The use of infrastructure digital twins within the road and rail industry is continuing to gain momentum. The starting point of creating a digital twin is capturing the digital representation of the physical asset, its digital context. This process can involve reality data being captured from many different systems and devices, from planes, drones, and handheld cameras to terrestrial laser scanners and mobile mapping systems.
This webinar will explore how Bentley’s reality modelling solutions can help you capture, manage, analyse and share this real-world digital context to accelerate decision making during the design, construction and operations phases of large-scale civil infrastructure projects.
In this webinar learn about:
• The benefits of reality modelling for Road and Rail
• How to capture, manage, analyse and share your reality data
• Insights from existing local and international industry use cases
• Live Q&A with local reality modelling experts.
Using a digital twin to drive operational decisions when it comes to maintenance is about turning what could be a cost into an asset.
By 2025, the world will be creating 175 zettabytes annually, according to market research firm IDC’s Data Age 2025 report. To put that in context, one zettabyte is equivalent to one trillion gigabytes. How rapidly this data is growing can be demonstrated by the fact that in 2012, only one zettabyte of data existed.
But, with all this data being produced, how much of it is actually useful? While a rail organisation is only a small proportion of the global data total, according to Andrew Smith, solutions executive responsible for Bentley’s Rail and Transit solution, they are still producing a significant amount of data.
“Rail organisations typically are very data rich,” said Smith. “They’ve got a large number of asset disciplines because it’s a huge complex system and each of those asset disciplines has a number of inspection and measurement mechanisms that can produce data.”
This data on its own, however, is not yet a useful resource.
“Data is a discrete fact about something,” said Smith. “For example, the distance between the left and right rail at this location is X, but data is no use to you when you’re actually trying to either work out short term what you’re going to do or longer term what may happen in the future. What you need to do is start a transformation process, so the first step of that is to go from data to information, which is data in context with meaning attached.”
Giving data its context turns what can be seen as a cost, the accumulation and storage of data, into a resource, information that can be used to make a decision.
“In order to be able to do that, you need to have a framework in place that allows you to pull all the different classes of data together, such that you can see all of that data in context,” said Smith. “And to me, that’s at the heart of the digital twin.”
Digital twins are a replica or model of a system or asset that can be used to take the information that a rail organisation has, in the form of data, to create insights, that are conclusions drawn from data and information.
“When you bring all this information together, the digital twin can tell you how as well and why things are happening, and it can give you contextual history,” said Smith. “The digital twin can give you design intent information that you wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise, as well as the as-constructed record. Critically, a railway is a system, it’s not just a set of isolated components, and what a digital twin allows us to do is understand specifically the relationships between those components and how they can be affecting each other.”
While digital twins are widely used in many fields, including construction and manufacturing, they have a distinct role to play when it comes to the maintenance and management of rail assets. As the complexity of operating a railway requires various departments covering different skills and mandates, applying a digital twin can overcome the data and organisational silos. Smith, who has been working in the rail industry for over 20 years, highlights one way in which this can be applied.
“For anywhere that’s got overhead electrification for example, if you’re on ballasted track you can move the track from side to side through maintenance, but you need to maintain the relationship with the overhead wires, but these are often managed by two different teams. The digital twin will manage by design the relationship between the two. The maintenance records, where you’re going to go, and the type of maintenance you’re doing means that there is a chance that you will actually introduce a change to the overhead wire relationship. Therefore, you need to tag that work order as needing somebody to go out and actually measure the overhead wire relationship as well, whereas historically that relationship wouldn’t be as tightly coupled.”
DESIGNING A RAIL-BASED DIGITAL TWIN Getting to this level of maturity with a digital twin takes a deep understanding of how a rail network operates and how best to design a digital twin that fits the reality of a rail organisation. Bentley, as part of its portfolio of solutions in the rail and transit space, has experience working with rail operators around the globe to design and deploy digital twins. From this experience, Smith highlights, the usual understanding of what a digital twin is can be re-evaluated.
“Normally if you think about a digital twin you actually start with a four-dimensional model, however railways often don’t think in terms of XYZ axes. They tend to think in terms of linear distances with lateral and vertical offsets and that drives the way that measurements are made, the way that inspections are made, but also the way that maintenance is actually managed. If you’re sending someone to go out and do some tamping along a piece of track, you don’t send them to an XYZ coordinate or a latitude- longitude coordinate, you’ll send them this many metres past kilometre post seven on such and such a track.”
With this in mind, Smith suggests that digital twins in the rail space can be more useful if they are designed to fit the way that railways are understood. Then, the data that makes up the digital twin can be overlaid on the representation of the network. When needed, for example at a station or in yards, this data can be visualised as a three-dimensional model, but linear visualisations may be more appropriate for a section of track.
To get to the point of having a representation of a rail network, a large amount of data will have to be collected and interpreted. As managers of an array of legacy assets, rail organisations can turn to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to sort and organise the vast streams of data, said Smith.
“One of the challenges that we see with a digital twin for a lot of brownfield sites in particular is that there are a large number of assets in place that are not being represented digitally. Being able to use image recognition or identifying features from reality meshes and then being able to put an attribution against them is a great use of AI to be able to identify where the assets are.”
