Companies Preparing Use Concepts for Digital Twin

Detecon Study

  • Potential for manifold uses throughout the entire life cycle
  • Cross-company application especially promising
  • Lack of know-how and inadequate standardization the major hurdles


Cologne, 10 October 2019 – Thirty-six percent of German companies and organizations have already developed initial concepts for digital twins. Fifty percent of them want to launch related pilot projects in the next twelve months, although more than fifty percent of the respondents do not plan to realize the transfer to ongoing operations for another three years. These are the findings of the current study “Digital Twins. Leading the Way to Tomorrow’s Ecosystems,” which the management consultancy Detecon has carried out in cooperation with the user association of the Cross-Business Architecture Lab e.V. (CBA Lab).

The objective of the digital twins digitalization concept is to replicate virtually the current state of products, systems, and processes as completely as possible and to simulate future behavior, generating data that serve as the foundation for realistic business-relevant decisions far in advance.

Ideally, this should take place over the entire life cycle of a product. At least sixty percent of the study participants want to apply the concept to all phases such as product design, development, production planning, production, use, and aftersales in the next five years. “At a high level of development, the digital twin even sends direct feedback to its physical brother and joins it in a self-improving AI system. The key to providing relevant information in a timely and secure manner lies in holistic information management,” emphasized Uwe Weber, head of Detecon's Industrial IoT Center.

Digital ecosystems a success factor

Expectations about the potential in cross-company ecosystems are especially high. While today almost eighty percent of those surveyed still use the digital twin only within the company, the picture will most likely be reversed in five years’ time; seventy-seven percent want to be using the digital twin above all in a cross-company function by then.

“This seems logical because a smart city with all its embedded IoT scenarios such as intermodal mobility and digital facility and energy management can be successful as a whole only if previously closed discrete systems of processes and IT solutions grow together to form ecosystems on suitable platform architectures,” explained Uwe Weber. “But this requires the opening of rigid structures and the dissolution of borders. Silo-based approaches will have almost no chance of survival.”


Users see advantages as well as challenges

When asked about specific advantages of a digital twin, over ninety percent of the participants cited efficiency benefits. Only a very small group of just under seven percent does not expect any appreciable increase in efficiency. Nearly ninety percent also expect better coverage of customer needs, and seventy-five percent believe that the digital twin can facilitate the development of new products. “In terms of efficiency, companies hope they will be able to identify possible errors early on – in planning and design, for example – and to optimize processes. New products, business models, even partnerships can be tested digitally without having to expend time and effort setting them up in reality,” explained Hendrik Grosser, IoT expert at Detecon and co-author of the study.

A total of ninety-two percent of the survey participants believe that the use of the digital twin is generally a great opportunity. On the other hand, opinions are completely divided on the question of whether there are inherent risks of disruption arising within the company itself because of the new digitalization concept. Fifty percent of the respondents see such a risk from the digital twin while the other fifty percent dismiss any such possibility.

When asked about the greatest technological and organizational challenges in implementation, seventy-eight percent of the companies admitted to lacking the prerequisite know-how for the implementation of digital twins. Seventy-five percent criticize inadequate standardization, and seventy-three percent have not yet identified a suitable business model. Sixty-nine percent are aware that their IT infrastructure is inadequate, and fifty-four percent claim that external IT structures are poor. Data security seems to be the least of their problems, or is the most underestimated: only forty-eight percent consider this a challenge.

The study “Digital Twins. Leading the Way to Tomorrow’s Ecosystems” is available for downloading here (in German only).

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