Digital Twin: A tool for the new normality

Digital Twin: A tool for the new normality

The new situation, with the need to adapt our operations and our entire organization to a coexistence with COVID-19 sets us some important challenges. The environmental conditions can change quickly and considerably in the event of an upsurge or any impact on personnel in our organization. Additionally, until there is a vaccine against COVID-19 we will have a new “normality” in which we will have to manage a series of additional measures that increase the complexity of design, management and control of our operations.

The physical operating environment (PO) in which we maintain assets, be they machinery, industrial facilities or building equipment, requires physical access to these assets. Unlike office (IT) environments, where the possibility of remote access and teleworking is relatively viable, access to infrastructure and facilities still requires a high level of physical presence. This makes it particularly vulnerable to situations such as the present one, where the availability and mobility of people can be seriously affected from one moment to the next. And where any action that minimizes the risk and possibility of contagion can make a big difference.

This crisis has taught us that we must be better prepared to manage complex and changing situations. To do so, we must be able to adapt our organization and our operations to a very changing environment, and therefore make them more resilient.

Digital asset management using Digital Twins brings certain advantages in any scenario, but in critical situations like the present one, they can make a big difference. A digital twin allows a much closer management of real infrastructures than only using traditional systems such as SCADAS, BMS and CMMS.

In operation and maintenance, it allows, among other things, to visualize the infrastructures in a 3D model with the real operation and maintenance data. This helps considerably in minimizing the number of physical interventions and rationalizing those that are carried out, optimizing access and performance of each of them, and allowing the aggregation of activities in a single visit / intervention. Additionally, if the interventions are to be performed by personnel who do not normally work in those facilities, the help of a digital twin can be very important in optimizing this intervention by minimizing personnel exposure.

In the management of assets, spaces and monitoring, the digital twin can help us in an agile management of the spaces for quick changes in terms of space dedication. We can see the availability of additional space for storage, ease of access and availability of equipment in order to recondition spaces in an agile way. This point becomes even more relevant if we have multiple assets to manage in a situation where it is necessary to streamline visits and inspections by people. A twin helps us to manage such complicated aspects as adapting seating capacity, social distancing control, access control (temperature, masks, etc.), flow of people, etc. A set of aspects that until now we had not had to manage in a dynamic way, and therefore we do not have tools that facilitate this management.

Having a digital twin of our facilities/buildings/infrastructure always provides great value, but in situations of uncertainty and major changes, this may be the tool that makes the difference in the management of these scenarios, thus enabling much more resilient operations in a situation like the present.