By Nour Aljafari, University of Birmingham Doctoral Researcher
Digital twins are reshaping many industries namely asset management and manufacturing. It offers new ways to monitor assets, reduce costs and carry out maintenance. To this end, the ongoing rise of Internet of Things (IOT) allows us to leverage the benefits of many digital technologies including; big data, data analytics, machine learning etc.
Asset management can be defined as the optimal management of the physical assets of an organisation to maximise value by managing assets across the facility. Organisations can improve utilisation and performance, reduce capital costs, reduce asset-related operating costs, extend asset life and subsequently improve ROA (return on assets). Practically asset management has focused more on gathering asset information such as location, configuration, maintenance and performance. However, all the collected data does little by itself if not analysed properly improve the asset’s performance and associated decision making.
Asset management practitioners are currently facing many challenges. Some of the challenges are rooted on the inadequate ways of handling huge amounts of data. For example, paper-based technical documentation of asset condition, outdated information and holding information in silos. Such practices of handling data are causing poor visibility of asset performance and a low first-visit fix rate because the problem cannot be immediately identified.
To this end, there is a need for a platform that makes data more organised in a form that allows easy analysis and optimal data utilisation to improve asset’s performance and efficiency. This is where a Digital Twin comes to aid.
It is a virtual image of the asset maintained throughout its entire life-cycle. It is easily accessible at anytime from a single platform, providing powerful analysis, insights and diagnosis.
Digital Twins bring together sensory information, installation and service information and contextual information. Every piece of equipment has a unique identifier associated with one master record that is stored in a cloud where the digital world records what is going on in the physical world.
A Digital Twin remains operational throughout the entire life-cycle of an asset; starting with the design of the asset through its production, installation, operation and finally decommission.
Different stakeholders within the asset management industry can benefit from the Digital Twin technology. On the one hand, organisations will be able to proactively repair and plan for equipment service, predict an asset’s failure, increase operational efficiency, plan manufacturing processes and perform enhanced product development. Digital Twins will enable asset operators to: receive notifications and service work summaries, reduce manual asset search, reduce asset life cycle cost as well as move away from multiple platforms and establish one channel for multiple manufacturers and service providers. Lastly, asset manufactures can have greater transparency around the use of an asset, and the information offered could be used as a basis for planning future models.
It is pertinent that we have skilled engineers to manage the processes of Digital Twin – to ensure the accurate virtual configuration of the physical asset and to optimally utilise the data stored within the digital twin.