Digital Twins: Build or Buy? Why not both?

When and why you should consider a hybrid approach

I’ve listened in and participated in several conferences and webinars these past months covering different topics related to digitalization in the energy industry, including the dilemma on how to maximize value with digital twins. 'Should my business develop a customized solution or acquire an existing one?' I daresay that there does seem to be a consensus emerging that a ‘hybrid’ approach to the construction and implementation of digital twins could be the ideal one.

  • Text:Brian Sidle

So why does a hybrid approach seem the best way forward? Simply because you are combining the experts from two very different but symbiotic organizations. One has the information and the need to do something better while the other has the tools and purpose to serve those needs.

When creating a digital twin, the operator has the required data (historic, real-time, enterprise systems) as well as the knowledge of what that data means (value) and the vision of what they want to accomplish. The software company supplying the digital twin should have the tools (people and software), experience and foresight to draw up the ‘blueprints’ which will deliver the successful project. Working together, under the tutelage of the proper stakeholders, ideally, the project can be accomplished much faster than a DIY approach could accomplish, taking months, not years.

"I do acknowledge it's not black and white. It's probably in between. There are many companies that already embarked on a digital journey, started to operationalize their digital roadmap and already built part of the infrastructure themselves. At a certain point, they may realize they've done enough and then need specialized systems to leapfrog and move to the next level of the digital roadmap" Shane McArdle, VP Digital Energy at Kongsberg Digital

But what of the pitfalls of DIY? Should companies be wary of trying to do it themselves? Surprisingly, perhaps yes. As in many different industries and developed solutions, there will be some amount of standardization that emerges, and in some cases, companies also require customization. These are some questions to ask yourself: Is spending millions of dollars to create something which only works within your own organization a worthwhile investment? How fast is the pace of cloud and edge-computing evolving? Will a unique, enterprise-level system that can’t operate effectively without hard point firewalls be the “system of the future”?

Digital twins are becoming powerful new tools for organizations to work with. They are enabling superior ways to accomplish the ever-increasing list of requirements companies must aspire to in our evolving world. Working to help manage power consumption, minimize downtime, reduce waste, increase condition-based monitoring and maintenance, provide ESG dashboards and reports, and the list goes on. Suffice to say that given the right partner, there is almost no limit to the contributions they can provide to organizations looking to expand on new approaches for increasing ROI.

“What becomes very obvious in a context of an operator is that you can't either buy or build. We know our data better than anybody else. The key point is that aggregating data at scale and bringing it together is something we know best how to do because we know the system, how to integrate and what the data means. At the same time, the capabilities that sit around that, to bring rapid integration, flexibility, allow disparate sources to integrate and bring AI model capabilities to the table, those things are things we are not best placed to do because there are good market solutions to do that. At the core of this, I think it is important to recognize you need to leverage partners and standard platforms that are available under industry standards. You need to integrate them, and you need to scale them quickly. I think all of that requires a hybrid build-buy approach," Dan Jeavons, Data Science General Manager Shell at Future Digital Twin Conference.

Considering a hybrid approach?

Brian Sidle is Director of Growth at Kongsberg Digital and has more than 25 years of experience in the Oil & Gas industry. Originally trained as an engineer, he holds several Master’s degrees and has extensive experience in Digital Transformation, Upstream Operations and Product Development. Brian is currently based in Houston, US, and has previously worked in Middle East, as well as in the United Kingdom, Denmark and New Orleans.