Asset owners and operators have no shortage of data relating to their assets. Despite this, it’s not always easy to find the right information to support critical decisions, or to optimise operations. When investing in a new asset, there’s an invaluable opportunity to gather, structure and validate the right information to deliver value across the lifecycle.
Last week, Team Wood’s Rob Kennedy, Global Head of Digital Twin – Full Asset Lifecycle, presented to digital and technology industry leads at the 2022 Digital Built World Summit in Sydney. Rob discussed Wood’s end-to-end approach to digital twin, which seeks to unlock the power of an asset’s data, whether it is being designed, constructed or operated. Utilising right-to-left thinking, we not only transform project performance, but also the operating performance of an asset.
With a focus on digital twin for capital projects, specifically the implementation for assets during a greenfield or brownfield project, Rob shared some of the key lessons learned from the energy sector and how they are now being applied across other sectors such as water, mining and life sciences.
Expertise across the asset lifecycle
Wood’s expertise is world-renowned for spanning the lifecycle of an asset from the initial concept through to the end of its life. Our approach to digital twin mirrors this, and we believe that considering the asset lifecycle as a continuum, rather than a series of discrete phases is the key to unlocking lasting value using digital twins.
As a result, we have developed approaches for digital twin implementation, bringing together our expertise and drawing upon a wealth of lifecycle experience across Wood. In addition to our own specialised digital twin solutions, we draw upon our technology partners for platforms and ecosystems, to ensure we always deliver best-fit solutions for our client’s challenges.
Our lifecycle view of digital twin is driven by a lifecycle view of asset economics, which considers the total expenditure (TOTEX) over an asset’s life. Designing and building may take five or more years, but the asset may be operated for five or more decades. While there is value in increasing efficiency of capital project delivery, there is much greater value potential in increasing the efficiency and performance of the operating phase of an asset.
The big question that our clients always ask is, how can I spend $1 on digital twin during the project phase to save $10 or $100 over the lifetime of an asset? Our answer is simple, we first need to build a clear understanding of the operating phase. This is what we term at Wood as ‘right-to-left’ thinking, which enables us to reflect the operating requirements back into the capital project, and then make the right strategic capital investments, to later transform not just the project performance, but also the operating performance of the asset. In doing so, we completely transform the asset’s lifecycle economics.
Approach to capital projects
Over the last decade or so, we have gathered a wealth of experience delivering digital twins on both greenfield and brownfield capital projects in the energy and chemical sectors. Over this period and through the work undertaken, three main recurring challenges have been identified:
- How do we transform the operating phase of an asset using digital twin?
- How do we execute the project to produce a digital twin of the asset?
- How do we transform the business and maintain the digital twin to create lasting value?
With these challenges in mind, we have rallied our experience to create a digital twin approach for capital projects, which we use to deliver digital twins on both greenfield and brownfield projects that support the full lifecycle of an asset.
Our approach has been designed to ensure that the objectives and requirements of project and operating teams are captured from the outset of a project, enabling the creation of a digital twin that drives value in design, build and right through operations to deliver transformational value.
This approach is delivered in four stages:
- Value realisation
When it comes to creating measurable and lasting value in both the project and operating phases of the asset, we need to have a very clear vision from the outset of what outcomes the digital twin will achieve, and the measurable value these will create. Our Advisory phase enables us to identify and prioritise the lifecycle challenges and opportunities needed to be addressed, whilst understanding the business drivers, business strategy and corporate digital strategy – making sure there is thorough alignment throughout. It also allows us to baseline the project and asset performance, setting improvement targets and objectives needed for the implementation of a digital twin.
Having defined the priorities, we then look at the strategy needed to deliver upon them. We first define use cases and potential solutions that address the improvement targets established, quantifying the costs and benefits. We then look to prioritise initiatives based on the objectives, building a robust business case for the required investment. Finally, we output an implementation-ready roadmap that integrates with the project schedule and the project activities.
The foundation of delivering a lifecycle digital twin is ensuring that we gather the right information during the project for both the project itself and for operations – an approach we call Lifecyle Information Management. At this stage it’s essential to consider what additional information is required to enable operating use cases, and to incorporate this into the data model for the project, so that the right information can be gathered and managed. If it’s a brownfield project, any digitisation of the assets and its information can then also consider the information that benefits operations. It’s also essential to address the dependencies and interfaces with the rest of the project, as well as capturing any additional requirements and interfaces early, ensuring they’re incorporated in contracts within the supply chain.
To create lasting value we need to ensure that project and operations teams actually use the digital twin and adopt it as part of their day-to-day work. In addition to training, engagement and user support, we need to ensure that the surrounding business processes require and support the use of the digital twin to enable activities, operations and decision making. From the outset, we also need to consider the procedures to continuously validate and update both information and the digital twin itself.
Because the digital twin requires continuous investment to maintain and sustain, it’s only natural that asset owners want to be able to demonstrate the value that the digital twin creates. This takes us right back to the very start – what were the improvement targets we set out to achieve? How do we measure and track those on a continuous basis to quantify the value being created by the digital twin? And how do we justify the ongoing investment?
Can we make future assets digital-native from inception?
By applying our right-to-left thinking approach to reflect the requirements for the operating phase back into the capital project we can make the right strategic capital investments in digital twin, then deliver the lifecycle digital twin in parallel with the physical asset. This enables us to transform the operating performance of the asset as well as the performance of the project, and in doing so, positively influence the lifecycle economics.
However, we currently see that our clients start considering digital twin and putting their digital strategy in place during the preliminary design phase. In reality, we need to be considering the lifecycle impacts of digital twin right back at the initial concept definition for an asset. Only in considering future assets as digital-native from their very inception will we truly be able to transform their lifecycle economics.