Sami's business review – Digital Twins – are we overcomplicating?

Sami Koponen, Vice President: Process & Industry, discusses the role of digital twins in the process industry. What kind of implementation makes sense?

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Written by Sami Koponen

Posted on December 02, 2020

According to Wikipedia, a digital twin is a digital replica of physical assets, processes, people, places, systems and devices. In the process industry, that translates to a digital replica of a process plant that exists alongside the physical plant, changing and evolving as the actual plant does during its lifetime.

The implementation of such systems requires massive hardware and software investments, thousands of man-hours and the adoption of a range of new technologies and working methods. As such, the implementation projects are huge and complex. But is this the only option for digital twins?

In many ways, the way digital twins are thought and spoken about is part of the challenge. The focus seems to be mostly on the implementation of large and complex systems in search of achieving true digital replicas. But how great is the practical need for such implementations? The perceived complexity and related costs of implementing such systems makes EPCs, plant owners and plant operators hesitate. In some approaches, it is the actual platforms that digital twins are built on that come across as overly complex. Are we overcomplicating? I think so.

A range of different digital twin implementations are possible

The first point to note is that digital transformation is not happening uniformly across companies and industrial sectors. Some companies may be ready to transform completely, while others see only the need in certain spheres of their operations. Some may already be far along in the process, whereas others are only on the starting line. In short, each company has unique needs and you cannot sell an all-fits-one approach to digital transformation.

Many companies want to start small and with relatively simple implementations, such as using a basic 3D model of the plant, which can be connected to the most critical process or materials management systems. Over time, and if necessary, different systems and processes can be added in increments. The digital twin is thus built incrementally over a period, not a once-off transformative implementation.

Flexibility in implementation is also important. Allowing companies to make use of 3D models or point clouds they already have, and assisting them to integrate these with selected management, monitoring and planning systems, is something that is highly appreciated.

CADMATIC eShare platform for creation of digital twins

At CADMATIC, we believe that our eShare platform is the ideal solution for the creation of digital twins. It provides companies with the flexibility to implement digital twins incrementally according to their needs. Importantly, it visualizes design data and data linked from external systems in the 3D model and, as such, does not require the relocation or cloud storage of sensitive data. The easy and short implementation of eShare makes it seamless and functional platform for your digital twin, regardless whether your need it for engineering, construction or operations.

If you have not tried eShare for free yet, I strongly recommend you give it a try. Me and my team are happy to support you and answer any questions you may have.