18 Feb 2020

Organisations in all industries are under pressure to deliver more robust and more innovative operating models. We explore how integrating BIM with digital twins can help you gain an edge on the competition.

The world is in transition. Challenges and opportunities arise with increasing frequency, customers are more demanding, and societal expectations are higher. These changes, combined with the rapid rate of digital innovation, are forcing significant businesses transformation across almost every sector – and widescale strategic changes for many organisations. 

Visionary leaders understand there is a need to evolve; to focus on enhancing agility and resilience, improving decision-making, planning smarter, and delivering new experiences to delight customers.

This requires developing new, more robust and more innovative commercial and operating models. And digital transformation is the first step.

Digital twins: driving operational excellence in a digital age

The key to surviving and thriving in this new digital age is by making assets more agile and adaptable. This requires the right technology. But it also requires the right mentality, and the willingness to approach physical environments with a digital mindset.  

This means looking at assets, not as siloed, capex-focused investments, but instead as ongoing projects; environments that can be continuously improved upon and adapted. In the long run, this will provide greater value to your customers – but you can’t achieve this without the right insights. 

The best way to gain those insights, is with digital twins.

Digital twins allow you to visualise, monitor and optimise your assets, processes and resources, by harnessing real-time data that provides vital insights into performance.

These insights open the door for a process of continuous performance improvements. But, vitally, they can also inform better designs in the future. 

An infinite loop of continuous innovation and learning

By automating these processes, you can use your digital twins to create self-learning systems capable of optimising everything from energy consumption to maintenance scheduling – reducing costs while maximising impact and value.

However, one of the challenges in realising these systems is the gap between capital expenditure and the required operational improvements. Quite often the departments tasked with designing and constructing assets are disconnected from those focused on improving them, with management and finance teams operating separately from both.

It’s a project vs process approach, and to connect these approaches you need a solution that can bring everyone together on the same page.

What is BIM?

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a collaborative process where a shared digital representation of an asset is used to facilitate design, construction and operation processes.

Not only useful for improving decision-making, BIM has emerged as a conduit for connecting information and ideas between different stakeholders. Yet, despite its potential for linking the design and asset management phases of a project, it’s often used solely as a 3D-modelling tool for design and construction.

The information management principles of BIM make it ideally suited as part of a wider digital twinning strategy, where it can be used to bring all phases of a project together. By integrating structured ‘information models’ and processes within a digital twin, powering them with operational data from IoT feeds and sensors, and using predictive technologies, both design and operational phases can be connected and enhanced to deliver greater overall value.

The advantages of this approach can be huge. But before connecting BIM with dynamic data sources there are a number of things to consider:

  • Data Integrity: Your insights are only as good as your data, both static and dynamic. So, you need to find a way to ensure that data maintains its integrity – and in a cost-effective manner. 
  • Data Granularity: Similarly, not all data incorporated in design is relevant for operational use. A decision must be taken on what data sources are necessary to include at both design and operational stages.
  • Data Governance: Differing standards and exchange formats may require extensions to BIM and other common data structures. This is vital to enable interoperability between the various technologies in a digital twin ecosystem.
  • Data Deficiencies: Greenfield projects can often be seen as easy due to the blank canvas and license to take a digital-first mentality from the get-go. However, when faced with existing assets and operations, a lack of data is often a problem. Taking a digital-first modernisation approach, with a focus on data development, will return dividends in these circumstances.
  • Human Factors: Silos within organisations can cause big problems. To succeed you need to ensure that teams responsible for Capex and Opex decisions are able to collaborate closely, and early in the design process. 
  • Data Democratisation: The priority should be to make information from digital twins accessible to the end user, without them having to use complex IT technologies.

At Royal HaskoningDHV we have years of experience connecting BIM with digital twins to help our clients optimise processes, lower costs, and design and deliver more efficient assets.

With our 140-year history in engineering, and cutting-edge BIM, predictive simulation and data science capabilities, we’re perfectly positioned to help you overcome the above challenges and take advantage of this huge opportunity.

Want to learn more? Get in touch to see how we can help.

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  1. Why now is the time to update your operating model
  2. How BIM and digital twins can transform your assets
  3. 6 BIM challenges to look out for


Bart Brink
Global Director Digital Twin
View author bio

Graeme Routledge
Marketing Director