Why you should build a ‘mini digital twin’ to test your supply chain assumptions

Much has been written recently about ‘Digital Twins’ – a virtual replica of your supply chain, that allows a company to test potential changes to their supply chain decisions in a safe environment, without jeopardising customer experiences in the real world.

It is a sound approach, and while a model of an entire supply chain is the preserve of only the largest organisations, we like to champion building a ‘Digital Twin’ for part of a supply chain to test the impact of any proposed changes. 

However – and often rightly – the business might say “That is all well and good in theory, but what about when you make the change for real?”. What are the areas beyond the modelled world that will be impacted, how will the business operate within the proposed changes, and how will it re-cover if things do not turn out as expected?

In a recent project, we undertook the analytics (the ‘Digital Twin’ of part of the supply chain) to demonstrate the opportunity for a change in ways of working.  We then developed this into an interim IT solution, to allow the business to test what would happen if parameters in the supply chain were updated in a new way.  This approach had a number of key benefits, including:

  • We got the changes made rapidly – this was a skunk works IT project, with ad-hoc technology spliced together with the existing IT technology in a very manual process. This was not efficient, but it allowed the changes to be made fast.
  • We failed fast, and incorporated learnings faster – when things did not turn out as expected, changes could be made to respond, and with many eyes on the project, issues were picked up quickly.
  • As externals, we provided a robust challenge – in the face of things not going as expected, there is a temptation to fall back on the previous ways of working and not sustaining the trial.  Our external perspective provided a healthy challenge to identify what was really going on, and to keep the faith.
  • A template for system changes – once the trial is proven, the interim ad-hoc technology can be used as the specification for system changes; this speeds up the process of explaining what is required, and allows the system provider to both match – and potentially enhance – the proven solution.

Digital Twins are really valuable, but testing the changes in a way that provides real world insight is equally important, and relies on a combination of both technology skills and Supply Chain experience to make it work effectively.

About the author

Jon’s client work extends across Manufacturers and Retailers with a scope that covers high-level supply chain strategy through to detailed operational reviews and performance improvement. 

We are independent supply chain and warehouse consultants who specialise in data analysis, leading strategy, and bringing a fresh perspective to your supply chain challenges.

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