Imagine that Jane, a highways design engineer, wants to investigate the options to create a new link road to connect a planned distribution centre to the existing smart motorway network near Bundoora. The planned facility will introduce connected autonomous vehicles, so this is shaping up to be an interesting project! Jane needs to prepare an outline design that she can take to her team and stakeholders to get their input. Let’s see how Jane might do all of this by working with the digital twin.
Software creates outline design
Jane starts by feeding the basic outcomes for her design into the digital twin design tool. These are based on feedback from key stakeholders:
- The new link road is defined in the strategic plan and forms an important new route, however, there are constraints on options and layout which Jane will need to consider
- The largest occupant of the distribution centre will be adopting fully autonomous electric trucks, which need to be supported
- Early public consultation has identified an area of ecologically valuable land, which the planners have committed to protect
- The existing motorway is already running close to capacity at peak times and the new scheme must be delivered with minimal disruption – including zero road closures.
Jane opens the digital twin on her computer and using a stylus, selects the section ‘existing motorway’ and adds the route of the new link road. The digital twin is connected to design tools that use artificial intelligence to automate many aspects of the design process and can automatically generate a shortlist of options.
To design the new highway and required changes for the smart motorway, Jane applies rules embedded in the software and data stored in the digital twin to factor in elements such as drainage requirements, location of signage and lighting. Jane knows that the software contains all the latest design standards and requirements and trusts that any design constraints or conflicts will be flagged for her review. She can easily interrogate the model for important issues, such as confirming that as the design evolves, adequate protections remain for the ecologically sensitive land.
Involving stakeholders and customers early
By allowing Jane to rapidly develop her outline design, she can better engage strategic stakeholders into the design process. Jane takes her device to a meeting with the leadership team at the distribution centre and illustrates the implications of different design choices, implementing their feedback and iterating the design in real time. This is more than just providing a 3D drive through; the client can interact with the model in real time, explore different scenarios through simulations with real world data and accurately modelled forecasts, and get immediate feedback on the impact of design choices on metrics such as cost and programme.
Jane finds this process rewarding; it feels more like she is co-creating the design with her stakeholders. The modelling tools help her use expertise and professional knowledge to guide her clients through making informed strategic choices, balancing construction costs with longer term costs and wider considerations. Her clients and other stakeholders get a clear feel for the design from the start. A client once told Jane that working in this way, they felt that they retained ownership at every step, and this gave them greater confidence in delivery.
Turning a vision into reality
This future is already becoming a reality with new tools speeding up the design process, allowing for rapid optioneering and simulation.
Designing with the digital twin and its real-time visual interface opens up greater scope for co-creating alongside stakeholders, involving them in decisions and illustrating the impact of those decisions in a way that really brings them to life.
To learn more about Digital Twins, contact Brett Buhagiar.
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