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January 18, 2024

Digital Twins and the future of logistics

Between labor shortages and associated supply chain issues, the logistics and warehousing industry is under great pressure. To keep up, warehouses are turning to automated models where technology can greatly help fill production gaps.

One of the best tools for this automation is the digital twin. It is a technology that can help test different production line situations virtually by replicating the real environment. We review the keys to this union and how to get the most out of them.  

Digital Twin benefits in Warehouses

Digital twins collect data on various elements of the real warehouse environment, such as physical dimensions, traffic patterns, staff movement, etc. They do this to help users project how changes in the real warehouse would unfold. They do this in order to help users project how changes would play out in the actual warehouse.

At this point, the system can simulate different situations, such as implementing a new technology, changing the warehouse floor plan, adding or removing personnel… Therefore, some of its main benefits include: 

  • Accurate, data-driven options, offering advantages that were previously out of reach.
  • Optimise inventory management.
  • Streamlines workflows.
  • Increases productivity.
  • Enables you to test new strategies and refine processes without impacting actual operations.
  • Ensures warehouse agility.
  • Risk and cost reduction.

How to use Digital Twins in logistics | Use cases

Digital twins help in different ways in warehouse management, providing efficient and more secure strategies. We have collected some of the most common use cases. 

Real-time monitoring

IoT sensors capture relevant information (inventory, products in stock, temperature) and then feed it into the digital twin model to enable proper tracking and well-informed decision-making.

This allows malfunctions, stock-outs, or bottlenecks to be resolved immediately and proactively, improving operational fluidity from the outset.  

Warehouse simulation

The main application of digital twins is to simulate different scenarios to optimize processes without disrupting operations by creating virtual replicas of the warehouse and its equipment.

Experimenting with different workflow designs and strategies helps to identify the most efficient layout and material handling processes.

The benefits are manifold, such as reduced congestion, reduced need for travel, and optimized use of space.

One example is Amazon, which already implements this strategy in its more than 200 logistics centers.  

Predictive analysis

Digital twins, being data-driven, facilitate the application of predictive analytics to forecast potential problems and trends within the warehouse. It is very useful when forecasting maintenance needs, product shortages, and demand fluctuations, all in real-time.

Having this information in advance makes it easier to take proactive measures, avoiding costly disruptions, optimizing inventory levels, and serving customers more effectively. 

Inventory management

One of the great applications of digital twins is improved inventory management, giving real-time visibility of each item’s location, status, and movement.

It speeds up order fulfillment and reduces overstocking or shortages. In fact, when coupled with order processing systems, products can be replenished automatically. This optimizes the order-picking process, streamlines and optimizes inventory, saves costs, etc.

PepsiCo uses an AI-powered digital twin to reduce energy consumption in its distribution centres, as well as downtime.  

Enhanced Security

Safety is one of the cornerstones of any business, and digital twins help identify risks such as spills, leaks, or unauthorized personnel by analyzing sensor data.

It is also an excellent option for monitoring environmental conditions, which will ensure the safety of temperature and humidity levels of products in the warehouse.

On the other hand, operations can be simulated to optimize safety procedures without putting personnel at risk.

How are digital twins transforming warehouse operations?

The time for making decisions based on guesswork and intuition is disappearing. Digital twins offer a risk-free platform for warehouse managers to experiment with what-if scenarios based on real data.

It is a technology that provides a safe arena for innovation and experimentation. Different scenarios can be explored, strategies refined, and processes optimized in a virtual space while gaining valuable insights without risking real-world operations. This translates into continuous improvement and sustainable growth.

Each warehouse can have its own set of opportunities for improvement and optimization. A basic infrastructure is required to support warehouse functions (building, machinery, tools), and with a digital twin, functions, requirements, challenges, and risks are simplified. 

Optimizing the design and flow allows owners or operators to maximize inventory storage capacity, increase throughput, and minimize the space, equipment, and manpower required to run business operations.

Digital twins are, therefore, not merely simulation tools but a fundamental change in the way we can plan, design, and optimize warehouse automation systems. If you want to join this paradigm shift, Plain Concepts can help you achieve the best results with a customized solution that guarantees innovation, productivity, and customer satisfaction. 

Elena Canorea
Elena Canorea
Communications Lead