Anglian Water is an early adopter of digital twins within the water sector, working closely with the Centre for Digital Built Britain to help develop the market and showcase how digital twins can support an organisation’s strategic outcomes.
Anglian Water has a 15 year vision to develop a digital twin to sit alongside its physical assets.
From an Anglian Water perspective, the Digital Twin is essentially an accurate digital representation of their physical assets, enabling insight, supporting decision making and leading to better outcomes. Aligning the digital twin objectives to Anglian Water’s regulated outcomes, as defined by the regulator OFWAT, has been a key step in developing the business case.
With the initial vision and roadmap outlined the next step on the roadmap was to implement a proof of concept, to explore the value created from digital twins. Anglian Water undertook a discovery phase and a Proof of Concept with Black and Veatch for a Digital Twin back in 2019, and started to define how a Digital Twin would benefit the delivery and management of physical assets.
The discovery phase looked to understand the current landscape, further enhancing the vision and roadmap, and establish persona requirements. It proved vital to really understand the organisation and the impact on people during this early exploratory work.
The proof of concept looked at delivering three main outputs, focused on a pumping station to keep the scope focused and value measurable:
- To demonstrate an asset intelligence capability
- To demonstrate a visualisation capability
- To examine the asset data and architecture.
Alongside the proof of concept other initiatives were kick started to consider how other elements of digital twin might add value, with a focus on more enhanced use of hydraulic models to explore how water networks could be further optimised. Anglian Water recognised early on that by integrating and enhancing many of the existing enterprise systems, existing investments could be leveraged and technology gaps identified.
Learning from the proof of concept and other early works Anglian Water looked to the next step of the roadmap, a scaled demonstrator on the Strategic Pipeline Alliance. The Strategic Pipeline Alliance was set up to deliver up to 500km of large scale pipeline, and alongside this to start defining and delivering the first phase of the digital twin. SPA has a 2025 vision is to deliver a large-scale, holistically linked water transfer resilience system. This will be operated, performance managed and maintained using advanced digital technology.
The SPA team set about developing a digital twin strategy which is based on the wider corporate vision and enhances the proof of concept work. The basic premise of the SPA digital twin is to integrate traditionally siloed business functions and systems, to deliver enhanced capability across the asset lifecycle.
As with Anglian Water the SPA strategy is focused on using the technology available and developing a robust enterprise, integration, and data architecture to create a foundation for digital twin. Taking this a step further it was decided to adopt a product based approach, thinking about the development of digital twin products aligned to physical assets, that could be re-used across the wider Anglian Water enterprise.
This whole life product based approach threw up some interesting challenges, namely how to build a business case that delivered benefit to SPA and also enabled Anglian Water’s future ambitions, taking a lifecycle view of the value delivered.
To achieve this meant considering and assessing the value to both SPA during the capital delivery phase and Anglian Water during the operational phases. This process also highlighted that certain elements of the digital twin deliver value to both SPA and Anglian Water equally and could therefore be considered as a shared benefit.
The resulting benefits register helped to identify the value delivered to the alliance partners which was vital to securing the delivery board sign off. As Anglian Water are a partner in the alliance, the ability to demonstrate value in the operational phase with SPA developing the technical foundation, was another key element in securing the investment.
As part of the overall process the SPA board were keen to see how the investment would be allocated, therefore the strategy evolved to incorporate the capabilities to be developed within SPA to enable digital twin. This helped to inform and validate the team for digital twin delivery.
With the capabilities and organisational chart resolved, a governance framework was put into place to allow the digital twin evolution to be managed effectively, putting in place the right checks and balances. This has included input and oversight from the wider Anglian Water team as ultimately, they will be responsible for managing the various digital twins long term.
To validate the digital twin against the SPA outcomes and objectives, the various elements of the digital twin were incorporated into the overall enterprise architecture. This has proved to be an important part of the process to ensure alignment to the wider capabilities and importantly ensure the right technology is in place. The enterprise architecture continues to evolve to include information objects below the application layer, again building on the product based approach, so that the enterprise architecture can be utilised in the wider Anglian Water Alliances.
In total the development of the strategy, business case and capabilities has taken 6 months, however it is important to note that this builds on the earlier proof of concept and ideation during the initial mobilisation of SPA. Given the approach a key next step is to work with Anglian Water to explore accelerated deployment of SPA digital twins on other major schemes, to put to test the product approach and maximise the investment made.
We have learnt from the early developments on SPA that articulating a whole life view of value is vital and that focusing on capital / operational stages is equally important, so that appropriate budget holders can see the value being delivered. We have also learnt the importance of having a bold vision which must be matched by clear definition of the first few steps, showing a long term roadmap for achieving an enterprise digital twin.
What is certainly clear is that we still have a lot to learn, however by following good architectural best practice and placing people and our environment at the heart of digital twin, we have put in place a good foundation from which to build.
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