Going Beyond the Digital Twin: Smart Project Execution

You've reached the final stage of your project: detailed engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning. How are you ensuring all objectives are met to achieve successful project delivery?

You've reached the final stage of your project: detailed engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning. How are you ensuring all objectives are met to achieve successful project delivery?

Image: Provided by Hexagon

Project execution is usually considered the third phase of a project by which the project initiation and planning phases have been completed. It is the phase in the asset life cycle where everything in the project plan is put into action including FEED (Front End Engineering Design), detailed engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning. Through all these execution activities, managing people, processes and communications well are top objectives to a successful project. So, what is the best way to achieve these objectives? A single source of asset information available to the stakeholders based on their unique roles.

At Hexagon we call this single source of truth the Smart Digital Reality. It brings together the data sources into a single pane of glass that allows the users to access the data very quickly and make those important business decisions to keep the project on track. It also provides real-time collaboration and visibility for all stakeholders and optimizes automated workflows.

FEED / Detailed Design Phase

The front end engineering design phase includes the conceptual design and feasibility studies to assess cost, technical issues, identify potential risk and produce preliminary design basis deliverables for bidding contracts. A successful FEED package will establish the project budget, timeline and scope. A study by Blackridge Research showed, “Feed study can consume 2% of the project budget … a well-executed FEED can reduce the overall project cost by 30%.”(1) A lot of data is created during the FEED stage of a project and that data can become part of the asset digital twin by loading into the Hexagon Smart Digital Reality environment and making it accessible to the stakeholders who need it.

The detailed design phase follows the FEED stage and this is where the conceptual/basic design will be completed and procurement begins. In today’s engineering environments, projects are executed 24/7 using global workshare technology. Hexagon brings to this environment fully integrated, rule-driven, and intelligent technologies for all engineering disciplines. This allows for enhanced collaboration across all teams and stakeholders as well as reduces time wasted on miscommunications and data discrepancies. This is also the phase of the project where the engineering data is brought to 100% complete and much of this data will need to be handed over to the owner for operations.

As mentioned in the second blog in this series, by having this engineering information in the Smart Digital Reality environment, data relationships are automatically built for all associated data within the system and can link to related information in other systems as well. This allows for very quick navigation of all related information about an object. The Smart Digital Reality is an object-based data management environment that automatically creates data relationships based on preset rules, not only on the file itself but the content of the file and metadata within it. Context is added by layering 1D documents, specifications and 2D schematics over 3D models, regardless of the source, due to the solution being source and vendor agnostic. As these data sources are uploaded, they are automatically parsed and related to the existing information in the system making navigation extremely efficient.

Procurement and Materials Management Phase

Procurement and Materials Management is a very complex phase of a project. Often projects run into material shortages or surpluses that drive up project costs. Managing suppliers and ensuring they are qualified and can meet expected performance can be a challenge. A study by Science Direct stated, “delay in supplying materials can result in increased idle time in most construction systems. Research shows that the labor force on site spend about 40% of the entire project time on non-value adding activities such as waiting for permission to carry out a task or waiting for supply of materials on-site … According to (Langston, 2016; Cagno et al., 2002, 2004; Kaming et al., 1997), schedule overrun occurs due to the unpredictable duration for activities such as negotiation, material procurement supply, and getting approval from the management. It is worth mentioning that procurement takes about 50% to 70% of the total worth of construction projects (Ribeirinho et al., 2020).”(2) To address these issues, Hexagon provides solutions like Intergraph Smart® Materials, Smart Construction and Jovix to ensure these issues don’t devastate your projects.

It is extremely important to have an integrated lifecycle material management and supply chain management solution that provides collaboration for EPCs and their partners. It needs to be a highly flexible and scalable solution that helps lower project and installed costs by reducing materials shortages, surpluses and labor hours and provides a portal that gives your suppliers away to interact and efficiently perform logistical workflows. You also need to have visibility into your entire supply chain to see where bottlenecks are happening, view statuses, and understand the current situation to make faster and more informed decisions. Hexagon’s Smart Materials provides all of this and so much more. With Smart Materials you can increase efficiency, maximize visibility and control, decrease project cost and manage your supply chain from end-to-end.