With this data in place, the twin must be maintained and kept up to date. With networks spanning across hundreds of kilometres, rail organisations can use automated surveys of a network to provide the constant data upkeep needed.
With the digital twin now operating as a living representation of a rail network, defect detection can be done in a way that gets to a root cause, rather than just addressing individual issues. One example, that Smith describes is if measurement scans identify vertical deterioration. A digital twin would then allow for a cross referencing against other assets that are in place, to see if there is a culvert on that section of track.
“Then I’m not going to send a tamper out,” said Smith. “The first thing that I’m going to do is send a crew out to inspect a culvert to see if it’s collapsing over time. The next thing I might want to do there is ask, if I’ve got twin track, am I seeing the same deterioration on both tracks? Normally they’d be considered in isolation, separate from each other. Then I would ask, has any maintenance taken place at this region? That’s not just maintenance of this asset, but all maintenance records, so I could say, ‘Hang on, someone actually went in there and did some maintenance work on the drainage in-between, but it happens to be in an area that’s close enough that it could’ve had an unexpected knock on onto the condition of the track.’”
These kinds of insights can only be gained through the kinds of insights a digital twin is able to offer, by bringing together disparate data and putting that data into context.
DRIVING THE SOLUTION While a digital twin may seem like a laudable goal on its own, according to Smith, the implementation of such a tool only makes sense when a rail organisation has identified what are the issues that it needs to solve.
“The driver here is not a technology change. The driver is to change the way of working, so an organisation has to first understand its current working practices, where the efficiencies and inefficiencies are, where the limitations and constraints may be, and then we can understand the aspirational state, where they actually want to be at some stage in the future.”
Implementing a digital twin begins with understanding the process of going from a current state to an aspirational state in the future. Rather than jumping in straight to a predictive maintenance solution, the first step may be to identify where the current most significant issue is, with a plan or vision to have a predictive system at a point in the future. Understanding where the technology is going to be implemented comes down to working with the people who are going to be using the software.
“It is absolutely critical that those people are engaged right from the outset, not just the management but the end users,” said Smith.
To get people on board, Bentley has used model offices where representative users are invited to be involved in the design process and give their insights into the particular challenges they face.
“Then there’s buy in,” said Smith. “There’s engagement at that side, which means that the final product is a tool that the engineers have designed and set up to help them do their job better that means they’re positive about the tool and they’re positive about the process change that’s in place to be able to do it.”
Rather than success looking like a piece of software that is installed to contract specifications, Smith outlines how in developing a success plan for the implementation of the software, the outcome is about delivering value.
“Owner operators of railways aren’t installing these systems because they like technology. Technology is an overhead to them – it’s a cost, an expense, and it’s a risk, so the only time that it’s worth doing is when they can show that the value is greater than the cost associated with it, so what we’re moving to is making sure that the focus is now on the value to the users instead,” said Smith.
“You can look into the future and run ‘what if’ scenarios. So, I’m going to increase the tonnage over a particular length of rail and I’m going to run a simulation of what that’s going to do to my rail replacement strategy that I have in place. We can use AI on top of this to look both tactically how do I optimise right now, where do I best spend money, but also starting to look further out by running simulations and trying to predict what the impact the change is going to have.”
This value can be defined in any number of ways, but as Smith highlights, it is the process of creating insights out of data.
Confirmed sessions include Greg Bentley, CEO of Bentley Systems in conversation with top-tier infrastructure executives on how they are meeting resilience challenges through digital advancement.
Keith Bentley, founder and chief technology officer, will discuss examples of deployed digital twins with those who have successfully adopted the technology.
Six sector-specific sessions will be held on October 20, with one specifically focused on the implications of digital twins for the rail and transit sector. These will involve interactive panel discussions with industry and business leaders.
Finally, the latest advances in Bentley Systems applications and cloud services will be on display with interactive demonstrations of the technology in the field.
The Year in Infrastructure conference is hosted by Bentley Systems, a software provider of design, construction, and operations solutions for infrastructure.
It may be a rule of thumb that the larger a rail project is, the more its costs are expected to increase. In Sydney, the construction of the Sydney Metro CBD and Southwest is expected to increase by $3 billion, a 25 per cent increase on the initial costing of $11.5 to 12.5bn. Indeed, the Grattan Institute estimates that every 10 per cent increase in a project’s size is associated with a 6 per cent higher chance of an overrun, and that any overrun that occurs will be 3 per cent larger.
So when you are building the most expensive rail project in the world, the cost overruns could be gigantic. Already, the HS2 project in the UK is estimated to cost as much as £106bn ($208bn), however, the project delivery authority has been told to find at least £500 million in digital efficiencies.
To do so, HS2 Ltd have looked to apply digital best practice in data and modelling requirements, with the requirement to meet PAS 1192 Building Information Modelling (BIM) standards. This standard mandates a fully collaborative 3D BIM, including electronic project and asset information, documentation and data.
