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How Supply Chain Control Towers can benefit from a Digital Twin

Manufacturers, retailers and logistic service providers are using Supply Chain Control Towers to orchestrate and improve their supply chains. Technology and data are crucial to the success of a Control Tower setup. Digital Twin is a relatively new concept that has emerged recently. How can this be beneficial for Supply Chain Control Towers and how can a Digital Twin be implemented?


Digital Twin: what’s new?

A digital supply chain twin is a digital representation of the physical supply chain that can be used to create high-quality plans and make high-quality decisions. It helps organizations recreate their real supply chain in a virtual world so they can test scenarios, conduct what-if analyses and understand how decisions and events will impact operations.


A Digital Twin differs from traditional models used for the design, planning and optimization of supply chains due to the following characteristics:

  • One model serves different purposes (design, planning and optimisation) and is used continuously (not periodically).

  • It is dynamic (not static) and adapts as the supply chain evolves.

  • It mirrors the entire end-to-end supply chain, including upstream and downstream partners.

  • It utilizes near real time or real-time granular data (not historical data) from multiple sources.

  • It incorporates all key relationships that reflect reality, including constraints, limitations and variabilities.

  • It can zoom in on operational details and zoom out to tactical or strategic levels and reflect multiple time horizons.

  • It offers powerful digital visualizations and delivers results quickly.

Digital twins are enabled by the following technologies:

  • The power of cloud computing to solve or host the complex, highly detailed models.

  • Data processing tools connecting to data from the business ecosystem.

  • Models and solvers to accurately represent and optimise the basic structure of the supply chain, including its limitations, problems, constraints and challenges.

  • Predictive analytics (AI) to forecast demand and predict events.

  • Prescriptive analytics (AI) to understand the business implications of human and computer-generated scenarios.

  • Self-learning functionality (ML): machine-made optimizations based on changes made by users.

  • Data visualization tools for network mapping and output visualisation.


Supply Chain Control Tower functions supported by a Digital Twin and benefits

A Digital Twin can support various Supply Chain Control Tower (SCCT) functions for orchestration and improvement of supply chains:

Digital Twin support leads to faster and improved decision-making for orchestrating and optimizing the supply chain, ultimately enhancing supply chain reliability, responsiveness, agility, reducing costs, improving asset management and lessening environmental impact.


How to select a Digital Twin solution for SC Control Tower support?

In my post titled “Which applications to use for support of your SC Control Tower?”, an overview was given of core SC Control Tower systems and additional tools. Depending on the scope of a SC Control Tower, a Digital Twin needs to be part of a Transport Management System, Planning System or Dedicated Control Tower System. Real-Time Transportation Visibility platforms can be used to feed the Digital Twin with data and Network Design Tools to support the Digital Twin with modelling and scenario evaluation functionality (see solution examples in the table below).

An overview of the main characteristics of 75 solution providers and systems for SC Control Tower support can be found here.


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