The Case For Creating A Digital Twin For Your Capital Project

The Case For A Digital Twin

You’ve revolutionized your business efficiency with a digital twin for your physical properties. So why don’t you have a digital twin for your project delivery components?

Consider the tremendous benefits of the modern digital twin. The continuous collection and analysis of sensor data from petrochemical installations has produced astonishing new efficiencies that were inconceivable just a few decades ago. As an industry, we now have unrivalled insight into our physical properties: we can monitor and manage operations remotely, quickly identify potential risks, and literally fix things before they break.

It’s time to expand that remarkable new efficiency to our capital project teams. In this article, we’re going to make the case for applying digital-twin thinking for your non-engineering data.

What would that look like?

Take this common scenario: A construction manager has a question about a design, and files a request for information (RFI). Typically this is done via email, and the record of the resulting exchange is held in an email string, which is buried in the company servers (if it’s kept at all). Any effort to understand or analyze costly and time-consuming RFIs at a higher level — project-wide, company-wide — requires companies to hire a team of researchers to hunt down individual exchange records like these, consolidate them in a spreadsheet, then conduct an analysis, and write a report.

A digital twin of the capital project team would eliminate the majority of that work. Instead of sending an email, the construction manager would use collaborative, cloud-based software to send the RFI to the engineering team. It’s critical to note that there’s no additional work for the team, they just use a different tool to send the message. The difference is that, unlike email, the collaborative cloud-based software captures the exchange in a digital twin. 

This means that a project manager looking for insight into the number, type and outcome of RFIs could access this data with a click of a button. An Owner looking for insight into company-wide trends — say, the top three RFI categories across multiple projects — could easily access that information as well. Once this technology is adopted industry-wide, researchers can mine anonymized data from multiple companies and make findings that radically improve communication between engineering and construction. 

That’s how you use technology to drive increase project efficiency, and that’s why you need a digital twin for your project delivery system.

The analytical capacity of a digital twin is not limited to the analysis of RFIs. Purpose-built software for capital projects can capture, aggregate and analyze data on any aspect of project management and execution that is important to your organization. In an industry plagued by soaring transactional costs and late, over-budget projects, there are countless opportunities to leverage project data for improved efficiencies. Here are a few:

1 | Real-Time Assurance

We’ve written at length about the power of real-time assurance. Your project digital twin facilitates real-time assurance by giving you the capacity to continuously monitor progress and risks in your capital project execution. As you progress, you’ll automatically benchmark against key milestones and comparable projects, freeing your assurance team to conduct expert reviews of key deliverables and work directly with project managers to not just identify problems, but to address them. 

2 | Lessons Learned 

Your project digital twin will feed data into a sophisticated knowledge base that can support and facilitate unrivaled analysis of lessons learned. Instead of an expensive and limited one-off review at the very end of the project, you’ll collect specific, relevant, highly contextualized data throughout the project execution, and you’ll leverage all that big data to extract powerful lessons for application to future projects. 

3 | Live Project Execution Plan

A purpose-built, cloud-based collaborative platform for capital projects can capture work product in real time, creating a powerful digital twin that feeds a live Project Execution Plan, or PEP. A modern, digital PEP transforms legacy paper-based project plans into a live document that serves as an up-to-the-minute, single source of truth on a project, from beginning to end. This is the key to managing complexity and driving increased efficiency on multi-year, multi-continent, multi-billion-dollar capital projects — and it all starts with a digital twin.

These are just three of the most obvious opportunities to improve capital project execution with a project digital twin. The possibilities are endless and can be customized to reflect the unique nature of your business and your industry vertical. The technology is so powerful that it’s not a question of if the industry will adopt it, it’s really a question of when. 

Who will get the first-mover advantage?

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