Construction Phase

The construction phase of a project is the actual building and installation of the asset/facility. Hopefully the constructability of the asset was considered during the design phase as often this can be overlooked, especially by inexperienced designers, and will show up in the field causing construction delays. Other issues can pop up when design is not complete before construction begins and design changes cause additional rework and possibly material waste. Then there are the issues of managing the subcontractors, ensuring accurate progress reporting, material readiness at the site, etc. These are just a few of the many things that can affect the success of the construction phase of a project.

But the construction industry is shifting to new technologies as they recognize the benefits that these technologies bring to the execution of the construction phase. As shown in a recent KPMG study, “The construction industry is starting to embrace the power of technology to transform performance – with 81% of E&C firms adopting mobile platforms, 43% using robotics process automation (RPA) and 40% adopting artificial intelligence (AI) – although many are in the early stages …VR has doubled from 28% to 56%.”(3)

As this shift toward using more digital technologies in construction continues to grow, more and more construction contractors, no matter what size company they are, realize they also need to adopt these technologies to stay competitive.

One of those technologies is Hexagon’s Smart Construction platform that is a modern work package planning solution. It provides real-time forecast, status, reservation and visualization of materials through built-in integration with Smart Materials mentioned earlier, or third-party systems. Users can view 3D models and drawings with enhanced 4D animations to animate work packages in the 3D models. It also has mobile capabilities to bring digital work packages into the field. These are just a few of the many benefits of Hexagon’s Smart Construction technology.

Another very important aspect and major risks to a project in the construction phase is knowing when and where the materials are at the site, referred to as material readiness. A proven solution to this issue is a robust material readiness application such as Hexagon’s Jovix technology. Having real-time visibility for all stakeholders ensures you know exactly when and where your materials arrive at site and where they are staged. This technology used RFID, bar-coding and mobile technologies to manage the site materials and give the users the information needed to make informed decisions.

Completions/Commissioning Phase

Completions and commissioning are the last phase of a project before final handover to the client but can and should start as early as engineering in identifying systems and preparing data that will be used during the completions and commissioning processes. This phase includes defining commissioning systems and tags, creating test work packages, inspections, managing punch list and NCR (Non-conformance) items, and providing an accurate certification for turnover and startup. Each one of these tasks can be a struggle for projects that use manual processes and have project information residing in many information silos.

“Commissioning costs are typically less than 5% of the overall project budget, in the range of 2% to 3%. But the cost of delays during commissioning is massive. This is why the commissioning phase of your project needs to be planned to precision.”(4)

By using an integrated digital solution such as Hexagon’s Smart Completions, projects can expect an average savings of 45% to 50% on resources and time spent in this phase of a project. 

Automated Workflows

Another critical element that touches each of the project execution phases we have discussed in this blog is the ability to use automated workflows in each of these areas and across the Hexagon technologies. Hexagon’s Smart Digital Reality solution gives the users the ability to create and/or configure automated workflows that can have parallel and/or sequential steps and help streamline collaboration with internal and external stakeholders. Automated workflows can help standardize task steps, ensure workflow steps are tracked and notifications are sent for overdue task and visibility to any bottlenecks holding up the workflow.


Hexagon’s Smart Digital Reality environment and digital projects solutions bring the project execution together as an all-inclusive construction management enterprise. This allows stakeholders to leverage the digital backbone and access the engineering data for efficient procurement, fabrication, construction, and commissioning while improving the project execution time, quality, productivity, and cost.

To learn more about our digital projects solutions, click here.

About Tom Goff:

Tom Goff is a Senior Industry Consultant with Hexagon’s Asset Lifecycle Intelligence division with more than 30 years of experience across multiple industries (Oil & Gas, Chemical and Nuclear) in engineering, construction, project management and information management, and has also led operational excellence initiatives. As a Senior Industry Consultant with Hexagon, Tom leads consulting initiatives with customers in their digital transformation journey. He has a bachelor’s degree and MBA from Capella University, is a certified PMP and LSS Black Belt, and a veteran of the U.S. Army.

Original article

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