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    When an aircraft manufacturer like Boeing designs a new plane, they go to the significant expense of building a mockup, or physical replica of the plane. These used to be made of wood. Today, they’re made from composite materials. The reason for the mockup, though, is simple: it enables the designers to see what their drawings will look like in three dimensions. They can change the design based on their experience of the mockup, avoiding huge delays and costs later in the manufacturing process.

    The mockup is a “twin” of the final aircraft. This practice continues today, even as planes are designed with computers. In recent years, the practice of creating “digital twins” of physical products has grown in popularity. They make it possible to answer important “what if” questions at the design stage. A digital twin can model the behavior of a product as it’s being manufactured.

    Digital twins are having an impact on the supply chain. As manufacturers use digital twins to model production processes, they become useful for procurement planning and other aspects of supply chain management.

    What is a Digital Twin?
    A digital twin, also known as a “virtual twin,” is a digital model of a physical product or process. Each digital twin is therefore paired with a “physical twin.” You create a digital twin using specialized software that digitally replicates the physical characteristics of the product or process. If a product is two inches wide and four inches tall, the digital twin will embody those dimensions. In a simulation, if you try to stick that digital twin into a box that’s one inch wide, it won’t fit, and the digital twin software will tell you that.

    Digital twins are useful for conceptualizing products and processes, but also for testing them without having to run a physical test. One fascinating example of digital twin testing involved the design of stainless-steel cardiac stents. Stents are tiny mesh tubes that surgeons insert into arteries that have been damaged by disease.

    The challenge is that each time the human heart beats, it causes the stent to flex and contract inside the artery. Like all metal objects, the stent will eventually crack if it’s flexed enough times. The designers of the stent used specialized software to simulate the effect of millions of heartbeats, representing years of use, on the stent’s digital twin. The software was able to replicate the physical characteristics of the steel, so the test provided an accurate prediction of how long the stent would last in a patient before failing.

    Applying Digital Twins to the Supply Chain
    Digital twins can play an important role in supply chain management. With a digital twin, a manufacturer can achieve real-time monitoring and optimization of logistics and transportation, inventory management and supplier relationships. In electronics, for example, a digital twin of a product could contain the different parts required for assembly. The digital twin of a pocket calculator might include the circuit board, memory chip, keypad, display screen and so forth. If the manufacturer wants to make one thousand calculators, the digital twin will tell them how many parts it needs.

    This may not seem very interesting. After all, Bills of Materials (BOMs) have long served this purpose. However, a digital twin can do much more than a BOM. For instance, digital twins can keep on top of supply chain issues that arise with manufacturing multiple versions of a product, each with its own parts list—and for which quantities might change on the fly in Industry 4.0 “smart factories.”

    Alternatively, with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors mapped to digital twins from production lines, the digital twin can instantly reflect the impact of a quality defect. In this case, if one hundred display screens must be removed from production, the digital twin can quickly initiate a product return claim and order replacements in real time. These capabilities accrue to improving the efficiency and flexibility of the supply chain, reducing costs and shortening delivery cycles.

    Digital twins are also influencing product lifecycle management (PLM). With a digital twin, it gets easier to model different designs and determine cost impacts of different choices. A digital twin can also be used to predict the future for a product, i.e., how long it will be in-market, what its replacement will look like and so forth.

    Operationalizing the Digital Twin for the Electronics Industry Supply Chain
    Making digital twins work in the supply chain requires vendors that can align with and integrate into the digital twin technology. As a leading distributor of electronic components, WIN SOURCE is up to this challenge. Using digital twin technology, WIN SOURCE has been able to establish an efficient inventory management system. It achieves comprehensive monitoring and optimization of electronic component inventory to ensure that customers can easily find the types of parts they need. WIN SOURCE also monitors logistics and transportation in real time, realizing 24-hour lightning delivery and providing customers with efficient and reliable services.

    Digital twins are showing their potential to optimize supply chain management. They are at the forefront of innovation in the supply chain sector. As enterprises’ demand for supply chain efficiency continues to grow, digital twin technology will likely play an increasingly important role in the future and become an essential tool for enterprises that want to improve their competitiveness. 
    WIN SOURCE can serve as a technology-forward distribution company that enables these enterprises to realize their digital twin goals for their supply chains. The company has always adhered to the ethos of providing high-quality products and professional services, using digital twin technology to optimize supply chain management, provide customers with faster and more accurate services and help them stand out in the fiercely competitive market.


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