More and more frequently the use of the phrase ‘digital twin’ is being used in presentations and discussions with our customers in the process industries. I often get asked 3 questions: what is a digital twin? How do I get one? And what is it used for?
What is a digital twin?
In answer to the first question, simplistically it is a digital representation of all of the data associated with your process plant, both from an asset perspective i.e. a pumps, fans, motors etc and a process perspective i.e. data collected from the production process.
How do I get one?
This can often be perceived as challenging, but with a systematic approach it can be done.
Identify your sources of data – what do I have and in what formats? In a brownfield plant data is likely to be in varied formats and have gaps in its availability and quality.
Digitalise (or collect) your data in a common data hub – It is often much easier than you think to ‘port’ your data into a common data hub with the latest digital tools and fill in the gaps.
Bring your digital twin or data to life – Often a 3D model of a brownfield plant will not exist, but with the latest reality model technology, this can easily be created to develop a direct visualisation of your plant and all of its assets.
Finally, how do I use it?
Three immediate opportunities to use a digital twin are as follows:
Have a reality model and the associated data of your plant allows you to train operations and maintenance staff in a safe environment, particularly where you have challenging dangerous applications such as offshore.
We all face challenges of managing an ageing workforce, so with the use of a digital twin, you can capture this knowledge from your experienced operators and use it to train new, less experienced members of the team.
By simulating and using the virtual and real world data, you can deliver much more efficient data, based on information that drives decision making, not just a typical approach of planned maintenance because ‘that is what we always do’. Ultimately, this can have a positive impact on operating costs and plant uptime by using the valuable information that is in your plant.