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Digital Twin vs. SCADA: Understanding the Differences for MRF Operators

Digital Twin vs. SCADA: Understanding the Differences for MRF Operators

As technology advances and the world becomes more connected, innovative approaches are emerging in various industries. One such pioneering technology is the digital twin, which has become a buzzword in the world of manufacturing, supply chain management, waste management, and many others. For MRF operators, understanding the difference between a digital twin and SCADA is crucial for optimising waste processing operations. In this blog post, we’ll explore the differences between a digital twin and SCADA system and why they matter for recycling plants operators.


Digital Twin: A mirror-image of the real-world system

First, let’s define the digital twin. A digital twin is a virtual model of a physical system, such as a production line, that uses data and simulation to accurately replicate the behaviour and processes of the physical system. A digital twin can be thought of as a mirror image of the real-world system, allowing operators to not only monitor and control the system in real-time, but also to analyse past performance, optimise processes in real-time, simulate different scenarios and predict its outcomes. Moreover, the data generated by a digital twin can be used for predictive maintenance and analytics, enabling operators to make data-driven decisions for improved performance and reduce the risk of equipment failures.


SCADA: monitor and control system for process and equipment

On the other hand, SCADA systems are utilised in various industries to monitor and control industrial processes and equipment. A SCADA system typically includes hardware and software components that acquire data from sensors and other devices, analyse the data, and enable operators to control the system in real-time. SCADA systems are widely used in manufacturing, power generation, oil and gas as well as waste processing of course. The primary objective of a SCADA system is to ensure that a process or equipment is running efficiently and safely. Unlike a digital twin, a SCADA system focuses on real-time monitoring and control rather than analysing past performance and helping to predict the future.


What’s the difference?

So, what sets a digital twin apart from a SCADA system? While both technologies involve monitoring and controlling physical systems, a digital twin goes beyond traditional SCADA systems by capturing the entire lifecycle of a system and enabling operators to predict future outcomes and optimise performance. This means that a digital twin is more proactive in nature, allowing operators to make informed decisions before issues occur, rather than reacting to problems after they have happened. It also allows to analyse what happened in the past which is not the purpose of a SCADA system. Additionally, a digital twin allows for collaboration and communication between various departments and stakeholders, providing a comprehensive view of the system.


What are the key benefits?

For MRF operators, a digital twin can offer substantial benefits. Waste recovery and recycling processes are typically complex arrangements of equipment in which material flows are directed to various points in the process and sometimes recirculated. With a digital twin, operators can first of all understand their process by analysing past performance and then optimise it through real-time performance tracking. It also opens the door to simulate different scenarios and predict outcomes including equipment failures. As a result, operators can reduce operating costs, minimise target materials ending in residue, reduce downtime, and improve the overall efficiency of their sorting operations. Furthermore, with a digital twin, operators can make data-driven decisions, ensuring compliance with regulations and minimising environmental impact.



As MRF operators strive for increased efficiency, reduced costs, and improved sustainability, advanced technologies like digital twins will play a crucial role in optimising waste processing operations. While SCADA systems have been essential in monitoring and controlling industrial processes, digital twins offer a more proactive and collaborative approach that goes beyond traditional SCADA systems. By leveraging a digital twin, operators can truly understand and optimise their sorting process performance. Therefore, it is vital for MRF operators to understand and implement digital twin technology to stay competitive and meet the challenges of the waste management industry.

Luc Mallinger


SortFlow is currently pilot-testing the first digital twin application for the Waste & Recycling Industry, SortFlow AI Mapper which analyses data from AI vision systems and optical sorters in real-time and is compatible with leading brands of equipment. The application will be fully released in Q4 2023. Please reach out to us for more information: