Improving Safety and Design Through Advancing Digital Technology
The Engineering Delivery Team in Welsh Water are making the design, build and operation of our assets safer using advanced technology. Using the latest visualisation and collaboration tools and advancements in surveying and their outputs we can safely and more effectively assess the condition of an existing asset and accurately represent it in the virtual world. This supports better communication and visualisation through all stages of the project lifecycle and can help support operative training and maintenance of the asset through smarter models, linking non graphical information from SAP and GIS to the graphical information. This is a great move towards the future vision of Digital Twins and in the direction of the UK Government’s vision of a National Digital Twin. Please read on to learn more about how this is achieved.
For the last couple of years, on all Welsh Water (WW) Engineering Delivery Team (EDT) schemes, we have been working with our external surveyors to establish a system of work which begins with the collection of existing site data using point cloud reality capture technology and 3D modelling software to create a digital twin of the asset in question. This accurate to reality existing data is then utilised by our technicians within Autodesk Revit to produce all existing site plan, general arrangement and section drawings in a fraction of the time of standard AutoCAD. Within the digital twin model, all proposed design options / phases are then established and modelled by our engineers and technicians using this existing model as a base start point. Having this unified 3D data model allows the team to take a virtual site visit at any time and interrogate the existing terrain, infrastructure and piping networks. Doing this not only improves productivity, it helps in reducing our carbon footprint by reducing the amount of time staff spend travelling to and from site, and also reduces the need for WW EDT staff having to repeatedly enter locations which can sometimes carry health and safety risks e.g. Confined space entry to a shaft of tunnel.
All our digital twin models are then uploaded and shared to the cloud via Revizto, an integrated Building Information Modelling (BIM) collaboration software platform. Using this software we are able to share and connect all members of the project team in one place, with the ability to view and interrogate the point cloud scan, 3D digital twin model, design options / phases and 2D PDF design drawings together in one place. The Engineering Delivery Team has previously already used this for collaboration meetings within the 360 Igloo Viewing facility at Ty Awen, with all members of the design team, contractors and stakeholders able to visualise the scheme a lot better together, navigate around it in real time and generate really useful and productive group discussions to solve problems before they materialise on site.
However, using this software is not restricted to one viewing location. Everything from the scheme is stored in the cloud. This allows for collaboration from anywhere and from any device, whether people are on site, in the office or working from home. Anyone can take control, navigate, interrogate, measure, view Revit BIM data stored within objects, record video walkthroughs and explore any bit of scheme data from any location and it’s all in one place. This is proving to be especially useful for the Engineering Team within the current climate and with changing working patterns and Smarter Ways of Working.
Within the Revizto software we are also able to digitalise the design change and review process from all members of the team. Any design changes can be raised and assigned in real-time within the model and design mark ups can be generated in both 2D and 3D space, allows for a clearer visual of where the issue is located. Team members can chat together and review issues in real time, upload photographs from site that might add further insight and clarity, add diagrams, etc. and it will all be kept within the conversation history of that scheme for review at any time which can provide a useful audit history of decisions made. All issues are also logged within dashboards within the software. These can be accessed via a website, reviewed and custom generated reports can be set-up to email scheme leaders on a regular basis, giving them a detailed breakdown of any outstanding / late issues enabling them to drive accountability and ensure the scheme is moving along accordingly. This has proven to be invaluable when combined with a collaborative planning approach to mitigate potential challenges.
We are also now using our digital twin models to investigate and test other future potential technology, 3D animation / visualisation tools, gaming engines, augmented / mixed reality tools and more. Once we have a complete 3D model, it is just the beginning. We can easily export these for use in 3D animation / visualisation software to create animated design sequence videos or to produce rendered photo montages showing how constructed works will look embedded within real photos. We have even exported our models into augmented / mixed reality software which allows us to produce an interactive experience of our models, sitting computer generated models in the real-world environment using mobile devices and tablets. This will enhance engagement with all stakeholders in reviews such as HAZOP, Stakeholder Signoff etc., and will ultimately aid smooth transition at the handover/operate phase of projects.