Making full use of the digital twin

May 23rd, 2019, Published in Articles: PositionIT

On typical construction projects, a great deal of information is produced. A common challenge is that the information generated is often unstructured, poorly coordinated and difficult to find. The resultant inefficiency is estimated to add an extra 20% to 25% to the cost of delivering the projects.

Fundamental to achieving a successful project is controlled and efficient data that can be used collaboratively between teams and leads to key business insights. At Aurecon, we call the place where this information is stored a “Common Data Environment”, or CDE for short. It’s important that this space is digitised, that everybody in your team has open and unhindered access, and it can be easily sub-divided into areas to categorise information. In simple terms, it needs to be a collaborative and well-managed space for sharing work.

The role of the BIM manager in setting up a digital project

There are many building information models  (BIM) platforms available, but it is up to a BIM lead or BIM manager to set up controls and target efficiencies, with specific goals in mind and clear outcomes in sight. Planning, approving and construction require all steps to be linked and transparent with controlled access to certain roles and procedures. When a digital twin is on the cards, then another step needs to be inserted in this process to enable a fully digitised construction project. During this step, the project manager will give sub-contractors access to work with the digital twin.

While BIM takes care of data on a cloud-based CDE, construction-related information is mostly processed by the project manager, who needs documents to be at the latest revision stage. However, up-to-the-minute data control means the project manager requires access to the cloud-based information set up by the BIM manager.

The way that a BIM manager sets up this information is crucial. It is the foundation that provides clarity on the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in the project, and it gives different levels of access to the client, contractors, and subcontractors. The project manager controls the collaboration efforts at each level.

By using visualisation software such as VISrt, the planned asset can be digitised and made compatible with goggles, smartphones or iPad/tablet. Services can be seen in a virtual environment, which helps prevent risky health and safety issues on a site and fosters collaboration between team members.

Moving BIM from the project to the plant manager

Once this data has been collected and a digital twin is derived, the CDE is handed over to the general manager of the project or plant. From handover to the operation phase requires access and collaboration for optimisation and cost-saving exercises of the plant life cycle.

The general manager’s focus will be on optimising the asset throughout its life cycle. For this to happen, there is another level of BIM control required. This level ensures the asset management and maintenance management procedures that will be put in place are able to provide live feedback on how the project/plant reacts to different circumstances. The need for a quick adjustment for optimisation may arise at this stage. If a digital twin is already in a BIM platform, these changes or upgrades can be done efficiently and without costly construction fees.

Using BIM information for predictive maintenance

There are many benefits to using asset management dashboards where tracking of plant equipment can be coordinated with live feedback and support. As the life cycle of the asset is optimised over time, predictive maintenance can streamline all operations.

Through BIM and having a controlled CDE, an efficient working asset with access to data that enables quick collaboration and optimisation can be ensured. Greater use of BIM and digital information to support asset management and facilities management is critical for better asset management.

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