ORM Digital Twin is a virtual technology that gives users a virtual look at the plant operations to help mitigate risk so discussing the innovation in a virtual event was destined to become a virtual reality sooner or later.

When Verdantix hosted its first Virtual Summit in April, and the new format included a four-day agenda  that focused on topics such as  digital solutions, risk management, Operational Excellence and digitalizing Environment, Health & Safety operations. Sphera’s Abhilash Menon, a solutions consultant, was one of the featured speakers, and he shared his insights about ORM Digital Twin technology with the virtual attendees.

The session was titled “Advancing the Progression to IRM 4.0: Overcoming Barriers to ORM Digital Twin Adoption.” In Menon’s presentation, he explained how Integrated Risk Management 4.0 is “fueling the availability of ORM Digital Twin” so companies can use the technology to understand, predict, act and monitor their operational risks. The problem many companies run into is siloed data, he explained, but ORM Digital Twin allows organizations to “close the loop between Operations, Maintenance and Engineering.”

Verdantix President and CEO David Metcalfe, who moderated the discussion, called Digital Twins the next big thing in Operational Risk Management for their ability to help model and simulate the operational performance of industrial facilities. In fact, according to Verdantix, almost 9 out of 10 (89%) say Digital Twins will transform the approach to Operational Excellence over the next five years. Asset-intensive operators have the most to gain from increased efficiency, safety and productivity as a result of Digital Twin technology, but they also have the most to lose.

Watch an interview with Verdantix’s Metcalfe

Below is a recap of questions asked by the audience during the Verdantix Virtual Summit.  (Questions are transcribed from live audience submissions. For privacy concerns, the person’s name and company have been omitted.)

What level of maturity does a company need to implement a Digital Twin?

A Digital Twin is a digital replica of your physical asset along with the systems, processes and people who interact with the asset. A Digital Twin could be implemented in various forms and can be a basic implementation -as a Google Maps version of your asset -or a full-blown 3-D visualization of your asset through an augmented reality headset that enables you to explore the asset in real time. Operators who are starting small, and who may be at the lower end of digitalization maturity, may need to look to the end goal of their Digital Twin project. For instance, perhaps an operator wants to visualize all of their temporary MOCs [Management of Change] at a specific asset or access a representation on a map of all the maintenance work being carried out at a process manufacturing facility. For example, it could be an automotive plant. This can be done with minimal systems interface and could be a quick implementation. The key is to future-proof your investment – like a Lego building. Implement your digital solution in a way that allows you to fit the next pieces and scale the Digital Twin vision.

We have tried to innovate with Digital Twin technology; however, the stumbling block is the people on the frontline, not the technology. Do you have any advice?

A Digital Twin project is like any other major change management project. The entire organization needs to be involved with senior management’s participation to show the value of the project implementation. In the project, any team that is required to change its ways of working may express resistance and hence stand as a roadblock. It is important that these roles and teams are identified early in the project stages and taken into confidence for the value of the project and the changes they might have to go through. Early buy in is key.

The other aspect of acceptance is proof that the project will bear fruit. By implementing a proof of concept, or, as we like to say, proof of confidence, –  the promise can be showcased across the entire organization. Beware the risk of getting stuck in the PoC stage for a long time trying to perfect the solution. If there is a lesson to be learned  from the global pandemic, it is that companies need to move swiftly from the PoC to production phases of their implementations while working toward perfection.

Our firm has legacy Health & Safety software and different Enterprise Asset Management applications. Is it realistic or necessary to go out and buy process safety software?

Before deciding to procure a solution that helps manage process safety at your organization, you will need to assess the various parameters of process safety and your functional requirements. Companies with legacy EHS software may require upgrading before they bolt to another solution. Companies might also want to look at integrated solutions that might offer an opportunity to replace legacy solutions and improvements in existing processes. However, with the industry maturing, the availability of solutions in the marketplace means organizations should explore them. Just beware of  software myopia. Ensure the data infrastructure is also evaluated when implementing a solution. The software ecosystem is ever-growing, and there are consultants and system integrators who may have implemented solutions that fit your requirements. Take advantage of lessons from the industry.

What’s your sense, positive or negative, of how COVID-19 is affecting our business and impacting the process safety environment. Will virtual operations become more important?

A: At a time like this, when process plants can’t be fully staffed and planning operations safely is paramount, Digital Twins offer an unmatched solution for organizations to be able to work seamlessly in a cross-functional team and make prudent decisions. In the current scenario, many planned maintenance and inspection activities may be deferred, and this has a direct relation to the risk levels at the asset. Using a Digital Twin, organizations can manage the operational risk and plan the next jobs safely. Imagine a situation where an emergency arises at an asset and all the normal team members who would be available at the site are not available because of resource issues. This would be another scenario where a Digital Twin could be used effectively to manage emergencies in real time while teams might be remote.