Take BIM Processes to the next level with Digital Twins

June 02, 2020

Organisations in all industries are under pressure to deliver more robust and innovative operating models. Bart Brink, Global Director for Digital Twin at Royal HaskoningDHV, and Casey Rutland, UK Director of Digital at Royal HaskoningDHV, explore how digital twins can elevate BIM processes to create sustainable value and competitive advantage.

The world is in transition. Challenges and opportunities arise with increasing frequency, customers are more demanding, and societal expectations are higher. These changes, combined with the rapid rate of digital innovation, are forcing significant business transformation across almost every sector – and widescale strategic changes for many organisations.

Embracing Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been a valuable step in this transformation journey. By using BIM methodologies and standards to collaboratively create digital representations of assets, organisations have brought new consistency and efficiency to their design, construction and operation.

But BIM isn’t a technology or asset that you can simply deploy to modernise operations and then forget about. It’s a process, and the key to long-term success and value within any process is intelligent evolution.

BIM has proven itself as a valuable mechanism for connecting information and ideas between different stakeholders. Yet, despite its aim to link the design and asset management phases of a project, it’s often used solely as a 3D-modelling tool for design and construction stages – and misses the chance to demonstrate its value throughout the asset lifecycle.

Now, it’s time for forward-thinking leaders to evolve their BIM outputs beyond design and construction and find new ways of deepening the use of collaborative data models in operational strategies through digital twin adoption.

DIGITAL TWINS: DRIVING OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE IN A DIGITAL AGE

BIM processes and digital twin strategies are built on a number of common principles; both are concerned with improving process visibility, aligning stakeholders and supporting planning. But more importantly, they’re both extremely useful for helping teams look at assets not as siloed, capex-focused investments, but instead as ongoing projects.

Successful BIM processes and frameworks help you establish a clear project vision, that supports business outcomes before design commences or work begins on site. But, in order to continuously improve and adapt projects to deliver greater value to everyone once work has begun, you need the real-time insights. That’s where digital twins become extremely useful.

Digital twins allow you to visualise, monitor and optimise your operational assets, processes and resources by harnessing live data. This provides vital, real-time insights into performance and activity. At its core, a digital twin can be an output of a BIM process and is essentially a ‘living’ version of the project or asset view that BIM processes exist to create – able to evolve and transform using real-time data once the asset is in use.

To gain maximum value from every asset at every stage of its definition, design, construction and operation, subsequent capital expenditure projects should contribute to the creation of an ongoing digital twin, again through the BIM process. That twin will act both as a single source of truth for the asset throughout its lifecycle, and as a blueprint for future innovation and improvement – taking a process and elevating it into an evolving project.

 

Figure 1

Figure 1: Digital twin maturity levels and the role of the BIM process. Copyrights ©2020 Royal HaskoningDHV

CREATING AN INFINITE LOOP OF INNOVATION AND LEARNING FOR EVERYONE 

Once created and deployed, you can use digital twins to create self-learning systems capable of optimising everything from energy consumption to maintenance scheduling – ensuring BIM standards are continuously upheld for updated and new data, while improving project value.

However, acting on new insights and improving assets and projects across their lifecycle isn’t always easy. Despite the BIM process aiming to address the issue, often the departments tasked with designing and constructing assets are disconnected from those focused on improving them, making it difficult to secure the financial and physical resources needed to drive positive change.

Fortunately, this is another challenge that digital twins can help solve. By capturing the imagination of stakeholders from board level to the ‘shop floor’, digital twin benefits are easily visible to all – especially when they aim to solve existing day-to-day challenges.

Using digital twins powered by dynamic data sources means improvement teams don’t have to look to construction teams for input. They have all the same insights and information available to them directly. In turn, that creates opportunities to act faster and deliver improvements earlier to reduce cost impacts and maximise value.

But, for this dynamic data-based project approach to work, there are a number of data challenges that everyone involved in the BIM process must understand and overcome.

SIX KEY CONSIDERATIONS FOR ROBUST, VALUE-ADDING DIGITAL TWINS

From greater cost control and improved performance, to empowered teams across a project, the advantages of using BIM processes to create evolving digital twins can be huge.

But before creating BIM outputs and connecting them with dynamic data sources there are six key data considerations any organisation needs to make:

1) Data Integrity: Your insights are only as good as your data, both static and dynamic. So, you need to find a way to ensure that data maintains its integrity – and in a cost-effective manner.

2) Data Granularity: Similarly, not all data incorporated in design is relevant for operational use. A decision must be taken on what data sources are necessary to include at both design and operational stages.

3) Data Governance: Data interoperability is vital between the various technologies in a digital twin ecosystem. Differing open and proprietary standards and exchange formats will require careful consideration to ensure success.

4) Legacy Data: Greenfield projects can give the benefit of a blank canvas with license to take a digital-first mentality from the outset. However, when faced with existing assets and operations, a lack of data is often a problem. Taking a digital-first modernisation approach, with a focus on data development, will return dividends in these circumstances.

5) Human Factors: Silos within organisations can cause big problems. To succeed you need to take an empathy-driven approach that enables diverse teams to collaborate easily, and work together to deliver the best results at every stage of the project lifecycle.

6) Data Democratisation: The priority should be to make information from digital twins accessible to the end user, without them having to use complex IT technologies.

At Royal HaskoningDHV we have years of experience using BIM processes. Recently, these processes have been enhanced to deliver digital twins that help our clients optimise processes, lower costs, and design and deliver more efficient assets.

With our 140-year history in engineering, predictive simulation and data science capabilities, we’re perfectly positioned to help you overcome the challenges of dynamic data-driven BIM processes and take advantage of the huge opportunity digital twins bring.

Would you like to discuss whether your organisation is ready for a digital twin? Get in touch with our experts Bart Brink bart.brink@rhdhv.com and Casey Rutland Casey.Rutland@rhdhv.com.

You can join Bart Brink for a Webinar hosted by buildingSMART International:

Title: Demystifying Digital Twins
Date: 16th June 2020
Time: 14:00 p.m. (CEST - Central European Summer Time)
Duration: 45 minutes 
Speakers: Bart Brink

Register