Digital Twin meets IoT

Picture of Arkadiusz Głuszczyk, Head of Engineering - Manufacturing

Arkadiusz Głuszczyk

Head of Engineering - Manufacturing

9 minutes read

The integration of Digital Twins and IoT enables manufacturers to create a virtual representation of their physical assets and monitor their performance in real-time. The IoT sensors feed real-time data into the Digital Twins, allowing manufacturers to make informed decisions and optimize their processes in real-time. This combination of technologies provides manufacturers with greater visibility and control over their operations, leading to increased efficiency, reduced downtime, and improved productivity.

However, what exactly do these two technologies entail? Let's do a brief overview:

  • Digital Twins are virtual replicas of physical assets, such as machines or production lines, that use real-time data to simulate and analyze their performance. To do so, they use data collection, integration, analysis, model creation, simulation, and real-time monitoring. This technology enables manufacturers to monitor, analyze, and optimize physical assets in real-time without disrupting production.
  • IoT, on the other hand, refers to the network of physical devices, vehicles, and other objects embedded with sensors, software, and connectivity that enables them to collect and exchange data. In manufacturing, IoT sensors are used to monitor various parameters, such as temperature, humidity, vibration, or energy consumption, of machines and production lines.

The benefits of Digital Twins in the manufacturing industry

Digital Twins enable manufacturers to simulate and optimize processes, reducing the need for physical testing and minimizing downtime. They can be used:

  1. To simulate the performance of a machine, identifying potential issues before they occur and allowing for pre-emptive maintenance. This reduces downtime and repair costs and improves overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and production throughput.
  2. To optimize production schedules, ensuring that resources are utilized efficiently and decreasing waste. By simulating different scenarios, manufacturers can identify the most efficient production plan and make adjustments as needed.
  3. To improve supply chain efficiency by providing real-time data on inventory levels, production schedules, and transportation logistics. This allows manufacturers to make informed decisions and optimize their supply chain processes for maximum efficiency.

These applications result in: 

  • Improved efficiency
  • Cost savings
  • Increased productivity
  • Better quality control
  • Enhanced safety

Value provided for manufacturers by Digital Twins and IoT

Digital Twins and IoT change the way manufacturers work. They can optimize processes, reduce costs, and improve overall efficiency. :

  1. Increased Operational Efficiency: Digital twins and IoT enable manufacturers to optimize their processes, reduce waste, and improve productivity by providing real-time data and insights into their operations.
  2. Simulation and optimization: Digital twins can be used to simulate manufacturing processes and identify areas for improvement. Manufacturers can use this information to optimize their processes, reducing waste and improving overall efficiency.
  3. Supply chain optimization: IoT sensors can be used to track the location and condition of goods as they move through the supply chain. This data, sent to a Digital Twin, can help identify bottlenecks and optimize the flow of goods, reducing costs and improving overall efficiency.
  4. Continuous improvement: By using Digital Twins and IoT sensors to collect and analyze data, manufacturers can identify areas for improvement and make ongoing adjustments to optimize their processes and reduce costs.
  5. Energy efficiency: IoT sensors can be used to monitor energy usage in real-time. Digital Twins cumulate the data and allow manufacturers to identify areas where energy is being wasted and make adjustments to reduce costs and improve efficiency.
  6. Quality control: Digital twins can be used to simulate the manufacturing process and test for quality issues before production begins. This helps identify potential defects early, reducing waste and improving product quality.
  7. Inventory management: By using Digital Twins to simulate inventory levels and track usage in real-time, manufacturers can optimize their inventory management, reducing waste and improving overall efficiency.
  8. Predictive analytics: IoT sensors and Digital Twins can be used to collect data on a wide range of factors, from equipment performance to supply chain logistics. By analyzing this data, manufacturers can gain insights into patterns and trends, allowing them to make predictions about future performance and take proactive steps to optimize processes and reduce costs.
  9. Predictive maintenance: By using IoT sensors and data analytics to monitor equipment in real-time, manufacturers can create a Digital Twin of the machine and simulate its performance. This helps identify potential maintenance issues before they become critical, allowing for repairs to be made in a timely and cost-effectively. This reduces downtime and maintenance costs, ultimately improving overall efficiency.
  10. Real-time monitoring: IoT sensors can provide real-time data on manufacturing processes, allowing manufacturers to quickly identify issues through Digital Twins and make adjustments as needed. This reduces downtime and improves overall efficiency.
  11. Safety monitoring: IoT sensors can be used to monitor the safety of manufacturing processes and equipment in real-time, helping to identify potential hazards and prevent accidents. This can reduce costs associated with accidents and improve overall efficiency.
  12. Remote monitoring: Digital twins and IoT sensors can allow manufacturers to monitor equipment and processes remotely, reducing the need for on-site personnel and improving overall efficiency.
  13. Remote maintenance: Digital twins and IoT sensors can allow manufacturers to perform maintenance on equipment remotely, reducing the need for on-site personnel and improving overall efficiency.
  14. Improved collaboration: Digital twins and IoT integration can help manufacturers collaborate more effectively, allowing for better communication and coordination between teams. This can improve overall efficiency and reduce costs associated with miscommunication and delays.