Implementing these requirements joint venture Skanska Costain STRABAG (SCS), which has been awarded the civil works contract for the 250km southern section between London and Birmingham. The section, and the project as a whole, will carry the fastest trains in Europe and over 30,000 passengers a day. During early contractor involvement, SCS had to formulate and achieve approval of a conceptual design scheme of 26km of railway within 14 months. To meet the client’s BIM demands, SCS needed to accommodate existing British railway systems and 6,000 utility assets, not to mention the 20km of tunnels, bridges, and five kilometres of earthworks.
Using BIM software from Bentley systems, SCS created a library of components within ProjectWise and OpenBuildings Designer to enable a distributed workforce of six companies including 550 staff across four countries.
“We have 59 nationalities, so quite diverse cultures on the team, and we like to think BIM is the common language we all speak,” said Peter Ruff, head of BIM for SCS.
The SCS team used Assetwise to connect asset information to the design model, so that operations and maintenance could be involved early. This led to an integrated BIM system which allows for real-time access to trusted information.
“We wanted to make sure that everyone, designers and contractors, can use this information,” said Ruff.
The use of Bentley systems in this early stage enabled early clash detection within the project and when interacting with the numerous outside stakeholders. This has already saved an estimated £1 million. Design review time was also reduced by having models and data in a single digital location, which saved £500,000 and the time cost of searching for information spread across multiple systems.
Using a connected digital environment also improved costing processes, an area of focus for SCS, said Ruff.
“One of our key areas that we wanted to improve was our 5D approach, where we use the BIM models to estimate and price from.”
A structured digital data environment ensured consistency and transparency for all stakeholders, enabling further accuracy. This led to a £300,000 saving in a 50 per cent reduction in design changes and 75 per cent less resources used than planned.
Moving forward from the early contractor involvement stage, the SCS team are looking to their BIM strategy underlying the information model which can be used throughout the project lifecycle.
“Using Bentley solutions has allowed us at SCS to realize our mission statement of creating a project that will be seen as the ‘Digital Blueprint of Future Infrastructure Projects’” said Ruff. “They have allowed us to create, manage, and leverage intelligent BIM models and the data housed within them on a complex project and see a significant increase in productivity, efficiencies, and collaboration between a large team and a multistage contract.”
While rail and transit organisations are great at collecting various forms of data, they typically struggle to effectively analyse it in order to inform decision making. With the ongoing digital transformation, the increasing volume and speed at which data can be collected, and therefore needs to be consumed, is becoming a significant problem for track maintenance teams.
Compounding this is the likelihood that data is coming from multiple hardware suppliers, each providing their own independent software solution for its analysis, resulting in the creation of data silos across the organisation. What is needed is a solution that is hardware-neutral. A system that provides the ability to consolidate and manage all third-party information, thereby providing easy access to data it can trust as the basis of all types of analysis, including for example linear analytics related to track maintenance.
The data silo obstacles for rail and transit
With data coming from multiple sources and in many formats, the variety of this information often exceeds the understanding of a single person. Different teams will likely use a range of isolated datasets to perform specific activities across a network, and different team members will typically use and understand the different types of data in a number of ways, so the system should allow for the seamless sharing of datasets between the business units involved. In a world where so-called ‘Big Data’ is increasingly the basis for critical decisions within an organisation, any solution they deploy needs to address four substantial obstacles of these ‘Linear Data’ silos.
If you thought that the Australian cities of Sydney and Melbourne were congested, spare a thought for the commuters of Kuala Lumpur. Ranked by the Asian Development Bank as the second most congested city in Asia, after Manilia, the region of Greater Kuala Lumpur is home to 7.25 million people, and is in the process of opening a three-line rapid mass transit system.
The first line, the Sungai Buloh-Kajang Line, opened in 2017 and the project team at MRT Corp wanted to take what they found in the process of constructing this line and apply it to the next two lines.
First is the Sungai Buloh-Serdang-Putrajaya Line, which is forecast to begin operating in July 2021.
One angle of improvement was time and cost certainty. Similar to other projects around the world, construction management was a key area, as the team identified the use of building information management (BIM) workflows as a way to improve this aspect of the project.
MRT Corp chose to adopt digital twins using Bentley solutions. This software enabled the project team to create and visualise its digital assets. From there, information on the status of elements of the construction process can be found, and the team can perform analysis and leverage insights through the system.
The BIM system from Bentley adopted by MRT Corp was able to leverage the projects Asset Information Management (AIM) system. This integrated documents, asset tags, equipment, maintenance class and frewquency, manufacturer’s name, and contact details, with the asset visualisation program.
This system will not only be of use during the construction phase of the project, but by having a Master Asset Register (MAR), operations and maintenance teams can easily access information on assets and equipment throughout the operational life of the railway.
“Going digital with Bentley, including our use of a digital twins approach, is helping MRT Corp to implement the business processes and systems it needs to spearhead the digital future of construction in Malaysia,” said Aswadi Yusof, BIM champion with MRT Corp.
During the construction phase of the project as asset data is introduced to the digital twin, assets can be visualised and located within the 3D model. This enables the project team to understand how this asset and equipment fits with other elements of the project. Bentley estimates that this will reduce the whole life cost of the railway.