Year in Infrastructure conference highlights digital twin innovation

At the Year in Infrastructure conference, hosted by infrastructure software company Bentley Systems, audiences were told that adoption of digital tools for infrastructure delivery and operations will only accelerate after the experience of COVID-19.

With global investment in infrastructure as method of economic recovery coming together with the impetus for more sustainable methods of construction and mobility, efficiencies through using digital tools are becoming unavoidable.

Through the use of digital twins for modelling and simulations in the design and construction phase, or for monitoring asset and network performance in the operational stage, more environmentally friendly materials can be used, waste can be reduced, while costs can be reduced and timelines shortened.

In addition, as COVID-19 has demonstrated, projects will still need to continue even when workforces are dispersed, either working from home, or across countries without being able to easily meet in person.

These factors have meant that digital tools such as those supplied by Bentley Systems are invaluable for infrastructure builders, managers, and operators.

Another macro factor that is impacting on the adoption of digital tools in the infrastructure space is the possibilities of big data and IoT. With more data being collected than ever, modelling and simulation software will be needed to make sense of this data and allow it to be seen as a productive resource.

One example of the benefit of digital twins can be seen in the adoption of digital engineering tools in the design and construction of the world’s tallest rail pier girder bridge in northern India. Constructed by Indian Railways, the railway bridge is required to support high-speed and broad gauge trains for the next century in difficult terrain. Seismic events and strong winds were also a concern for the 141 metre tall bridge.

On of the Year in Infrastructure Awards finalists, Indian Railways is using Bentley tools including OpenRail, PLAXIS, and STAAD, and the project has been able to make savings of US$24.61 million ($34.58m). These efficiencies were found through the better selection of types of materials and construction methodologies.

Once the bridge is complete, embedded instruments and drone surveys will be used to monitor the health of the bridge remotely, with a digital twin used to simulate how the bridge is behaving and the effect of inputs. This will ensure the infrastructure manager will be able to make timely decisions to ensure the sustainability of the bridge.

reality modelling

Webinar: Leverage reality modelling for linear infrastructure projects

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.

Register for the live webinar here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_EUYrlSHbRwKnKSWmzWe67Q.

Digital

HS2 going digital to save time, cost, carbon

On the most expensive railway on earth, the pressure to get the build right first time is leading to the project team innovating in digital engineering.

In the design and construction of the UK’s HS2, a high-speed rail line connecting London with Birmingham, teams are collaborating and using digital twins to design, construct and maintain the railway. The client, the UK government, hopes to achieve savings in the order of £250 million ($450m) through digital engineering.

Beginning underneath central London, the project team, a joint venture of Skanska, Costain and STRABAG (SCS) needed a digital model that could incorporate the complicated interfaces of building under the ancient metropolis. The system that they turned to is Bentley Systems’ suite of digital tools.

Roberto Alberola, BIM information manager for Typsa which is working for SCS on the project, described why a digital solution was needed.

“The complexity of the project demanded a very high level of control of the technical outputs (models, drawings, data), so the ‘traditional’ approach – using standardized content, trusting existing or external databases and going with software defaults wouldn’t suffice.

“We created a complete custom live working environment for Bentley’s OpenBuildings Designer that lives in ProjectWise, ensuring that the models are built from a centralised library so that all the information is added consistently, achieving the highest data quality required to feed in all the downstream processes.”

Already, with the project in its early construction phases, the benefit of going digital is being realised. Through better sequencing reduced delays have allowed for better control, while enabling improvements in speed, accuracy, and efficiency. Alberola said that using 4D planning has created a 30 per cent reduction in planning time so far.

Not only will using digital tools in the design and construct phase benefit the delivery of the project, but also the project’s outcomes and legacy. The digital solution not only accounts for financial cost, but also the carbon and emissions cost. Reducing waste early on ultimately leads to a better outcome for all stakeholders.

Year in Infrastructure

International infrastructure awards open for nominations

Nominations are now open for the Year in Infrastructure 2020 Awards.

Hosted by Bentley Systems, a software provider for design, construction, and infrastructure operations, the awards are independently judged and recognise projects that have committed to digital innovation to improve project delivery and asset performance.

Projects that are at any stage can be nominated, the only requirement being that the projects have used Bentley Systems software.

The awards will be presented at Bentley’s Year in Infrastructure Conference, held in Vancouver from October 12 to 15. Finalists in each of the categories will be flown to the conference to present their projects before the judges, thought leaders, and media.

The categories are:

  • 4d digital construction;
  • Bridges;
  • Buildings and campuses;
  • Digital cities;
  • Geotechnical engineering;
  • Land and site development;
  • Manufacturing;
  • Mining and offshore engineering;
  • Power generation;
  • Project delivery;
  • Rail and transit;
  • Reality modelling;
  • Roads and highways;
  • Road and rail asset performance;
  • Structural engineering;
  • Utilities and communications;
  • Utilities and industrial asset performance;
  • Water and wastewater treatment plants; and
  • Water, wastewater and stormwater networks.

In addition, there are three broader categories which go beyond the sector categories. These are; advancements in digital twins for project delivery, advancements in digital twins for asset performance, and advancements in sustainability and resilience.

Using digital systems to cut project cost

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.

Realising the potential for digital twins in rail

Digital twins have become one of the most talked about topics because of their promise to leverage innovation to improve design, visually enhance collaboration, and increase asset reliability, and performance, explains Meg Davis, senior product marketing manager for the Bentley AssetWise transportation asset management products.

However, rail is a very traditional and safety-sensitive industry, and with the backdrop of owner-operators and project delivery firms needing to work within tighter budgets, shorter deadlines, and with increased legislation, change can be slow and challenging.