The challenges manufacturers face

Manufacturers may face difficulties in gaining insights and understanding the complexities of their manufacturing processes without Digital Twins and IoT technology. They lack visibility into their production processes and struggle to optimize their operations. This can result in lower productivity, higher costs, and decreased competitiveness in the marketplace, as well as bad customer experience. 

Manufacturers may miss opportunities to improve product quality, reduce downtime, and increase throughput. This can lead to missed production targets, increased waste, and a negative impact on their bottom line.

Let’s take a closer look at the challenges:

  1. Lack of real-time data: Without IoT technology, manufacturers may not have access to real-time data on their production processes, making it difficult to identify and address issues in a timely manner. This can lead to increased downtime and decreased efficiency.
  2. Inefficient operations: Without Digital Twins, manufacturers may lack the ability to simulate and optimize their processes. This can result in inefficient operations, leading to higher costs and lower productivity.
  3. Quality issues: Without the ability to simulate and test their processes, manufacturers may face quality issues and produce products that do not meet customer expectations. This can lead to increased returns, decreased customer satisfaction, and a negative impact on the company's reputation.
  4. Reduced competitiveness: Without the latest technology, manufacturers may fall behind their competitors, who are utilizing Digital Twins and IoT to improve their operations. This can lead to reduced competitiveness in the marketplace and a loss of market share.
  5. Increased costs: Without the ability to optimize processes and reduce waste, manufacturers may face increased costs associated with production, maintenance, and materials. This can negatively impact the bottom line of the business.

Yet, implementing Digital Twins can bring some significant challenges. 

Challenges manufacturers face when implementing Digital Twins

Manufacturers face several challenges when implementing Digital Twins and IoT technology. Here are some of the most significant challenges:

  1. Data Management: Digital Twins generate a massive amount of data that needs to be stored, processed, and analyzed. This requires a robust data management system that can handle the volume, velocity, and variety of data generated by IoT sensors and other sources.
  2. Integration with Legacy Systems: Many manufacturers have existing legacy systems that are not designed to work with Digital Twin and IoT technology. Integrating new technology with legacy systems can be challenging, and it may require significant investments in new hardware and software.
  3. Security and Privacy: Digital Twins and IoT technology require the transfer and storage of sensitive data. Manufacturers must ensure that the data is secure from unauthorized access or tampering.
  4. Complexity: Implementing Digital Twin and IoT technology can be complex, requiring a range of skills and expertise, including data science, software engineering, and hardware engineering. This can make it difficult for manufacturers to find the right talent and resources to implement these technologies successfully.
  5. Cost: Implementing Digital Twin and IoT technology can be expensive, requiring significant investments in hardware, software, and personnel. Manufacturers must balance the benefits of these technologies against the cost of implementation.
  6. Maintenance: Digital Twins and IoT devices require ongoing maintenance and updates to keep them running smoothly. Manufacturers must develop a maintenance plan that addresses hardware and software updates, cybersecurity, and other issues that may arise over time.

A reliable software partner can help manufacturers navigate these challenges, develop a comprehensive implementation plan, and provide ongoing support to ensure that the technology continues to meet the needs of the business. By working with a trusted software partner, manufacturers can unlock the full potential of Digital Twin and IoT technology and gain a competitive edge in today's rapidly evolving marketplace.

How to apply a Digital Twin on a worldwide scale

Building a Digital Twin requires a robust technology ecosystem to ensure success. For companies with several manufacturing locations worldwide, this process becomes even more critical. To achieve their goals, such companies need to adopt a multi-cloud system that runs on platforms such as Red Hat OpenShift, Google Anthos, or Microsoft Azure Arc, alongside machine-to-machine communication and IoT technologies. By implementing such a system, businesses can achieve greater efficiency, agility, and cost savings across their operations.

Let’s take a closer look at how to design a digital representation of a worldwide operating manufacturer. 

The key design factors are scalability, cost-effectiveness, operability, and security. Since we have plenty of edge infrastructures, we need a cloud infrastructure to consolidate all data from every facility. 

The cloud’s Digital Twin instance hosts copies of each facility that creates data in various locations. Manufacturing data, such as created assets and relationships between them, are copied from the facility to the cloud. When the state of manufacturing data changes, the facility’s instance sends an asynchronous command to update the state in the cloud. 

