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Interest is surging in digital twins

June 9, 2021
Sheila Kennedy says simulation environments help maintenance teams to optimize performance and avoid costly mistakes.
Creating a digital twin of an asset, process, system, or project provides the opportunity to simulate and optimize intended actions in a virtual replica before applying them in the physical environment. Interest in the technology is surging as new use cases document its value in areas such as engineering design, construction, maintenance, operations, training, project management, and plant and enterprise management.

Problem-solving technology


It is often very hard to pull together information from engineering information systems, maintenance systems, ERP systems, SCADA and control systems, as well as the data historian, which are all necessary to operate and maintain a plant, observes Anne-Marie Walters, a chemical engineer and industry director at Bentley Systems. Worse, where there has been a change or addition to an asset, it takes a long time to update all the relevant systems and engineering records. Consequently, the systems may not have complete, accurate, and up-to-date data, making it difficult to make confident decisions.

Now, using digital twins, “operations, maintenance, and engineering can work as a team to access all the information in one federated data source, so they can figure out what is happening, analyze the data to gain insights, and make confident decisions faster,” explains Walters. Bentley’s iTwin is one such solution.

Asset and process applications


As product complexity increases, so do the processes to efficiently and effectively operate and maintain these assets in the field, says Jason Kasper, digital twin solutions manager at Aras. “One way to do this is using digital twins to optimize asset uptime and improve customer experiences. This requires the ability to manage each assets’ individual configuration as it changes over time, which is a critical element to an effective digital transformation strategy.”

Technology Toolbox

This article is part of our monthly Technology Toolbox column. Read more from Sheila Kennedy.

As a real-world asset is maintained, updated, and retrofitted, companies need the ability to reflect the real-time accurate status of the digital twin configuration, suggests Kasper. “Without this accuracy, companies risk analysis misinterpretations that lead to incorrect maintenance actions and safety and liability issues,” he adds.

Dustin Beebe, vice president of performance services at Emerson, believes the ability to create the digital image of assets and see not only the current state but to anticipate the future state is essential to improving operational performance. The company’s digital twin software goes a step further to simulate Emerson transmitters, valves, and control systems, as well as model their interaction with process units and equipment.

Mimic simulation software from Emerson connects to any control system platform and to dynamic modeling software such as AspenTech HYSYS Dynamics. “Mimic simulation gives users the ability to scale from low to high fidelity with ease,” explains Beebe. “We’ve built on our digital twin portfolio with the recently announced DeltaV Simulation Cloud that allows organizations to quickly scale their control system simulation among multiple users at multiple sites, and without the costs of maintaining physical hardware and footprints.”

Proficy CSense, an industrial analytics software solution from GE Digital, allows process and automation engineers to rapidly understand and remedy the causes of process variation through process digital twins. “These twins facilitate process simulation and optimization using real-time and historical data to find new insights and new understanding of anomalies that can help to predict deviation and variation within the plant,” says Cobus Van Heerden, senior digital product manager at GE Digital.

The newest version of CSense can calculate and automatically update optimal settings for operators in real time, helping them to find the best recipe or control setting for a particular process, notes Van Heerden.

AVEVA digital twin capabilities are being applied in varying ways, including discrete digital twins for singular resources or tasks; composite digital twins for complex processes, functions, or assets that encompass several discrete twins; and organizational digital twins for improving business-level outcomes.

Consortium’s sole focus is digital twins


The Digital Twin Consortium (DTC) was formed in 2020 to coalesce “industry, government, and academia to drive consistency in vocabulary, architecture, security, and interoperability of digital twin technology.” GE Digital and Bentley Systems are among its founding members.

DTC’s recently announced Open-Source Collaboration Community is open to consortium members and non-members. It is expected to encourage digital twin innovation, accelerate the adoption of enabling technology and solutions, and expand the DTC ecosystem. “Open-source projects are more flexible and respond more rapidly to market demands than closed counterparts,” says Dan Isaacs, CTO of DTC.

This story originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of Plant Services. Subscribe to Plant Services here.

About the Author: Sheila Kennedy
About the Author

Sheila Kennedy | CMRP

Sheila Kennedy, CMRP, is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics. She established Additive Communications in 2003 to serve software, technology, and service providers in industries such as manufacturing and utilities, and became a contributing editor and Technology Toolbox columnist for Plant Services in 2004. Prior to Additive Communications, she had 11 years of experience implementing industrial information systems. Kennedy earned her B.S. at Purdue University and her MBA at the University of Phoenix. She can be reached at [email protected] or www.linkedin.com/in/kennedysheila.

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