Make digital twins easier to implement for manufacturing industries

International: Move from vision to reality: It’s time to embrace digital twins for manufacturing. Benefits include more efficient digital transformations and more effective asset monitoring and performance.

By Aileen Jin December 5, 2019

New digital twin cloud applications and services with 4-D visualization and open programming ecosystem provide more opportunities and possibilities for manufacturing digital twins. Bentley Systems and its strategic partners announced the latest software and services of digital twins on Oct. 20 at Bentley’s Year in Infrastructure (YII) 2019 Conference in Singapore.

After Bentley and Siemens launched the PlantSight cloud service in 2018, the two companies developed a new digital twin service for Capital Asset Lifecycle Management (CALM), which works within Siemens’ Teamcenter across the enterprise to advance and improve capital program decision-making. PlantSight and Teamcenter CALM are powered by Bentley’s iTwin Services, launched at YII 2019, using digital engineering content from building information modeling (BIM) design tools and multiple data sources, enabling 4-D visualization of digital twins, and logging of engineering changes along a project timeline, to provide an accountable record of who changed what and when.

Different from PlantSight, which focuses on process industry operations and maintenance, the CALM software will benefit greenfield and brownfield discrete and process implementations, including energy, consumer goods, automotive and transportation industries.

Old and new digital assets

“It was created to address the challenges typically faced across an enterprise’s greenfield and brownfield capital projects,” said Torsten Beste, senior director enterprise engineering of Siemens Industry Software. With the CALM software, manufacturing companies could consolidate asset data and weave a digital thread from project initiation and delivery into operations, to realize greater efficiency throughout the lifecycle of capital assets.

According to McKinsey & Company, 98% of megaprojects incur cost overruns or delays, averaging a cost increase of 80% and delaying delivery by 20 months. Inefficiencies created in project delivery are passed down to operators where they can exist for decades.

“Lost efficiency gives manufacturers a headache,” said Senthil Kumar, product lifecycle management business consultant of Siemens Industry Software. “CALM can help them make the digital transformation, connect the process digital twin, plant digital twin and performance digital twin, and feed insights to continuously improve capital assets.”

John Sanins, director of strategic channel at Bentley Systems, said, “By leveraging Bentley’s iTwin services and new simulation technologies, CALM can monitor and improve” performance and efficiency of users’ assets. “In the real world,” Sanins continued, “factories may have different data from disparate systems and different sources, including 1-D, 2-D, and 3-D design and engineering data from third-party computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided engineering (CAE), and BIM tools. To maximize the user’s investment, we need to manage all this information on an enterprise level, and work within an ecosystem where we must be able to share and collaborate and exchange information in an open way.”

Digital twin execution plan

Digital twin implementations, which have been discussed in the manufacturing industry for several years, have stayed in the concept and planning stages most of the time. This year’s YII event shows digital twins are more acceptable and feasible to companies. According to the YII 2019 Awards, digital twin advancements featured in 24 finalist projects in 15 categories in project locations across 14 countries including transportation, water networks and treatment plants, to power stations, steel plants and buildings. Overall, 139 nominations in 17 categories cited digital twin objectives for the innovations used on their projects, a significant increase from 29 nominations in 2018.

If you haven’t made a digital twin execution plan, perhaps now is the time. As Bentley’s chief technology officer (CTO), Keith Bentley, said, “Today the ‘digital twin era’ is underway, and its pace accelerates every day.”

Open-source digital assets

The advantages gained by replacing decades-old, disconnected paper-based workflows and work products with open, live, trusted and evergreen digital twins are immense. Coupling that with an ecosystem of innovation through open-source platforms creates a force for change in infrastructure. Open-source is among the future digital-twin trends.

“One of the main advantages of the partnership between Siemens and Bentley is that both parties are open to the concept of digital twins,” said Pierre De Wet, vice president of asset performance at Bentley Systems.

Torsten added, “We hope to create a comprehensive digital twin — an open and flexible ecosystem for our customers, which could integrate the old systems and third-party systems, not only bring the information in, but also to exchange information between the systems.”

Both iTwin Services and PlantSight were developed with the iModel.js open-source platform for digital twins, launched in October 2018 and reaching version 1.0 in June 2019. A primary reason for open-sourcing the iModel.js library is to foster an ecosystem of innovation for owners’ and engineers’ digital twin software developers and for digital integrators.

Siemens and Bentley have been working together for 20 years, starting with the MicroStation product. With new iTwin Services and Siemens digital industries software, manufacturing companies could integrate multiple data sources, like engineering data, reality data, and IoT data, create an immersive experience in 3-D/4-D, gain a better performance of assets, and transition to digitalization.

Aileen Jin is editor-in-chief of Control Engineering China. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,


KEYWORDS: Digital twin, asset management, digitalization

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Author Bio: Aileen Jin is editor-in-chief of Control Engineering China.