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Seizing Digital Opportunities to Increase Project Control in Natural Resources Projects

By Eric Wilson, Vice President, Turner and Townsend

Seizing Digital Opportunities to Increase Project Control in Natural Resources ProjectsEric Wilson, Vice President, Turner and Townsend

Staying competitive is imperative for natural resources companies to sustain and thrive in uncertainty. Whilst the concept of a digital twin is not new, the advancement of technology is enabling digital transformation and the ability to drive informed decision making.

A digital twin is the foundation of a digital transformation. In terms of the built environment, it is a computerized (or digital) version of a physical asset that contains sensors that collect data to represent real-time information. This can be used to optimize production, detect equipment problems before failures occur and uncover new opportunities for process improvement. In the natural resources industries, this has huge benefits in terms of maximizing productivity, increasing operational efficiencies, maintaining equipment reliability and increasingly, complying with new or updated environmental regulations.

Overcoming challenges

Our experience suggests there are many inhibitors for projects in the natural resources industries to start their digital transformation, and the most efficient process to deliver the digital twin, is not always adopted.

For existing facilities, the lack of a single source of accurate asset information may simply just not exist. Another challenge is keeping track of all the maintenance data in one single source to allow for analytics that support preventative measures and minimize equipment breakdowns.

For recently constructed assets, a 3D model may exist, but the information may not be up to date, based on unforeseen quantity growth or modifications made during construction. This creates challenges for asset management teams, often resulting in an expensive and time-consuming facility remeasurement, or when future modifications or enhancements are required, extra time is required during the planning, engineering and design stages.

In these situations, asset owners have to rely heavily on the experience of the personnel who understand the facility for planning any future modifications. While this works, it presents a significant risk for owners when the experienced personnel leave the business.

"Embracing the digital transformation process early on and taking a model-focused approach is enabling natural resources companies to increase efficiency, improve performance and boost profitability throughout engineering design and construction"

Implementing a successful digital twin strategy from the outset

In aprevious article, Realizing savings: five key points for successful digital implementation we discussed the importance of clearly communicating a project’s building information modelling (BIM) or digital engineering (DE) requirements early to maximize success. This is an excellent first step but when model requirements have not been previously stipulated, our clients consistently face challenges around the transparency of project information and data. This in turn impacts the ability to exercise project control during construction and to manage the asset once operational. The challenges we come across include:

• Incomplete data/ attributes in the 3D model

• Design allowances and quantity growth not visible at the 30/60/90 design review

• Lack of clarity on the areas, disciplines and costs affected by quantity and weight growth

• Design model format is not suitable for tracking progress during project execution

• Model information requirements are not detailed sufficiently to manage the asset once operational

These challenges can lead to huge variations, causing significant time and cost overruns during front end engineering and design (FEED) and construction. The consequences of this include:

• Inability to negotiate major contracts with confidence

• Uncertainty and risk • Exposure to claims and delay

• Inability to manage quantity growth during construction, leading to significant cost escalation

• No single source of asset information to enable the digital twin, support hand over and commissioning of the asset, and future project development.

Creating the environment for digital transformation

Owners and operators of major projects and programs have the opportunity to make the digital transformation process more efficient by taking a model-focused approach, and in doing so reduce the risk of scope growth during detailed design, increase project control during construction, and reduce the risk of claims and delays.

Steps to achieving your digital twin

Alongside the key points outlined in our previous article, the first step, and best recommended approach to digital transformation is the development of a good and intelligent 3D model of the facility’s design which must reflect the physical reality and its associated engineering data. Having this easily accessible and single source of asset information will provide the basis for a successful digital transformation.

Turner & Townsend recognizes the opportunity to improve the digital transformation of natural resources projects by increasing understanding of project quantities, and how they change, as a project progresses through design, engineering and construction.

An integral part of our cost and commercial management services for major capital projects in the natural resources sector is the deployment of QuanTTum, our value-added quantity, weight and cost assurance service.

Consistently implemented worldwide on major CAPEX projects, QuanTTum provides a step-change for our clients to visualize quantities and track them as design advances. By providing traceability for each and every line item from the design to the bill of quantities, QuanTTum provides the clarity and confidence our client’s need to have robust conversations on scope, cost, risk and schedule with their FEED contractor(s). Throughout the execute phase, QuanTTum provides the capability to digitally capture progress at the fabrication yard or on site, and visually represent this on the model. This accurate digital asset based on the actual design data, quantities and costs can be used to support future project development and as the basis for the asset’s digital twin.

Embracing the digital transformation process early on and taking a model-focused approach is enabling natural resources companies to increase efficiency, improve performance and boost profitability throughout engineering design and construction. The insight gained from an intelligent 3D model will also provide asset and operational excellence teams the capability to continue with the asset’s digital twin journey, with the ultimate opportunity to deliver gains in performance and profitability.

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