2017 Finalist: ASTech Awards
Digital Twin Technology Brings the Field to the Office
It may not quite be the Matrix, but it’s close.
Steve Fisher, CEO of Veerum Inc., says they are bringing the field to the office with their digital twin technology. Using a wide variety of sensor technology, Calgary-based Veerum, creates an exact digital replica, or twin, of the physical reality of massive capital projects. Fisher says the twin is precise down to the millimetre.
The goal of the technology is to reduce risk of large capital projects and eliminate costly mistakes once the designs are implemented in the field. Fisher explains, “It allows us and the project managers to do simulations, to virtually build projects, to see where you’re going to have your issues and challenges in that digital world before it impacts that project.”
Once the digital twin is created, the layers of data are hosted on GE’s Predix, a cloud-based platform, for easy access by all stakeholders.
“The whole group can have a single source of project truth to be able to see precisely what’s happening,” Fisher explains.
Creating project truth
Veerum digitizes the projects at all phases. They begin in the design phase by travelling to the physical location, especially locations with existing equipment that must be accounted for precisely. The team makes a digital replica of the location for the engineering team to design within.
Fisher says, “Instead of using as-built drawings, which are often incorrect, they’ve got a precise digital twin of the physical reality. The engineering team can do their designs within that digital twin, which ensures their designs fit perfectly.”
The next phase involves the fabrication of large modules.
“When big modules are built all over the world, they are shipped to the site and they are expected to fit and bolt up but they very rarely do. We digitize those modules at the point of manufacturing and we can then compare it directly against the CAD drawing to identify any mismatches and virtually fit that module to the site,” Fisher explains. “If there are any issues or incorrectness within those modules, we fix them at the point of manufacture. It is 10 times more expensive to fix it in the field, so we ensure those modules fit perfectly when they arrive.”
Veerum also works on the logistics of these capital projects. They use RFID and GPS technology to ensure all tools and parts are where they are needed when they are needed. This eliminates costly downtime while waiting for parts and tools to arrive.
Veerum’s final phase focuses on progress monitoring, which allows the digital twin to be recreated on a daily or hourly basis to inform the project teams of real-time progress.
From an industry standpoint, Veerum faces the challenge of integrating this new technology and novel steps into project management that has been fairly static.
Fisher adds, “Really, it’s a change in industry. It’s a step change of how projects are being implemented so we’re needing to work with our clients and work with our engineering and construction teams to help them with the change process to be doing these projects in a completely digital fashion. It’s a big step forward for our industry.”
The need for sustainability
At the heart of the team’s work is a belief that the world needs to shift to sustainable energy. To do this, Fisher says there will need to be an immense amount of money spent on infrastructure. Without significant improvement in de-risking massive capital projects, it will be incredibly challenging to build the necessary projects that would allow for a sustainable future.
“If we can de-risk these major capital projects,” Fisher says, “it will attract more capital to them. Then we’ll get more infrastructure built to make this transition toward fully sustainable energy.”
Veerum has had key support from a number of organizations that saw a need for this technology. From industry: GE, Cenovus, Suncor and Husky have been supportive. Veerum has also received funding from IRAP, Alberta Innovates, TECTERRA, Innovate Calgary, CETAC-WEST and many other organizations. Fisher says, “Every resource that is available here in Alberta we’ve tried to leverage to lift our technology up off the ground and get it into the marketplace.”
As the technology continues to develop and more clients begin using the digital twin solution, Veerum continues to refine and grow.
“We have our ideas of how we can drive value but we need input as well so we’re looking for very collaborative relationships with our clients to build out our technology,” says Fisher.
“We recognize we can make an impact here Canada and in Alberta but we think that our solution is a global-based solution so it’s leveraging our channel partners to deliver this to the global marketplace.”