Born Digital: Digital Thread & Twin Capabilities


Born Digital Mindset

Realizing greater value across the entire ecosystem through improved application of data, predictively optimizing the end-to-end value chain. This digital transformation vision is shared by many leading organizations. To get there requires a Born Digital mindset shift that seeks innovative solutions to engineer out waste virtually, well before groundbreaking ceremonies.

Born Digital begins and ends with unsurpassed customer satisfaction. Leveraging valuable information, where and when stakeholders need it, is now an expectation for both current and future customers. And as Social Media and Smart Phone Application technologies continue to permeate into the supply chain, customers have raised the bar on UI/UX expectations. No more picking up the phone, just to sit on hold for generic answers.
If your strategic plan is to achieve some form of this digital transformation vision, it will take some difficult planning and significant investments in foundational capabilities. One approach leading organizations are taking is to build this vision into new “greenfield” operation strategies. These strategies almost always include establishing a Digital Thread and a Digital Twin.

Digital Thread & Twin, Hype to Reality

Applying end-to-end process data (Digital Thread) into a simulated environment (Digital Twin), then virtually aging/optimizing the simulation prior to any physical construction. Achieving this level of digital transformation will not only result in significant savings for your organization, it will also manifest these new customer expectations.

Digital Thread: A seamless flow of data across the value chain that will link every phase of the product life cycle: from design, sourcing, testing, and production to distribution, point of sale, and use. Source: McKinsey

The Digital Thread contains transparent, relevant, reliable, complete, and accurate data needed to produce high-quality parts at an optimized speed. It can be achieved by establishing a centralized data highway & lake, which collects, cleanses, and organizes end-to-end value chain information, including tacit knowledge from operations experts.

NOTE: Leveraging Blockchain technologies can help securely manage and govern this information.

Digital Twin: A virtual simulation of materials, products, tools, equipment, and facilities to help predict, plan, and optimize outcomes.

The Digital Twin end-to-end simulations go well beyond product design to Model-Based Optimization of the entire value chain. But it goes further than just modeling. Gartner describes six additional capabilities that can be derived from a well-established Digital Twin.

Gartner’s advice for Digital Twin capabilities

Figure 1: Gartner’s advice for Digital Twin capabilities

With Digital Twin capability, organizations can iterate countless “what-if” scenarios virtually prior to significant customer demand changes, new product introductions, or expansions/ consolidations. This is an evolution of Manufacturing Engineering similar to how Product Engineering evolved using Computer Aided Design (CAD) many years ago.

But the power of these capabilities truly shines when the Digital Thread & Twin are merged as shown in the figure below.

Merged Digital Thread and Twin capabilities

Figure 2: Merged Digital Thread and Twin capabilities. Source: Deloitte

Consider Google Maps as an illustration, where users have been ubiquitously experiencing Digital Thread & Twin merged capabilities for years.

Google Maps illustration of Digital Thread & Twin

Figure 3: Google Maps illustration of Digital Thread & Twin

Users experience real-time traffic information collected from an array of sensors and traffic information ingested into a Digital Thread. The user can then optimize their route in the Digital Twin which estimates projected arrival times and road hazards. 

Imagine the possibilities these capabilities can bring to a production facility or supply chain.

Case Studies

This is the art of the now, not the art of the possible. A handful of leading organizations have done just that, firmly establishing these Born Digital capabilities, setting them apart from their competition. Here are a few of those leading organizations:

  • Digital Thread – Trumpf

Trumpf has stood up a Digital Smart Factory which operates via centralized control center, commanding Automated Mobile Robots that adhere to optimized production schedules. Once the upstream material arrives at the next operation, the equipment automatically reconfigures parameters accordingly. 

More importantly, product and process data are uploaded real-time via a user-friendly smartphone application. This transparency allows stakeholders, even the customer, to visualize production status, lead time estimates, and in-process quality information providing valuable insights to both parties.

  • Digital Twin – Audi

The automaker Audi was able to predictively engineer an entire manufacturing site, optimizing the facilities and operations virtually, before breaking ground. They designed inefficiencies that far exceeded what they had been able to do in their existing factories.


These capabilities bring easier ways of working for both employees and customers, realizing significant savings from more efficient and effective operations. Few leading organizations are investing in and benefiting from Born Digital capabilities, but this pool is quickly expanding. These new ways of working are beginning to become the new norm in manufacturing. For instance, there is new evidence that the Digital Twin capability is shifting from hype to reality.

“By 2021, half of large industrial companies will use Digital Twins, resulting in a 10% improvement in effectiveness for those organizations.”

Source: Information Technology Intelligence Consulting

Many large organizations with these Born Digital capabilities have shared early results from establishing these capabilities. A recent study from the World Economic Forum captured what “lighthouse” factories have been able to demonstrate.

Actual benefits from “Lighthouse” Sites

Figure 4: Actual benefits from “Lighthouse” Sites. Source: WEF and McKinsey

If your organization is growing or you are fortunate enough to be able to innovate in a greenfield environment, now’s the time to act. Join leading organizations in establishing Born Digital capabilities and your organization can too realize these significant results. Think differently to achieve this level of value. Think Born Digital.