins” series

For decades, R&D teams have used computer-aided design (CAD) systems to develop products. A forerunner to digital twins, CAD software enabled R&D professionals to create new goods, improve designs, and guide manufacturing processes.

While you can argue that digital twins originated in R&D, there’s no good reason other departments – both inside and outside your organization – shouldn’t benefit from the groundbreaking technology.

Innovation: Stay quick and inventive to keep ahead of the pack

Innovation is a major competitive differentiator. Companies that design smarter products have a decisive advantage over competitors that develop inferior goods. But delivering innovative products isn’t enough. Today, it’s equally imperative to accelerate time to market. Fail to get your products on the shelves before competitors, and you risk losing customers and missing out on revenue.

Digital twins make rapid innovation a reality. Connecting internal engineering and development teams with contract manufacturers and other external partners through a real-time digital twin network means never having to wait for answers. From product design specifications to in-depth impact analysis, the information needed to make quick decisions and drive innovation is right at everyone’s fingertips.

What’s more, collecting data from Internet of Things (IoT) sensors installed on products lets your company know exactly how consumers use your products, when a product begins malfunctioning, and more. This insight enables R&D to modify existing products, improve future releases, and, ultimately, design goods that meet and exceed customer expectations.

Internal collaboration: Share data to spur intelligent product design

Creating a digital twin network allows your R&D team to share real-time data across internal departments.

Imagine you’re a lawnmower manufacturer. In the past, your engineers were the only people able to access CAD drawings. Your finance team was the only group with insight around costs and projected revenue. And your marketing department was solely responsible for rolling out and promoting the latest model. While they all worked toward the same goal – creating and selling your cutting-edge lawnmower – they rarely interacted.

That’s no longer the case. By opening communication channels and making information sharing easy with a digital twin network, you can enable once-siloed departments to integrate data and combine efforts. This results in an intelligently designed and manufactured, cost-efficient lawnmower that hits the market fast and wows customers.

External collaboration: Connect with customers and partners to ensure success

The power of digital twin networks extends far beyond your business. External supply chain partners can use your digital twin data to calculate and plan inventory and sourcing for procurement. Manufacturers can use it to produce goods that comply with product specifications. And maintenance providers can use it to train workers, maintain equipment, and resolve issues.

Everyone can access the accurate, up-to-date information they need to successfully execute their roles. Digital twins can also close the loop between your company’s product development team and its customers.

Remember your hypothetical lawnmower business? With real-time sensor data from customers’ mowers, your engineering and development teams can increase their visibility into how people use your products, how those products perform, and where they fall short. If a majority of customers mow their lawns every weekend, for example, your company could develop a feature allowing customers to program their mowers before each Saturday. And if an older model’s battery life dwindles too quickly, you might design a new model that cuts 10 acres on a single charge.

Clearly, the collaboration and data sharing made possible by digital twin networks isn’t just important for servicing and maintaining existing products; it can also lead to intelligently designed goods that anticipate customers’ needs.

Differentiation: Drive overall business value with digital twins

Digital twins may have started in R&D, but their benefits don’t have to end there.

To drive overall business value, it’s important to share digital twin data – both internally and externally. By facilitating open collaboration, discovering new ways to innovate products, and accelerating time to market though a sophisticated digital twin network, you can differentiate R&D and your business.

To learn more about the Network of Digital Twins, register to read the Infobrief by IDC.


Patrick Crampton-Thomas

About Patrick Crampton-Thomas

Patrick Crampton-Thomas is Vice President of Supply Chain Solution Management at SAP, with global responsibility for the response and supply orchestration portfolio, based in the UK. This includes the strategy and go-to-market for existing and new supply chain solutions including integrated business planning solutions, supply chain control tower, and supply chain collaboration.