Digital twin: A promising and futuristic integrated technology for digital transformation

Mar 2022 | No Comment

Dr Komal S Pawar

Senior Consultant, Hexagon India

With the recent evolution of Industry 4.0, Digital Twin technology has established itself as a key component of the digital transformation process. Grieves coined the term “digital twin” in 2002, primarily for its application in manufacturing industry. However, John Vickers of NASA was the first to adopt the digital twin concept for creating digital simulations of space capsules, and he presented it in 2010 roadmap report. Digital Twin is defined as a virtual representation of the physical asset, component, or piece of equipment with seamless integration of data between a physical and virtual system.

The Digital Twin (DT), in combination with enabling technologies is getting momentum in a wide range of industries. These enabling technologies are artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR). The Digital Twin combined with IoT and data analytics is advantageous in performing predictive analysis. The application of DT can be found in healthcare, process industries, smart assets etc. Smart cities can benefit from Digital Twin technology in a variety of ways, including planning, utility distribution, and traffic control. Reformation has been noticed in construction industry too, where Digital Twin helps in property related data, operations, and maintenance information.

Oil & Gas industries are restructuring with the use of Digital Twin technology. In larger facilities or plants, the Digital Twin is an exact copy of the facility configuration. It consists of all the data and documents required to accurately describe the detailed configuration of a facility. It provides seamless integration with transactional data from computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), SAP ERP systems, realtime data from sensors, historians, and geographical location data. This integrated environment enables accurate analytics which is further used to make real-time decisions. This results in increased asset efficiency, improved business processes, increased productivity, reduced operational risk, and data-driven decision making.

To implement Digital Twin technology, industries can first learn about their current digital maturity stage through a digital maturity assessment. The digital maturity can be described in four stages across the asset lifecycle. The first stage of a Digital Twin is Project Twin, designed by engineering teams with a basic set of structured data and documents defining the facility configuration. For industries near the beginning of their digital transformation journey, this is an excellent start, empowering better decision making from more intelligent data and improving engineeringto- operations handover processes.

The second stage is connecting this intelligent data to 2D schematics, 3D models or laser scans that allows enhanced visualization and navigation. It begins to unlock the benefits of weaving engineering, operations, and maintenance information in an Operational Twin. The third stage is about interoperability. The Operational Twin’s interoperability is improved in the third stage by exchanging data and giving connectivity to other information sources in the operations landscape, such as asset performance, data historian, maintenance management, and real-time data solutions.

Final and the fourth stage is where the major digital transformation business benefits will be realized, as the asset owners and operators can leverage a Digital Twin to manage value added work processes, such as human procedures, inspections, integrated safe systems of work and management of change. This ongoing stage of value addition can also include advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive and prescriptive analytics to reduce downtime.

This describes how a Digital Twin can assist a plant throughout its life cycle. Depending on digital maturity stage any industry can plan their digital journey towards using Digital Twin and can meet the data-centric way of working. To name a few, there are case studies on Digital Twin in the Power System, wind turbines, and energy modelling etc.

Numaligarh Refinery (NRL) is one of the first large-scale industry in India to adopt the Digital Twin technology, SDx from Hexagon in the year 2020, which is currently under implementation. With a project timeline of only 48 months, the Numaligarh Refinery Expansion Project (NREP) require intense collaboration among several stakeholders across multiple third-party organizations. It is a key project to support Government of India’s Hydrocarbon Vision 2030 for the North- Eastern region. To accelerate this project, NRL decided to implement an Integrated Electronic Data & Document Management System (IEDDMS), a solution that would help save thousands of man hours by streamlining engineering review & approval workflows and manage its project and engineering workforce effectively during the entire project lifecycle. NRL chose Hexagon PPM’s Digital Twin platform (SDx) to achieve their objective.

Rapid development of digital technologies and to survive in this digital era, companies need to transform their business architecture. We might witness more industries adopting Digital Twin in coming years.

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