Keep in mind, every edge stores the original manufacturing data. This means every facility can create its location-specific simulations and analysis. The additional digital representation of the entities in the cloud secures this data as backup and makes it highly available worldwide.


Digital representation of a worldwide operating manufacturer

Digital Twin: a break-down

A Digital Twin platform could consist of four areas:

ConnectivityData processingAPIsPresentation
Secure and private connectivityEvents processing with data brokerRPC and REST interfacesInteractive documentation from OpenAI specification
Integration with legacy systemsBatch processingExtensibility via plugins ecosystemCloud-native observability
Integration between Digital Twins and data ingestingHighly-available distributed storageServerless runtimeDashboards with manufacturing insights

Keep in mind, that the ports, the organization, and integrations can differ, depending on a manufacturer’s business model. We want to present one variation to illustrate the creation of a Digital Twin in detail:

Connectivity and Integrations

Let’s take a look at the communication from and to our Digital Twin platform:


Let’s assume we are dealing with both legacy software and IoT/M2M in our design. This means, we opt for MQTT to communicate with third-party manufacturing systems. For internal communication between cloud-based services and the facility environment, we rely on messaging services like Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS), RabbitMQ, or Google Pub/Sub. For internal components' communication, we used Load Balancers.

Regarding public access to the API, REST or RPC clients are utilized. To make the REST version of the API available to external users, we utilise an External HTTP Load Balancer. If we need to expose the RPC version of the API, we can leverage API endpoints like Google Cloud Endpoints, Azure API Management, or Amazon API Gateway.

Data processing and eventing 

Data ingestion utilizes the batch and streaming modes. Each solves a different business case. Let’s take a closer look:


The cloud dataflow processing service processes manufacturing data in batches. A Storage Bucket, like Google Cloud Storage, Amazon S3, or Microsoft Azure Blob Storage, helps with data ingestion. Once the Storage Bucket receives files to process, the dataflow processing service executes Apache Beam models to simplify large-scale data processing. Underneath, the models run a Digital Twin Platform API to process incoming data.

The MQTT broker (NATS) handles the streaming mode in our example. The facility runs an MQTT client connected to the platform's MQTT broker. The broker ingests the served data and stores the MQTT messages for later use by platform extensions. Additionally, NATS serves as an internal event broker, as the extensions communicate with each other via events.

API and plugin ecosystem

The Asset API is the heart of the platform, allowing to create assets and components, and defining relationships between them. End users and developers interact with the Digital Twin platform API through a custom extension in the facilities themselves. The extension enables the automatic handling of various manufacturing events like “asset created” or “asset updated”.


An Actor System, like Akka, centers the Digital Twin to enable receiving messages and taking actions to handle them. The platform allows users to create custom extensions with the help of an SDK prepared with the platform. The SDK is a set of tools which helps to access the API for both RPC and REST versions.

An extension is a serverless function that communicates with the API. Extensions subscribe to the events sent by the API to the NATS event broker. The same extension publishes the event that is later consumed by other extensions. 


A main demand for manufacturers is the need to have complete access to data. This is one way how users are able to explore their collected data:


A UI dashboard helps with actual assets exploration and the relations between them. Users access the API instantly from the integrated client. Still, Customers use it to model the assets' Digital Twins. The Digital Twin’s platform operator monitors the overall platform performance.

Digital Twins in the manufacturing industry: A summary

Digital Twins and IoT change the way manufacturers work. They can optimize processes, reduce costs, and improve overall efficiency. Let’s take a look at the benefits and challenges.

