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Sep 30 | Insights

How Digital Twins are reimaging the construction industry

The construction industry is one of the largest in the world. By 2030, it is expected that the volume of construction output will grow by 85% to $15.5 trillion. China, India and the US will all lead the way accounting for 57% of that growth. Andrew McCloskey, AVEVA’s CTO has identified four challenges the sector faces.

  1. Poor productivity and profitability
  2. Project performance (timing and budget issues)
  3. Skilled labour shortages
  4. Sustainability concerns

Digital Twin technology could be the answer to these issues. It provides the ability to create virtual replicas of potential and actual physical assets, processes, people, places, systems and devices that can be used for various purposes. There are different reasons as to why a company would use a digital twin, one could be testing new assets before launching them for real because it would be a whole lot more expensive to rectify any problems once something is out there. Practically, this type of technology can improve the safety on an oil rig, improve the efficiency of a production plant, or ensure that a building meets sustainability or regulatory requirements. Another important feature of digital twins worth noting is that they can predict a failure before it happens and can even offer solutions to prevent them from happening at all.

Opportunity and gains

A Digital Twin is a relatively new concept. More and more industries are taking notice of the technology as a direct result of the digital transformation our world has taken. Buildings and cities are becoming smarter, fuelled by data and application of that data. It is predicted that by 2021 there will be more than 25 billion Internet of Things (IoT) endpoints allowing Digital Twins to exist for billions of different scenarios.

Creativity can be limited for designers and developers because once a new building concept is created, it must be approved to match specific safety requirements as well as being complete within timescales. Digital Twins allow developers to test ideas out quickly using digital simulation, that of which could help them cut the total timeframe down by 100x.

Safety, practicality and sustainability of new buildings is able to be tested within the simulation providing accurate feedback that would mirror the outcome of a test in real life as the data is derived from real-time. Energy equates to roughly 19% of total expenditure for buildings, the environment and bottom line of a company can be impacted positively due to proactive data-driven energy management.

Augmented operations and maintenance

When a construction has been commissioned, a Digital Twin can be continuously updated with operational and process data. Knowing an asset’s current state, the digital model uses predictive learning technology to identify failures before they happen and offer solutions on how to prevent them.

Artificial intelligence is utilised with advanced process control, control strategy design and process optimisation. Necessary variations from process and asset design are incorporated into the engineering asset, enabling a complete and efficient digital value loop.

Developing an effective Digital Twin strategy

Each asset requires a different set of asset data services alongside engineering master data, effective visualisation tools and workflow procedures:

  1. Create a Digital Twin model that uses accurate data feeds.
  2. Identify where Digital Twin simulations and predictive maintenance can deliver the best value.
  3. Build a Digital Twin architectural roadmap.
  4. Use Digital Twin for projects as this will expose how the project connects with its current state and how likely it is to respond to internal or external changes.

Data is incorporated from these diverse data points and create a wealth of potential benefits; this includes the ability to test changes before they are implemented. Construction companies that realise the potential savings from intelligent master data management can reap truly transformative benefits from Digital Twin technology.