Achieving Contextual Awareness to Improve Operations and Maintenance


The operations digital twin contains a phenomenal level of detail. Integrated GIS, BIM, and high-resolution imagery data provides a robust system of record of physical assets. This foundation is then augmented with numerous details about items that must be maintained.

Moving assets are added to manage fleets. Equipment is tracked to find the nearest asset when it’s needed. Materials too can be logged, as can the hard-working things that need regular maintenance or replacing like pumps or lightbulbs. Together these types of data provide a digital twin that becomes the source of truth for the organization. It makes actionable the flood of data and information that companies collect.

This ability for a digital twin to capture institutional knowledge comes at a time when operations veterans are retiring en masse. A digital twin provides backup, capturing collective wisdom before knowledge walks out the door.

With the detailed digital twin, teams conduct maintenance and plan upgrades. They see such details as the manufacturer and model number of a pump, when it was installed, how it should be maintained, its record of performance, and where all similar pumps are located. The digital twin quickly becomes the means to guide workers to each task. It also integrates reality within other operations systems for tasks such as keeping an eye on energy or water use.

Facility employees have commented that the integration helps them proactively plan their day. For instance, when it’s time for HVAC filter replacements, they query how many are needed, ensure that there is sufficient stock, and decide how to transport replacements. Maintenance crews isolate a valve or switch virtually, then walk right to it. The same digital twin is used to perform spatial and temporal analysis to answer questions and forecast events. Operational digital twins help infrastructure-based companies become more efficient, provide better experiences for their customers, and protect and expand revenue streams.


Case Study : A New Awareness to Improve Wastewater Operations

In the Tidewater region of Virginia, the land lies low, and rising sea levels pose a growing challenge. Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD), the region’s wastewater treatment operator, serves 1.7 million people across 20 cities. To compound the challenge of sea level rise, pumping of groundwater was making the land subside. HRSD set out to pump treated water back underground to arrest this sinking.



HRSD needed a way to monitor the treatment of water and see the impacts of groundwater recharge. The new project was key to minimizing stormwater events and combating saltwater contamination. HRSD had to prove it was a workable strategy.



HRSD combined BIM designs with GIS maps, workflows, and analysis. Together these inputs create a feature-rich operations model. It affords a higher level of operational intelligence to capture plans and as-built drawings alongside real-time awareness of how the facility is performing.



Facility managers and construction crews access the model by wearing virtual reality headsets to see where an asset needs to be placed and how to maintain it. The digital twin provides an ideal training platform for new staff. Additionally, HRSD’s 20 years of data have been used to conduct hot spot analysis to see the primary areas of failure, understand what’s causing failures, and figure out what needs to be done with all the other pipes that have similar characteristics.

“We’ve achieved situational awareness. We now would like to simulate our system, looking at the behavior of the infrastructure and knowing, if I open a valve and change a process, what are the effects to the downstream process?” — Anas Malkawi, Chief of Asset Management, HRSD



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