Digital Twins: Maximizing Their Value

Are You Using a Digital Twin to Unlock Your Data's Full Potential?
Apr 2, 2024 10:00 AM ET
Campaign: Cybersecurity

By The Black & Veatch Insights Group

Imagine unmatched ability to visualize and interact with your data, enabling immediate and actionable insights into the functional and performance characteristics of an asset or system. This is the promise of a digital twin. But what constitutes a twin, really? Whether you are beginning your journey or looking to level-up the solution you already have, there are some essential considerations. By unlocking the full potential of your data, using game-changing technology solutions, you can revolutionize the way you manage your facility and assets.

Not All Twins Are Identical

A digital twin is commonly described as a virtual system, or a digital counterpart, of a physical asset, system or process. In the complex world of water and wastewater management, a digital twin can offer valuable insight into the current state of operations and even begin to predict possible future state and outcomes. Effective implementation of a digital twin can lead to CapEx and OpEx reductions as well as increase your ability to adapt and respond to change more efficiently. As the volume and demand of data grows at an increasingly rapid pace, digital twins can present a compelling story for your data like never before.

With the emergence of digital twins, we expect to see positive disruption in the way we interact with digital content, gain valuable insights, facilitate integrations of data and systems, and unlock new possibilities for data exploration and presentation – all while reducing technology burden on already stressed resources.

Because of the diversity in use cases for digital twins in today’s environment, asking 10 people what digital twins do might elicit 10 different responses. Consequently, Black & Veatch has created a framework for classifying the purpose of digital twins and the modelling characteristics required to support specific digital capabilities. The three categories within our framework include spatial, computational and analytical. Digital twin solutions use real-world conditions defined by models and synergies between these models to better understand performance and resiliency over time.

  • A spatial twin provides a visually interactive experience enhancing data with spatial context leveraging 2D or 3D data from building information modeling (BIM) and/or geospatial data to enhance insights. Use cases include the simplification of physical asset/system location and facility management.
  • An analytical twin provides a visually interactive experience with business intelligence to aggregate and analyze data to reveal insights. Use cases include asset and system performance optimization, risk management and financial management.
  • A computational twin leverages asset and process simulation capabilities to assist with decisions and predictions of asset and process outcomes.

So, how do you know if you have a twin? The following recipe can be helpful when trying to determine where the line of digital twins might be:

  • You have a model. This model can be a spatial model, computational model or an analytical model.
  • You manage a continuously evolving set of data or events.
  • You have a means of dynamically updating your model in real-time or near real-time.
  • Your twin provides meaningful insights, recommendations or predictions to aid in making decisions.
  • And your solution simplifies data accessibility for you and your team.

The type of digital twin you require relies on the problem you are trying to solve. Assessing where to start a digital twin effort can be overwhelming, leaving you unsure where to begin. “Twinning for a purpose” is a phrase we often use; focusing on this will help identify the specific digital capabilities you seek, and which technology solution or partner can deliver the desired results. The following graph illustrates in simple concepts where a specific type of twin might provide the largest return in value.

While substantial benefits can be gained using digital twins during the operating life of an asset, this does not preclude the use of digital twins during other stages of an asset’s lifecycle. In design and construction for example, you can gain better insights into coordination, progress and quality while improving communication. Twins also simplify access to complex and constantly evolving information like asset data and equipment reports. By using digital twins, teams can improve data management and data accessibility. This also enables the delivery of a more intelligent and connected handover product, facilitating day-one maintenance needs more effectively.

Unlocking Value

Digital twin solutions come in many forms, from business intelligence to dynamic simulation platforms, from commercial solutions to customer applications. The decision of which solution to deploy depends on what needs to be done and the value you are trying to unlock.

  • Improved collaboration
  • Improved financial decision making
  • Accelerated risk assessment
  • Predictive maintenance
  • Enhanced/optimized operations
  • Lower engineering costs
  • Design and construction certainty
  • Effective use of resources
  • Staff efficiency

Black & Veatch has expertise in the following areas to help you gain value from digital twins.

  • Digital advisory services for digital transformation planning
  • Modelling expertise across spatial, analytical and computational domains
  • Optimization and modernization services

Getting Started on and Accelerating Your Journey

The future of digital twins in the water sector is becoming clearer as we deliver practical solutions with purpose-built digital twins. But as innovation continues to accelerate, it is certain that capabilities across various twin categories will converge, becoming more integrated, more capable and easier to use and implement. Waiting for change to slow will likely leave you waiting indefinitely. Meanwhile, factors such as travel restrictions and remote teams, climate change, aging workforce, sustainability goals, system resiliency, and maximizing performance and asset/system longevity increasingly stress legacy processes and technology used for planning and decision support. Addressing these challenges with new technology now has the capability to help move the needle and gain tangible value.

From initial design through ongoing operations and maintenance, the value of digital twins is undeniable. Whatever your individual challenges and goals, whether you are starting on your path or looking to level up your system, a digital twin can be the key to unlock the full potential of your data. So, if you’re not already using digital twins, what’s stopping you? Begin your journey today, or level-up your current solution and unlock the full potential of your data.