Interesting Use Cases 

Today, we must take the experts to the physical product unit to help troubleshoot issues where they are found. Tomorrow, with a digital twin, we could have experts in different locations looking at the same digital representation of the actual product unit. The Material Review Board (MRB) processes for nonconformance and deviations could be improved by involving more experts remotely and leveraging simulations to figure out the impact to the overall product performance before rework deviations are approved.

During sustainment services, maintenance technicians can receive direct support with the latest and most accurate information on the state and condition of the equipment. Data from smart connected equipment would be aggregated, analyzed and transformed into actionable information for the maintenance staff. Technicians can focus on trouble-shooting the issues at hand rather than performing lengthy diagnostics processes at every service visit.

Potential Challenges

Can people responsible for upstream lifecycle functions understand and accommodate the needs of people in downstream functions for the overall better outcome to the entire program? Will feedback mechanisms be put in place to ensure we continue to improve the upstream processes that serve the downstream processes?

We have already seen concepts like design-for-manufacturing well adopted by industry. The concepts of the digital twin can be viewed as evolutionary and a natural progression on that type of thinking beyond the manufacturing process.

Can vendors see beyond their desire to hold a segment of the market hostage to their formats and products? Could they endorse open data exchange standards were needed to facilitate multi-vendor participation in the digital thread?

Can manufacturers, hardware, and software vendors move forward when many are overwhelmed trying to meet short-term improvement goals promised to customers and shareholders?

The digital thread and digital twin concepts have been proposed as incremental steps and leading companies are moving forward with these initiatives. Only time will tell but the potential benefits of the digital thread and digital twin seem obvious. The vendors that endorse and provide these types of connectivity techniques could end up being favored by the market in the long term over vendors with proprietary closed solutions.