Updated: Jun 17, 2020
A digital twin is a virtual asset that is the exact replica of a real-world asset. Its use in the construction industry is currently fairly small globally, but predicted to rise rapidly.
We spoke with Dr. Jacques ElKhouri, Head of Digital Transformation & Innovation, Dar Al Handasah, and asked him to explain the technology’s use in construction.
[CTF] Explain in simple terms what a digital twin is [Dr. Jacques ElKhouri] It is a digital and virtual enriched 3D representation of a physical asset, including the data, functionality and the capabilities to process that data to understand and optimise its performance. A digital twin is an exact replica of the physical world. The asset becomes “alive” digitally, especially when its behaviour can be monitored with time (4D) through live sensor readings, differentiating it from Building Information Modelling (BIM). It is applicable to a wide range of environments, including the monitoring of products while they are in use and throughout their lifecycle.
What is the benefit?
Reduced downtime and improved performance
Reduced risk in various areas
Lower maintenance costs by anticipating, preventing and predicting maintenance issues before breakdowns occur
Faster production times
Helps creating new business opportunities
Improved product quality, and enhanced insight into the performance of your products, in multiple real-time applications and environments
More efficient supply and delivery chains
Significant reduction in the potential errors and uncertainties during purchase orders
Facilitate accurate information sharing between site inspectors, operator, designers, suppliers and contractors, saving repurchase logistics and time
Reducing replacement work unforeseen delays
Reducing design time
Reducing potential penalties and unwanted disagreements.
How easy is it to implement/adopt?
Technologically speaking, the tools do exist that allow for its implementation. Culturally speaking, it is a relatively state-of-the-art solution, where users require to gradually upgrade their state of mind and working culture. Most of the usual manual work becomes digitised and through workflows to follow. Users can continue to work the same way they are used to and shift gradually towards the Twin concept solution, until fully implementing it. One word to keep in mind for deploying Digital Twins is “Flexibility”.
Where should digital twins be applied?
Civil, Roads, Infrastructure, Buildings, Oil & Gas, Facilities – from small to big projects. Some Digital Twins are conducted on a small Based Transceiver Station for Mobile phones and some conducted on large complex projects such as Airports.
Are there any scenarios where one should not be applied?
The use of Digital Twins is a long-term solution. A business evaluation study should be conducted to make sure that the cost for implementing the solution and for training the staff will still be smaller than the profits obtained in the long term.
What investment is required?
Investment in tools, in upgraded process definitions, changing the work culture, in digitising the assets, collecting accurate information from the site and creating reality models.
What is the business/ownership model?
Let us take an example of a facility (that has a digital twin) where a defect is occurring.
Defect occurred and inspection conducted immediately (manually or through live monitoring)
Work Order released onsite
Prompt email notification
Owner operator receives notification
Contractor intervenes for repair (short term solution)
Consultant designs a replacement solution (long term solution)
Accurate Purchase Order raised
Replacement of Asset with the new one
Digitise the new asset
Update the digital twin for the asset
By applying the above steps, time and money are saved, and optimum performance is obtained.
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