Rapidly evolving digital twins for factories


The recent session of the ARC Forum entitled “Digital twins for plants” provided insight into the current state of the industry’s transition from linear workflows based on 2D data to a more immersive 3D environment. This included types of digital twins, key benefits, a case study for oil rigs, and enterprise-wide strategy adoption in an industrial metaverse. Technology vendors win with “sticky” products that survive transfer and sustain in operations. Users have improved workflows with gains in speed, agility and savings.

Technology providers and asset owner-operators need to assess their businesses for the upcoming digital transition from 2D-based business processes to an immersive 3D environment. Those who are slow to adopt will likely experience a market discontinuity that will significantly alter the market share ranking.

Reach of digital twins for factories

Ralph Rio from the ARC Advisory Group opened the session with his presentation which defined the scope and benefits of digital twins for factories. The term “digital twin” has become popular with a wide variety of interpretations. The first step to meaningful scrutiny requires definition: a digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical entity and is dynamic using synchronized real-world data from multiple sources.

Digital twin components

The twin is dynamic with changing operating data and engineering documentation. Components include:

  • Data connectors for data acquisition and transmission.
  • The model containing algorithms based on physics or artificial intelligence.
  • 3D visualization for navigation and dimensional measurements.
  • Data federation avoids data duplication and quality issues.
  • Applications provide user functions with business benefits.

Digital twins throughout the plant life cycle

To date, the factory’s digital twins have focused on the design and build (D&B) portion of the asset lifecycle. These project digital twins encompass the various business processes for the design and construction of a modernization or a new plant. They also support the continuous transfer of engineering information to the operation and maintenance (O&M) part of the asset lifecycle.

After the transfer, a new set of business processes and use cases emerge. A rapidly emerging area for digital twins is the long operation and maintenance phase of a plant’s life cycle. Use cases for these performance digital twins involve turnaround times, training, reliability analysis, inspection routing, maintenance scheduling, operational improvements, continuous improvement, and assessment and problem solving.

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Keywords: Digital Twin, ARC Forum, Industrial Metaverse, Shell, ExxonMobil, ARC Advisory Group.

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