Digital Twins and Collaborative Growth

By Sharada Prahladrao

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Summary

As a Global Sponsor at the recent ARC India Forum, Bentley Systems had an opportunity to discuss and demonstrate the company’s innovative solutions, its focus on digital twins, and its collaborative efforts.  The Forum was a win-win situation digital twinsfor all participants as it provided a two-way learning and teaching experience; and an ideal platform to network and brainstorm.

Tracing the digital journey, the speakers said that 15 to 20 years ago, industry moved from drawing boards to the computer; then to servers and the Cloud with unlimited computing power.  Infrastructure engineering data was first based on CAD (computer aided design), then BIM (building information modeling), and now a digital twin.  Presentations by Anne-Marie Walters, Industry Marketing Director, Oil and Gas and Manufacturing, Bentley Systems; and Amit Shrivastava, Regional Sales Engagement Manager, Bentley Systems highlighted several aspects: 

  • Digital twins have emerged as a key focus area for infrastructure projects and assets
  • Integration between information technology (IT), operational technology (OT), and engineering technology (ET) is vital to streamline business processes
  • Bentley has developed technology partnerships with companies, such as Siemens to speed industrial growth
digital twins

Creating, Managing, and Leveraging Digital Twins

In previous years, Bentley focused on its going digital strategy and the connected data environment (CDE).  This year, it was all about digital twins.  Ms. Walters began her presentation by explaining what a digital twin is and why it is now the company’s thrust area.  In simple terms, it is the digital representation of a physical asset, process, or system; which is continuously surveyed or synchronized from multiple sources to generate insights for predictability and performance optimization. 

Further, she spoke about digital workflows and the huge benefits realized in terms of health and safety, operator training, planned shut-downs and maintenance after information verification.  Sharing information in a digital, 3D world enables greater collaboration and stake-holder engagement, said Ms. Walters.  Digital twins help simulate the work environment and perform status checks, predict possibility of failure, plan logistics, check progress and so on. 

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PlantSight:  The Digital Twin Solution for Process Industries

Mr. Shrivastava spoke about solutions to combat today’s challenges, the main one being data aggregation.  Digital twins require data from in-formation and operational technologies to understand the current state of the project or asset.  Combining data from engineering technologies into a digital twin enables simulations so users can try out different scenarios or predict the performance of an asset, he explained.

In this context he spoke about Siemens and Bentley Systems’ jointly developed PlantSight, based on their complementary software portfolios.  The two companies created the PlantSight digital twin solution to help customers improve the efficiency of their plant operations.  Process plant operations are documented in data.  Typically, this information is stored in multiple silos of information in various formats, making it difficult to access and verify.  PlantSight brings all this data and information together, then contextualizes, validates, and visualizes it.  It transforms data into one complete digital twin – an “evergreen” digital twin that is continuously updated.  In other words, PlantSight can help process plant owner-operators realize the benefits of digital twins, up-dated in real time for operations, without disrupting their existing physical or virtual environment.

Mr.  Shrivastava then explained the company’s step-wise approach: 

  • Create a 3D reality mesh from 2D photographs or scans
  • Train the software to automatically recognize and classify components
  • Visualize classified components
  • Aggregate with other information into digital twins
digital twins

Both speakers highlighted how digital twins are used at various stages in projects around the world and its joint collaborations with Siemens, including PlantSight and Asset Performance Management for Power Plants.   

Case Studies

Reality modeling: Last year, Ms. Walters had shown the delegates how photographs are transformed into accurate 3D models to zoom in on the trouble spots (such as rusted parts) and fix them.  Adding the element of time with continuous surveying, the severity and speed of deterioration can be detected and predicted, she said.

Continuous surveying: Another example is at Shell’s largest onshore construction project of an ethylene plant in Pennsylvania in the U.S.  A drone surveying company is continuously creating reality models of the construction site on a bi-weekly basis.  The drones take project snap-shots and 3D models are created, providing an effective top-down view of how construction is progressing and what needs to be done.  In the video about the construction of the future, a Shell employee mentions: “The more data we have, the smarter we have to be about managing it.” Everything on the site is located by an equipment tag; all the databases are connected, with accountability for three million documents and equipment tags.

Digital Twin Benefits

Both Bentley speakers highlighted the benefits of employing digital twins:

  • Efficiency: Improved data quality and security; up-to-date 2D and 3D plant documentation; continuous monitoring and optimizing of plant assets
  • Cost reductions: Faster operational readiness; direct and easy access to information
  • Revenue growth: Faster and collaborative decision making

Conclusion

Digital twins merge the real (physical) and virtual worlds.  Both presentations brought into sharp focus the importance of digital twins across industries and substantiated this with examples and case studies.

What came across very clearly was that when companies such as Bentley Systems and Siemens collaborate and complement their strengths, end users benefit.  

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Keywords: Bentley Systems, Digital Twin, PlantSight, ARC India Forum, Connected Data Environment (CDE), IT/OT/ET, Siemens, Arc Advisory Group.

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