Optelos’ David Tran on Digital Twins and Turnarounds: Saving Time, Reducing Risk

digital twins and turnaroundsSaving Time, Reducing Risk: Using Digital Twins to Optimize Turnarounds

 Enterprise companies are inundated with digital data: from aerial images to ground-based walkthroughs, companies have more information available to them than ever before.

But is all of this data helping the bottom line?

At the Energy Drone and Robotics Summit last month, Optelos CEO David Tran took the stage to answer that question, taking a deep dive into one use for Digital Twin technology.  While turnarounds or shutdowns present a complex and expensive problem for energy companies, digital twins and organized contextual data can save money and time, and reduce risk.

Optelos is a data visualization and analytics company that helps enterprises answer many inspection challenges.  The Optelos solution is designed to take all of the information available about enterprise assets – aerial views, geospatial data, sensor data, ground-level data, and more – and put it in one place for optimal use.

“We’ve seen first-hand how enterprises struggle with making use of visual data – it’s large, it’s unstructured, it’s hard to get insights,” said Tran.  “We’re able to ingest data from really any source… and we’re able to create detailed visual twins, perform AI analysis…and provide one platform to visualize all that information.”

Digital Twins

“Digital Twin is a big word,” Tran explained: the phrase can refer to 3D models meant to be used in CAD tools, or as a digital representation of a physical asset that allows a wide variety of stakeholders to understand the asset.

“What we’re talking about is the visual inspection twin,” Tran said.  In addition to a precise 3D representation of a field asset, the Optelos solution allows users to visualize additional surrounding information.  “We can apply geospatial data, so you know exactly where your assets are located.  You can do virtual walkthroughs, so that you can look at not only the outside of your asset, but the inside.  You have not only the site data, but all of the contextual data on top of that.”

Access to that data, organized in a single place for optimal use, is a powerful tool.  Applied to plant turnaround – a scheduled stoppage of part or all of a plant’s operations – it can be a game changer.

Tran references business data demonstrating that 70% of turnarounds are over budget by more than 10%. “Plant turnarounds… are a very complex process.  Most companies don’t get this right… it’s a huge problem.”  Despite the ever-increasing volume of data available, some energy companies are still using large-sized paper renderings, managing a costly and difficult process “with push pins and sticky notes,” Tran said.

Those push pins and sticky notes are the result of too many data silos, making it difficult for stakeholders to access all the information they need – and they demonstrate an opportunity for Optelos to make dramatic improvements to the process.

The 5 Phases of a Turnaround 

Tran described the process of a turnaround in 5 phases:

  • Scoping – planning to define time frames and budgets;
  • Preparation – planning and scheduling activities;
  • Execution – generation of work orders and mobilization of resources;
  • Start Up – getting back up and running safely;
  • Review – processing all of the data to evaluate the costs, time spent, and risks involved; and to determine how best to proceed in the future.

All 5 phases of a turnaround can benefit significantly from digital twins and well-organized and accessible digital data.

The Scoping phase should start with gathering accurate digital data and producing a digital twin: as Tran says, “If you start with bad data, it’s going to perpetuate.”  During the Prep phase, “You start to overlay engineering data and other data on the digital twin, and add the pre-work in one place,” Tran explained.  Users can perform accurate measurements from the data, “understanding critical things like clearances… we’ve had a customer save more than $20,000 simply by being able to understand that their crane wasn’t going to fit.”

During the Execution phase, users can track activities and resources on digital twin – all in one place.  It’s a significant improvement on the usual process which involves tracking activites on “Excel spreadsheets and enormous Gantt charts – really, the digital twin and the platform eliminate that manual activity.”

When plants resume activity, the ability to document tasks and update dashboards helps ensure that the process is informed, controlled, and organized.  “We’ve eliminated a lot of the safety issues and risks involved in bringing a plant back online,” Tran says.

Finally, streamlining the Review phase by having all of the turnaround data in a single platform means a major time savings – and better results.  “Today, this is largely all manual – companies are taking several weeks to manage all of this information, with pushpins and sticky notes.”

Digital Twins – Digital Transformation

With so much data available, companies who still find it easier to use push pins and sticky notes aren’t getting the value and the competitive advantages that greater insights can provide.

Optelos clients using digital twins to help manage the turnaround process saw an overall reduction in turnaround schedule by 26%, a 31% reduction in reworks and schedule conflicts, and a review process that was 5 full days shorter.

“The power of the digital twin for turnaround is about making sense of all of that data,” said Tran.  Using digital twins to manage a turnaround is just one example of data optimization: but when enterprise companies can reduce time, cost, and risk, the transformative power of digital data is evident.

Read more about Optelos: Optimizing Drone Asset Inspections, the DSP Inspector Program, and Optelos’ partnership with Neurala on AI-powered inspections.