City of South Portland, Maine:
Connecting design & construction to operations with a digital twin
Until recently, it hasn’t been possible for Tim Parks, senior CAD technician at the City of South Portland, Maine, to sit down at his desk and see the operational history and the 3D model of a pump at the Long Creek Pump Station facility in one place, even though the city maintains both sets of information.
South Portland is not unique in its need to access information about the assets and infrastructure they maintain across departments. Many owners find their data siloed between operations, construction, design and maintenance. When Tim approached Atkins and DTS, both members of the SNC-Lavalin group, to support him in breaking down some of the silos, we were excited to dig in because we have been developing new ways to connect data from within the VUEWorks asset management platform to 3D models. One approach to breaking down the silos is to connect information about a facility through a digital twin, or digital representation of the physical asset. The digital twin can be built in a way that connects many different things into a single place.
Most operators use some form of asset management system to keep tabs on items they feel most need to be tracked and maintained. Asset management systems are usually tabular in nature, displaying information about an asset inside a facility only as a name, with relevant information pulled from a database and displayed in a table. When new construction is completed, the owners are provided with intelligent 3D models that bring efficiency to the construction process, as well as contain unique information about the objects and assets being installed. These models often mature from inception through design and can be updated to contain information critical during installation. This information is often lost sometime between installation and operation/maintenance.
If an asset is represented in a 3D model and is being tracked inside an asset management system, then the question Tim and many owners are asking themselves is: Shouldn’t there be a way to see all this information in one place? Operations and maintenance staff are often faced with a need to locate and work on assets without any idea where they are inside a facility beyond, at best, a room location. Bringing the digital models and asset information together provides immediate benefits to operations teams and is the initial step on the path toward a more accessible digital twin.
We began the process with South Portland by setting data and attribute standards. Because South Portland maintains a set of digital design and construction models of their facilities and assets, the asset information had to be extracted in a format that enabled it to be tied to the corresponding assets within their 3D models. Data standards make it possible to connect the virtual versions of the assets to the same asset within the VUEWorks database. Atkins developed a web-based platform that generates a digital view of the 3D models with a specific link for each asset inside the model, zoomed and highlighted, so users can see an asset in its location with the surrounding space represented. We were then able to create a digital twin of the facility by connecting the digital representation of assets within the facility model to the asset information Tim and South Portland had provided.
Today, Tim and South Portland can open VUEWorks and view critical information about their most important assets and link directly to the asset’s 3D model. The combination of digital models and asset information from the field provides South Portland with a digital twin of their operations, and they are already realizing the benefits. Thanks to the linked data, not only can Tim see everything in one place when he sits down at his desk, but operations and maintenance staff are now able to better plan and deliver work.