While the risks associated with changing a tried-and-true formula weigh heavily on the minds of those responsible, the upside is that the highly complex nature of rail networks and systems allow for the opportunity to innovate and leverage technology to change the way rail networks do business.

Many owner-operators around the world have recognised the potential for digital twins in their work and have begun to explore the opportunities for applying big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) throughout the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of rail and transit networks.

What is a digital twin?

A digital twin is a digital representation of a physical asset, process, or system, as well as the engineering information that allows us to understand and model its performance. Plainly stated, a digital twin is a highly detailed digital model that is the counterpart (or twin) of a physical asset. That asset might be anything from a ticket machine or escalator in a station, through track and the switches and crossings within it, to related infrastructure like overpasses or overhead line structures, right up to and including an entire city.

Connected devices and sensors on the physical asset collect data that might relate to condition or performance that can be mapped onto the digital twin to understand how the physical asset is performing in the real world, but also, through analysis or simulation, how it might perform in the future or with a different set of parameters.

Plainly stated, a digital twin is a highly detailed digital model that is the counterpart (or twin) of a physical asset.

Why are digital twins important?

Digital twin technology has existed in industries like manufacturing for many years, driving lean processes, improving performance, and predicting and highlighting components at risk of failure. Additionally, digital twin technology ensures that the lessons learned contribute to design enhancement and are applied to future products and systems. The relevance and influence of digital twins, which span the entire asset lifecycle, are significant when applied to rail infrastructure.

During the planning, design, and construction of a new railway or major upgrade, project digital twins can enable the optimisation of design in line with operational requirements and reduce the risk of delayed or nonconformant construction through simulation. Project digital twins can also improve logistics and communication within the supply chain, which can help maintain the schedule and budget.

During operations, performance digital twins become the most valuable. Owner-operators gain insight when inputs from Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices, such as drones that deliver continuous surveys to provide real-time tracking of asset changes in real-world conditions, add to the digital representation. This transparency helps owner-operators prioritise and improve maintenance or upgrades.

Consequently, the most significant value a rail or transit system can achieve is through the successful implementation of digital twin technology. By using digital twins to plan, design, and build the network, and utilising the digital twin during operations, a rail or transit owner-operator will improve performance and reliability.

With the application of AI and ML, analytics visibility gained from big data can provide insight and immersive digital operations to enhance the effectiveness of operations and maintenance. In this instance, access to performance digital twins might enable staff to anticipate and avoid issues before they arise or improve reaction times to system failures to reduced downtime.

With the application of drones and robots, plus AI-based computer vision, automating inspection tasks via a digital twin experts can conduct inspections remotely, increase productivity, leveraging the value of specialists, and reducing the risk of exposing team members to dangerous environments.

Realising the potential of digital twins

There must be practical solutions for the synchronisation of the physical asset’s changing condition to realise the full potential of digital twins. The timing and scope of this synchronisation is key because certain assets update in near real-time, which can be critical to their reliability. For others, a weekly, monthly, or even annual update on condition may be sufficient. Therefore, it is important that the organisations and professionals involved have a clear strategy when setting the criteria for synchronisation, including which assets should be analysed, when, and by what parameters.

However, merely capturing and representing physical conditions, including IoT inputs, can never be sufficient enough to understand, analyse, or model intended improvements, without also comprehending the digital engineering information used in the project’s or asset’s engineering design and specification.

Digital engineering information is like the “digital DNA” for infrastructure assets. Just as doctors can analyse human DNA to anticipate health issues and personalise care for better health outcomes, project delivery firms can harness digital engineering information to enable collaboration, improve decision making, and deliver better project outcomes.

For owners, leveraging “digital DNA” is all about creating and using digital twins to their full advantage—personalising asset maintenance and maximising asset reliability and uptime. It is about creating an open, connected data environment (CDE) that provides trusted information wherever and whenever it is needed to help design, build, operate, and maintain physical assets. Then, owners will use digital twins to make better decisions, gain more efficiency, and improve performance.

Maha Metro uses Bentley’s OpenRail solution iModels as its final delivery format due to its ability to provide reliable, long-lasting asset models for reference.

 

Current networks are the digital twins for future projects

Bentley sees its users advancing digital workflows and using intelligent components, and digital context to improve project delivery and/or enable assets to perform better, every day and all around the world. One organisation achieving these objectives is Maharashtra Metro (Maha Metro) in Nagpur, India.

Maha Metro’s implementation of Bentley’s OpenRail solution uses iModels as its final delivery format due to their ability to provide reliable, long-lasting asset models for reference. The organisation is committed to a full lifecycle approach and has deployed a digital project delivery system with OpenRail’s connected data environment (CDE) at its core and encompassing every phase of the asset lifecycle from planning to performance.

Maha Metro’s CDE is configured to record all data and uses asset tags to link components created with Bentley’s open modelling applications, such as its enterprise resource planning system. Hundreds of thousands of drawings and documents are transacted among approximately 400 users within the CDE currently, providing real-time access to trusted information wherever and whenever it is needed. The expansive CDE also provides data mobility to close communication gaps, speed up design issue resolution and approvals, and achieve millions of US dollars in cost savings.

The digital DNA Maha Metro and its supply chain is creating during design and construction will allow the organisation to manage current, future, and refurbished assets. By ensuring this trusted information remains current and accessible, the organisation’s system will enable strategic decision making, establish condition-based monitoring, and progress toward predictive maintenance strategies that are expected to save at least USD 222 million over 25 years of the railway’s operational life.

It is clear that digital twins are gaining momentum, particularly within organisations that presently have IoT initiatives. The emergent nature of digital twins will require an approach with clear business objectives and an agile approach to experiment and learn from experiences. Just as Maha Metro is setting the agenda and direction for the industry, we at Bentley fully expect to see the use and adoption of digital twins become common place within rail owners and their supply chains.