“My job is to create tools to support decisions”. This is how Luigi Manca, Digital Twin Expert in Engineering, begins. “In practice, I run a group that analyzes business processes to build a Digital Twin, i.e. the digital copy of the problem being studied, on which it is then possible to carry out scenario analyzes and investigate the effects of different decisions”.
Luigi is a mechanical engineer by training and his working group consists of a management engineer, a mathematical engineer, a graduate in economics and a single computer engineer. “We have only one computer specialist in the group – specifies Luigi Manca – because in our work a knowledge of methods is more important than a knowledge of tools. Our task is to understand the customer’s problem in order to provide the solution that best suits his/her needs. Then it is the colleagues of the appropriate departments who provide the most correct IT structure for our solutions”.
What are some examples of the most interesting Digital Twin applications today?
“In general, we can say that Digital Twin solutions are appropriate for all those situations where it is desirable to carry out simulations and experiments to observe the effects of certain decisions a priori. To give some examples, we have often created Digital Twins in the field of clinical research, creating virtual copies of organs or other tissues to simulate the effects of drug administration. Another frequent field of application is that of aircraft maintenance, where service levels are so stringent that being able to simulate different maintenance planning scenarios in advance is crucial to maintaining the desired levels of profitability”.
What technologies are useful for a Digital Twin?
“In our vision, the Digital Twin stands on three fundamental pillars: connectivity, i.e. the availability of data “from the field” in near real time thanks to innovations in the IoT field. Digitization, i.e. the ability to reproduce any asset (product, service, process, etc.) in a virtual environment. Intelligence, i.e. the ability to read the results of the simulations and to translate these into concrete actions to improve the state of the system. So far the intelligence is that of the manager to whom our tools are addressed, but this is increasingly supported by advances in the field of Artificial Intelligences“.
What skills do you need to do this job? What is the most suitable study curriculum?
“Much of the work is characterized by interpreting and shaping, first on paper and then on the PC, any process or service. Therefore, business, industrial process analysis and economic skills also are essential. Then there are analytical/statistical skills for analyzing the data and the results of the simulations. Finally, although not critical, a minimum of computer skills is required for using the simulation platforms. We are talking about a multidisciplinary activity, so it would be impossible to identify a single course of study able to embrace all the skills required. Certainly engineering, with its different specializations, provides an adequate background”.
What are the positive and negative aspects of your work?
“As we deal with supporting decisions, one positive aspect is that you are confronted with very different sectors, companies and cases. For this reason, the work is very varied, it allows you to get to know different realities and to deal with top positions within the companies themselves, such as middle and top corporate management positions. Among the negative aspects I would put the complexity of the problems that does not allow a ready-made recipe. The solutions or the way to reach these are not known in advance, so you need a continuous mental effort”.
How do you imagine your work in 15 years’ time?
“I think that the work will be very influenced by themes related to Artificial Intelligence. Complexity will surely increase and artificial intelligence will increasingly be able to support people in making complex decisions”.
Any book in particular which sparked your curiosity and passion for this work?
“I would definitely recommend Managing business complexity, Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World, Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another and The Simulation Hypothesis. And then certainly the White Paper Digital Twin of Engineering written with some of my colleagues”.