Digital twins take construction to a new dimension

By Simon HallFebruary 04, 2022

The construction industry has traditionally relied on 2D datasets to create the designs and plans that are used during construction, but that is changing, thanks in part to digital twin technology.

2D datasets alone, especially those that are not up to date, are a huge risk to companies, causing critical decisions to be made based on inaccurate information. Even during construction, capturing real-world information regularly can help companies avoid making costly mistakes.

Over the past decade, the construction industry has begun to embrace new techniques and technology that help provide rapid, real-world data capture. Laser scanning and the recent growth in popularity of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and the imagery information they provide, are two examples.

The biggest barrier for people is handling this large stream of data and integrating the data into their existing workflows.

Investment in comprehensive digital twin technologies can help construction companies optimize the design, engineering, construction, operation and maintenance of industrial assets.

Photo of a digital analyization of a building Digital twins digitize the physical world Photo: Leica Geosystems
What is a digital twin?

A digital twin is a digital version or representation of a physical asset in the real world. However, this is a very simplistic definition for something that is actually so much more than that.

Updated in real time with real-world sensors, a digital twin is essentially the glue that connects the information and processes used across the whole asset lifecycle on one platform, enabling the single version of the truth concept.

How is a digital twin set up?

Stage 1 - A digital twin starts with a basic set of structured data and documents defining the facility configuration, designed by engineering teams in the project twin.

For companies near the beginning of their digital transformation roadmap, this is an excellent start, empowering better decision making from more intelligent data and improving engineering-to-operations handover processes.

Stage 2 - The second stage of connecting this intelligent data to 2D schematics, 3D models or laser scans allows for more intuitive viewing and navigation, which begins to unlock the benefits of weaving engineering, operations and maintenance information in an ‘operational twin’.

Stage 3 - This involves further enhancing the operational twin with increased interoperability by exchanging information and providing links to other information sources in the operations landscape, such as asset performance, data historian, maintenance management and real-time data solutions.

Stage 4 - This is where the major digital transformation business benefits will be realized, as the asset owners and operators can leverage a digital twin to manage value-added work processes, such as human procedures, inspections, integrated safe systems of work and management of change.

This ongoing stage of value addition can also include advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive and prescriptive analytics to reduce downtime.

Deployment of a digital twin

When a comprehensive digital twin is deployed, the associated data needs to be efficiently dissected to understand it and to also transform this into actionable information.

To help achieve this, Leica’s Hexagon Situational Awareness product allows personnel to clearly see what’s happened, what’s happening, what could happen, what should happen and what’s scheduled to happen in a high-level operational dashboard that includes all the visual elements of a digital twin.

Why use a digital twin?

Overall, the goal of any digital twin is to increase asset efficiency and offer a digital representation of current and historic plant configurations, along with related performance information.

“Digital twin technology is one of the fastest-growing concepts in the construction industry,” says Frank Weiss, senior director for new products at Oracle Construction and Engineering.

Weiss says digital twins can make the construction process quicker and faster and help teams work together better using more up-to-date information, especially if teams are working on a project from different physical locations.

Informed, data-driven decision making can become the norm, and the easy sharing of digital twin data with multiple departments increases collaboration and reduces operational risk.

Hexagon solutions help people design, engineer, construct, operate and maintain industrial assets, and the Project Twin, Operational Twin and Situational Awareness solutions allow asset owners and operators to build and maintain a digital twin ecosystem throughout the asset lifecycle, enabling prime operation quality.

Investment in comprehensive digital twin technologies can help construction companies optimize the design, engineering, construction, operation and maintenance of industrial assets.

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