What can we learn? At SNC Lavalin’s Trillium Line South Extension rail project in Canada, we have been using digital twin technology to create a vir- tual replica of the railway stations in Ottawa. This replica has enabled us to design in 3D with spatial awareness. We are also using data and simula- tion capabilities to model everything from people to train and car movements in the surrounding area. These simulations inform the design of the facilities using real insights. The technological advance- ments allow us to make key design decisions much earlier in the process to
cases. A key advantage of this digitization of processes is the improved learning and knowledge transfer process and the reduced time to get workers trained on performing new tasks. 3. Data-rich decision-making At the core of the digital twin concept is the opportunity to connect an organization’s data together, mine it for insights, and then use it to inform decision-making. Most organizations already have a lot of data stored, but often the data is siloed and disconnected, making it harder to use and analyze. Connecting data sets provides a means to powerful insights. When we have better insights, we can ask better questions and make better decisions. This has been well demonstrated in the technology space where, for market leaders, this process is fundamental to their business model. Look at Facebook and Google. These organizations have brought huge volumes of data together – particularly user data – and interpret them in meaningful ways. We are seeing the benefits come to life in infrastructure as well. For example, in a pilot program currently underway, the New York Met- ropolitan Transportation Authority (NYMTA) is testing the ability to aggregate track condition data across various operating entities and then tying the data to spatial location. By looking across the agency in one common operating picture, NYMTA can analyze heat maps to improve prioritization of maintenance and capital programs. This virtual representation of the physical assets is pointing to potential efficiencies in combining and consolidating work activities, some- thing that was previously impossible. The ability to combine mainte- nance activities could enable reduced outage times and optimization of critical resources.
ensure a facility is fit for purpose and can withstand everything the daily commute will throw at it. We are now exploring how to incor- porate artificial intelligence into the design process to improve our understanding of how the systems will behave and allow us to leverage prediction in our design process. Sharing best practice and knowledge when it comes to digital twins not only helps adjacent industries to learn more about the technology and its applications but jump-starts cross-sector collaboration that is so critical to innovation. Looking outwards at how businesses are already employing digital twin technology will help us all to take inspiration back to our own industries. The best insights often come from unlikely places. The bottom line is that digital twins are revolutionizing the way an orga- nization designs, plans, builds and maintains. An appreciation of their value and a willingness to look at the big picture will ensure companies capitalize on the full spectrum of opportunities digital twins can bring.
RICHARD LESLIE is Director, Strategic Services - Rail & Transit Engineering, SNC-Lavalin, Canada and Donna Huey, Director of Client Technology, SNC- Lavalin, US
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