Something’s Afoot In Manufacturing: Delivering Individualization With Digital Twins

Richard Howells

This is the third blog in our Network of Digital Twins series. Check out our previous post to learn how digital twins can significantly improve R&D.

Sneakerheads are people who’d do anything to get their hands on the latest, greatest footwear.

As today’s buyers grow more interested in customized kicks, manufacturers must find a way to satisfy sneakerheads and deliver the promise of individualized goods.

But how?

Digital twins offer manufacturers the visibility and flexibility to quickly and cost-efficiently produce customized products that appeal to sneaker enthusiasts and other demanding customers.

Visibility: Seeing is achieving

By attaching Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to machinery – and even products – manufacturers can create digital twins that provide in-the-moment insight on equipment operation, supply chain performance, and product condition.

Manufacturing plants that align this visibility with automation can move from mass production to mass customization – and easily develop personalized products at scale.

Leading companies are rethinking their current manufacturing processes and transforming continuous production lines into flexible production cells that can move and operate with plug-and-play functionality.

Creating digital twins of the shop floor, which provide critical data on what’s being produced next, means businesses can automatically route products to the next cell in the production process.

As a result, companies can better manufacture the lot size of one to deliver customized sneakers. They also gain the visibility to improve product throughput, increase equipment uptime, and perform predictive maintenance before a minor issue turns into a major problem.

If a company outsources manufacturing, digital twins can offer a glimpse into a partner’s operations – even from thousands of miles away. With a digital twin of a contractor’s manufacturing plant, an organization can see how orders are progressing and gain confidence that customers are receiving the personalized service and products they desire.

Finally, digital twins enable manufacturers to create smarter products to monitor the condition, performance, and usage of their goods. If a company finds its sneakers’ soles are wearing faster than anticipated, it can feed this information back to R&D, which can modify the design and manufacturing processes and use higher-quality materials in the next production run.

Flexibility: Adjusting production on the fly

Today’s customers can go online and configure a pair of sneakers to their liking in minutes. They can customize the fit, the style, and countless other aspects.

Traditional manufacturers simply can’t rely on mass production techniques to meet this need. Delivering the promise of customized goods requires flexible production cells that produce variations of the same items in the same space.

Digital twins offer manufacturers the agility to respond to changing customer demands and deliver individualized products.

If a customer specially orders a pair of white suede sneakers with a fire-breathing dragon on the side, a manufacturer with the right visibility and flexibility can make it happen. The enterprise can direct the item through the proper production cells to assemble the sneaker exactly how the customer requested.

And thanks to the flexibility that digital twins enable, the very next item that emerges from the same production line can be totally different.

Digital twins: Getting individualization off on the right foot

Sales and marketing make the promise of individualization. But it’s manufacturing that has to deliver on the promise.

For manufacturers to create customized goods, they need to take greater control over their processes. They need enhanced visibility and flexibility to improve operations and deliver superior customer experiences.

And whether it’s sneakers or another business, one thing’s for sure: Digital twins can help manufacturers achieve these goals and get individualization off on the right foot.

To learn more, register for the Digital Twin info brief.

About Richard Howells

Richard Howells is a Vice President at SAP responsible for the positioning, messaging, AR , PR and go-to market activities for the SAP Supply Chain solutions.