Digital twins, remote management and other tools for project implementation: key trends in the digitalization of the industry

July 08, 2021

Russian online media Royalty&Loyalty published an interview with Eduard Khakimov, Director of Business Development in Russia and the CIS, about the trends and the most effective solutions in the construction sphere. Below the main highlights that we would like to share with you.

Trends in the Russian industry – how pandemic affected projects implementation

  • Despite the pandemic, none of the implemented in Russia projects were suspended - neither at the design stage nor at the construction. Some of them had problems with financing, some companies were forced to take additional security measures, that caused the temporary slowdown in the construction process. But these rare cases do not indicate problems in a particular segment. For example, the food industry even strengthened, although the volume of investment in the projects remained at the same level.
  • Problems in the petrochemical and oil & gas industries were caused not so much by the pandemic but by situation on the oil market  in genersl – due to the prices growth the demand for oil and petroleum products consumption decreased. As a result, petrochemical companies suffered and in response began to increase the cost of their products, as well as to look for new opportunities for business development, including its diversification. At the moment, some petrochemical enterprises are working on projects related to biotechnologies and the agricultural industry, for example, with the processing of grain crops, plant raw materials or wood into biofuels – ethanol, methanol. Projects for the production of "green" hydrogen are currently being actively implemented in Europe, while in Russia.such projects are still under discussion.
  • The pharmaceutical market is developing quite well, the industry is  supported by the state. However, it also creates a number of restrictions, such as increased control, which will complicate the process of full-cycle projects implementing, and also affects the organization of the supply chain and infrastructure during the construction of factories.
  • We also see great potential in the energy industry. Now it is steadily developing, there are already prerequisites for the development of innovative projects. Over the past few years, many significant projects have been implemented for the construction of facilities for wind and solar energy generation.

The most relevant trends in the industry digitalization:

  • In the petrochemicals, oil and gas and nuclear energy fields, digitalization tools have already been used for the last ten years, as without them the development of the industries would have been impossible. As for the food industry, FMCG sector – here companies only began to switch their processes to digitalization, due to the fact that not all the projects are complex from a technological point of view. In order to manage such projects, we use methods and approaches that allow us to save money, improve quality and save time.
  • We use such technology as digital twins – digital copies of an industrial enterprise created by scanning an object, and at any time available to the customer and all project participants on their  personal device. Such digital models can be used for modernization or reconstruction of facilities. For example - the installation of new production lines or their replacement, optimization of internal logistics of production sites and storage areas. Customers are not always close to their production sites, especially if we are talking about international corporations, whose representatives are often located in other countries. In order to save time and costs for visiting their production facilities, many of them began to work through photos, but with the beginning of the pandemic, the problem became even more acute. Logistics between countries became very limited. Digital twins help customers to solve these problem. Now it is possible to put together professionals from different cities in one team for distance work.
  • Another tool is BIM modeling. This solution is not new, and for many companies it became an integral tool in the objects design. This tool significantly improves the quality of technical solutions and helps to cut costs and save time costs at the construction stage. 3D model of future facility allows you to avoid possible collisions in advance and prevent any inconsistencies.
  • Next tool – drones or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). Many people are familiar with this device, making impressive panoramic landscapes photos and videos. At the same time, there are more technically equipped drones that are actively used on production and construction sites to manage projects or construction. For example, drons allow to take pictures of the site where the production will be located and put measures of the earth masses. Of course, this tool does not completely exclude human labor, but it helps to recreate a preliminary model of the object, get the necessary data about the landscape, calculate the further construction stages.
  • Another interesting solution that has become popular after the pandemic is remote monitoring of safety during the construction. Previously, the process looked like this: an engineer made a detour, fixed violations, instructed the staff on the spot and collected data for a report. Now drones fly around the site, making photos and videos  of all objects, and transmits data for a report and next steps. If a violation is detected by the contractor, you can always provide him with a photo report.
  • Another important tool for the successful implementation of the project, which is actively used in Bilfinger Tebodin, is BIM 360 -  a cloud storage of digital models and project data at all stages of its implementation. Access to the materials is open to all project participants, everyone can see the progress of its implementation at any time, get acquainted with all current changes and manage them on time. In this way, the platform optimizes the communication process between the project participants.

Prospects for the industry in the pandemic realities:

  • Various digital tools, such as BIM modeling, are in increasing demand. BIM 4-5D, designed for cost and schedule management, is not widely used yet, but has good prospects. There are also more complex solutions, such as BIM 7D - a comprehensive view of the object during its entire life cycle in real time. But due to the conservatism of the construction industry both in Russia and in the world, it is still not so popular. Some projects are being implemented, but in a very small part of the market. What is also should be taken into account – the complexity of the legal regulation of the industry. It takes a lot of time for each innovation to settle all legal issues for its launch
  • Not all customers see the value of such solutions, trying to invest wisely, because innovative technologies increase the cost of work. The full digitalization of the industry will most likely take many years. But in general, the trends are positive – advanced companies are actively implementing new solutions, using new tools, thereby becoming an example for other players.