Digital Vision: COP26

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How digital twin technology drives industrial decarbonization

Murli-Mohan Srinivas – Digital Twin Business Lead/Head Industry 4.0, Atos Germany; Sue de Wit, Senior Vice President Atos|Syntel UK&I and Chief of Staff Atos UK&I

For too long, manufacturing enterprises have focused on productivity centred around the economics of cost and profitability, to the detriment of sustainability. Very few industries and manufacturers have traditionally given much attention to areas such as resource productivity, decarbonization and energy optimisation; and if they did, it was limited to fulfilling compliance and regulatory conditions. Now, thanks to global leadership, these areas are emerging as top business priorities; and forward-looking nations are starting to require enterprises to make firm commitments in this area.

Globally depleting raw material will continue to make finished products more expensive in the future. In addition, demographic changes have shifted demand for finished products towards emerging markets, forcing manufacturers to realize that traditional approaches and measures to maintain productivity are becoming obsolete. The fundamental premise that resource productivity is subordinate to other operational priorities will no longer be valid.

Industrial carbon generation

Industries have historically been heavily dependent on fossil fuels across the product and service lifecycle. Conversely, decarbonizing product development, production and service processes can lead to higher costs. Some of the key measures to accomplish decarbonization are efficiency improvements, energy optimisation or the use of renewable energy sources, changes in demand by increasing reuse, remanufacturing or recycling, modifying production process and carbon capture and storage or usage.

Other factors which are often ignored when businesses consider how best to approach decarbonization include the cost of prematurely replacing industrial assets and products. For example, in petroleum refineries, even relatively small equipment changes require part of the site to be redesigned and rebuilt, because the processes are highly integrated within a small, optimised area.

Acting on insights

Addressing these challenges requires social and structural transformation coupled with technological innovations. Often, the causes are multiple and solving them involves integrating multiple data and knowledge sources and putting them in context to understand the conditions for industrial decarbonization.

One of the most potentially revolutionary technologies shaping the future of manufacturing is the digital twin: a live, evolving digital model of a physical asset, process or system that is complete at any scale. Using digital twin technology manufacturers can model scenarios for strategic and operational planning; and when the digital twin isconnected to real-time data, they will have a live operational view of exactly how process and assets are performing.

Digital twin platform

Over the last three years, Atos has been working on creating a shared digital twin platform with a key focus on improving efficiency of industrial assets and reducing energy consumption. This platform can be put to work for a specific business domain and process improvements to enable reduction of a plant’s carbon footprint.

The digital twin captures a 360-degree data view of a physical asset, incorporating field OT data, service life data, enterprise data and expert knowledge of service engineers or operators. Contextualising this data creates a decision support system that is not limited to switching on or off industrial systems to optimize energy and drive decarbonization.

This is just one part of a concerted decarbonization effort across manufacturing. At a global level, we are at a tipping point where we must act together, at a scale and pace never imagined. Tackling the most complex and integrated problems, where our global economic system is hardwired to meet challenges such as atmospheric pollution, overconsumption and waste should be our top priority.

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Kulveer Ranger, SVP Strategy & Communications UK&I