BenefitsDescriptionChallengesHow a Software House Can Help
Increased Operational EfficiencyDigital Twins enable manufacturers to optimize processes, reduce downtime, and improve production efficiency by providing real-time data and simulations.Requires significant investment in technology, infrastructure, and workforce training.A software house develops customized solutions, provides support for technology implementation, and offers workforce training programs.
Improved CollaborationDigital Twins provide a common platform for all stakeholders to access, analyze, and share data, improving collaboration and decision-making across departments.Requires overcoming organizational silos and promoting a culture of cross-functional collaboration.A software house can develop collaboration platforms, provide change management support, and help foster a culture of cross-functional collaboration within the organization.
Quality ControlBy monitoring production processes and detecting deviations in real-time, Digital Twins can help improve product quality and reduce defects.Requires integration with quality control systems and alignment with industry standards and regulations.A software house can help integrate quality control systems, ensure compliance with industry standards, and develop custom solutions for quality management.
Inventory ManagementDigital Twins can optimize inventory levels by providing accurate, real-time data on production and demand, reducing stockouts and overstocking situations.Requires accurate demand forecasting and integration with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.A software house can develop inventory management solutions, improve demand forecasting, and integrate with existing ERP systems.
Predictive AnalyticsDigital Twins can use data and machine learning algorithms to predict future outcomes, allowing manufacturers to plan ahead and make informed decisions.Requires access to large amounts of historical data and the development of accurate prediction models.A software house can provide expertise in data analytics, machine learning, and predictive modeling to develop accurate forecasting solutions.
Predictive MaintenanceDigital Twins can identify equipment degradation and predict failures before they occur, enabling proactive maintenance and reducing downtime.Requires installation and maintenance of IoT sensors and integration with maintenance management systems.A software house can develop IoT solutions, integrate with existing maintenance management systems, and provide support for sensor installation and maintenance.
BenefitsDescriptionChallengesHow a Software House Can Help
Real-time MonitoringDigital Twins provide real-time visibility into manufacturing processes, enabling manufacturers to quickly identify and address issues as they arise.May generate large volumes of data, requiring robust data management and processing capabilities.A software house can develop data processing solutions, provide expertise in data management, and offer guidance on best practices for real-time monitoring.
Safety MonitoringBy monitoring the manufacturing environment, Digital Twins can identify potential safety hazards and recommend corrective actions to prevent accidents.Requires continuous updating of safety protocols and integration with safety management systems.A software house can help update safety protocols,
Remote MonitoringDigital Twins enable manufacturers to monitor production processes remotely, providing real-time data and insights without the need for physical presence.Requires reliable and secure remote access to data and systems, which may present cybersecurity risks.A software house can develop secure remote monitoring solutions, implement robust cybersecurity measures, and provide guidance on best practices for secure remote access.
Remote MaintenanceDigital Twins can facilitate remote maintenance tasks, reducing the need for on-site technicians and minimizing downtime.Requires advanced remote maintenance capabilities and may be limited by the complexity of certain tasks.A software house can develop remote maintenance tools, integrate with existing maintenance systems, and provide support for implementing remote maintenance capabilities.
BenefitsDescriptionChallengesHow a Software House Can Help
Simulation and OptimizationDigital Twins can create virtual replicas of manufacturing processes, enabling testing and optimization without physical interference, reducing costs, and minimizing risks.Requires accurate modeling and representation of real-world processes, which can be complex and time-consuming.A software house helps with the creation and validation of accurate digital twin models, leveraging their expertise in simulation and optimization techniques.
Supply Chain OptimizationBy simulating and analyzing the entire supply chain, Digital Twins can identify bottlenecks, optimise inventory levels, and improve overall supply chain efficiency.Requires integration with suppliers and other partners, which may involve sharing sensitive data and overcoming organizational barriers.A software house can develop secure data-optimization, and sharing platforms, facilitate integration with external systems, and provide guidance on overcoming organizational challenges.
Continuous ImprovementReal-time data and performance insights enable manufacturers to continuously refine processes and make data-driven decisions, fostering a culture of continuous improvement.Requires a cultural shift towards data-driven decision-making decision making and openness to change.A software house can provide change management support, develop analytics tools, and help create a culture of data-driven decision-making.
Energy EfficiencyDigital Twins can monitor and optimize energy consumption in manufacturing facilities, reducing waste and lowering energy costs.Energy optimization may require significant changes to equipment, processes, or infrastructure.A software house can develop energy management systems, suggest improvements, and provide support for implementing necessary changes.


Digital Twins and IoT technology in the manufacturing industry are irreplaceable when spearheading into the future. By leveraging these technologies, manufacturers can optimize their processes, reduce costs, and improve overall efficiency. Digital twins provide a virtual replica of physical assets, allowing manufacturers to simulate and optimize operations before implementing changes in the real world. As already seen, IoT sensors and Digital Twins enable remote monitoring, predictive maintenance, quality control, supply chain optimization, energy efficiency, real-time tracking, simulation, and predictive analytics.

However, implementing Digital Twins and IoT technology also presents significant challenges. Collecting and analyzing large amounts of data can be complex and time-consuming, and integrating data from multiple sources can be challenging. The implementation of these technologies also requires a significant investment in infrastructure and personnel.

In order to successfully implement Digital Twins and IoT technology, it is essential to have a reliable software engineering partner. A partner with experience in Digital Twin development and IoT implementation can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the implementation process. They can help design and implement the necessary infrastructure, develop custom software solutions, and provide ongoing support and maintenance.

The benefits of Digital Twins and IoT technology in the manufacturing industry are undeniable, but the challenges of implementation should not be overlooked. A reliable software engineering partner is the key to success in this endeavor, and manufacturers should carefully evaluate potential partners to ensure a successful implementation. With the right partner and approach, manufacturers can leverage Digital Twins and IoT technology to achieve significant improvements in efficiency, quality, and cost savings.

Curated by

Sebastian Synowiec

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