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Military readiness through supply chain resilience

5-minute read

In brief

  • We interviewed senior defense supply chain experts from around the world to explore the best ways to increase defense supply chain resilience.
  • The research reveals that embedding digital twins into the digital core of the organization is key to reinventing the defense supply chain.
  • Conversations also identified four barriers specific to implementing digital twins in defense supply chains to move to a new performance frontier.

Twin reactions: Recognition and reluctance

Disruption has hit defense supply chains hard. With volatility expected to continue, a future of global geopolitical uncertainty requires more military readiness. And more military readiness requires resilient, battlefield ready supply chains across the defense enterprise.

Digital twins are a critical tool in this environment. They can help manage supply chain risk, accelerate reinvention and build resiliency by combining human ingenuity with technologies that fuel end-to-end visibility and AI-powered scenario modeling. Making the most of digital twins involves the entire organization in a deliberate and continuous strategy that aims to set a new performance frontier—Total Enterprise Reinvention.

Our research indicates that the defense community recognizes the applications of digital twins. With the right strategies and resourcing, we believe they can make significant strides in the near team. In some cases, in a matter of months. However, in addition to recognition, there is reluctance about digital twins fueled by common misperceptions and very real barriers.

The war and supply chain problems are now a catalyst. Instead of being like a pet project ‘that would be nice... futuristic digital twin in the factory,’ now it’s an imperative.

While digital twins have been part of the technology landscape for years, they are exponentially more impactful today because they are superpowered by advanced technologies.

Four barriers to success

  1. The knowledge deficit - The impact of skills and organization-wide awareness gaps on digital twin adoption.
  2. The data dilemma - The perception that digital twins create massive data management complexity.
  3. The security paradox - The dynamic in which concerns about data security for digital twins prevent greater security.
  4. The supplier gap - The reality that small suppliers require support to fully participate in digital twins platforms.

Barrier 1: The knowledge deficit

Some people think that leading technologies like digital twins only minimally rely on human intervention. Quite the contrary. The value of digital twins is in the combined power of machine learning and human ingenuity to support decision-making. As important as the human side of this human + machine equation is, the defense community is facing awareness deficits, even at leadership levels.

Actions for continuous reinvention

  • Ensure that senior leaders are informed about the power of digital twins for supply chains and that adoption and investment is led by them, not by the IT organization.
  • Consider acquiring key skills (e.g., AI, ML and cloud enablement network connectivity) through strategic partnerships with academic and research institutions and vendors.
  • Do what’s realistic to create an environment to attract the right skills—an environment that offers options like remote work and flexible contracts that support on-demand talent models.

Barrier 2: The data dilemma

Real-time data is the oxygen for digital twins. Yet some interviewees worry about the quality, volume and complexity of data needed and the time and costs involved in managing it. While some digital twins require a lot of data, defense agencies can build digital twins with the data they have today and evolve models as more data becomes available.

Actions for continuous reinvention

  • Create a common user platform in information services and design an intuitive user experience at the point of collection to trigger correct inputs and minimizes errors.
  • Evaluate the supply chain for a data aggregation approach to support digital twins, identifying areas of risk; system, sensor and third-party data gaps; and how to close them.
  • Invest in analytics and business intelligence platforms that integrate data into a decision support capability, so decision makers aren’t overwhelmed with insights that aren’t useful.

Barrier 3: The security paradox

Digital twins deliver more value to the military ecosystem when they extend beyond one organization and integrate with the entire supply chain. However, security concerns can make this difficult to do. Given this and the nascency of digital twin applications in defense supply chains, governance is lagging. The irony? This governance gap only perpetuates fears around security and compliance; this is the security paradox.

Actions for continuous reinvention

  • Update defense policies and agreements that relate to data security and data sharing to ensure they promote data sharing across the end-top-end supply chain.
  • Refine environment, application and data security accreditation standards to clarify how defense players and suppliers can prove they are compliant with sharing rules.
  • Prioritize cloud adoption to break the security paradox, putting trust in the cloud to connect data and experiences to accelerate momentum around digital twins.

Barrier 4: The supplier gap

Defense agencies and prime contractors choose suppliers based on their compliance with contracting requirements, skills and capabilities and operational performance. As momentum for digital twins grows, defense organizations will need additional criteria around digitalization and data literacy, as well as modernized contracting protocols, to select right-fit suppliers.

Actions for continuous reinvention

  • Agree on data ownership and sharing to provide armed forces with end-to-end visibility while enabling suppliers to protect intellectual property and competitive market positioning.
  • Help suppliers set winning conditions for digital reinvention—keys to success are committed business leadership; clear vision, strategy and outcomes; and a comprehensive business case.
  • Partner to improve data literacy through coaching, new approaches to commercially incentivizing data literacy, and as necessary, adoption of new technologies and tools.


Lisa Brown

Principal Director – Supply Chain, Defense

Samantha Lee

Senior Manager – Accenture Federal Services, Supply Chain & Operations

Timo Levo

Managing Director – Health & Public Service, Global Defense Lead

Paul Ott

Managing Director – Accenture Federal Services, Defense Growth & Innovation Lead

Meghan Yurchisin

Global Lead, PS Research & Thought Leadership – Accenture Research