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Digital Twin

Going Beyond the Digital Twin with Smart Digital Reality™ blog series: Data and Document Management


In the first blog of this series, I introduced Hexagon’s digital, data-driven, Smart Digital Reality™, enables Hexagon’s customers to  throughout their asset’s lifecycle. This new level of digital reality manages the full lifecycle of industrial asset data, from conceptual design to decommissioning, transforming industrial facilities into lean, efficient and safe operations that improve the bottom line while assuring a sustainable future.  

In this blog, we will discuss the business values and advantages of implementing an intelligent Smart Digital Reality for managing industrial assets, data and documents, both structured and unstructured, throughout the complete lifecycle of facilities. For structured data, we are talking about data that has been formatted and defined to a set structure. For unstructured data, we are talking about data that is in whatever native format it was created in and not yet processed. 

Electronic / Digital Document Management 

Let’s first look at Document Management. Digital or Electronic Document Management Systems (EDMS) are the digital and secure storage of documents. The problem is that Electronic Document Management systems are still document-centric even though they are digital. There are many electronic document management technologies in the marketplace, and a few have some basic data management capabilities but are usually only good at managing structured data.  
Most of these digital or electronic document management systems do not have the full breadth of functionality that industrial assets require to take advantage of an advanced digital reality solution. In fact, most are still using a folder structure system for organizing the asset information, which can make finding the right information in a timely manner very inefficient. Some EDMS systems can also do document indexing, which is the process of tagging documents with specified attributes that can later be searched upon.  

With indexing documents, a document controller either manually applies attributes to documents as they are uploaded or uses an automated process to apply pre-determined attributes such as Client name, PO number, Date, Project Number, etc. While indexing can help find documents quicker and gives the user some added information to search on, it still falls short of creating data relationships based on the information within the document or file to all other associated data in the system. 
Hexagon’s Smart Digital Reality solution provides all the document management functionalities needed, such as check-in/checkout of documents, automated revision management, RFIs, submittals, transmittals, electronic signatures, workflows, etc., as do many of the EDMS systems on the market. 

But the full value lies in the data relationships and management capabilities that bring all the asset information into a single pane of glass and a source of truth for the users. No longer will users spend up to 47% of their time searching for information, as stated in one Gartner study. Users can simply start their search for information based on any data point they know and quickly see all the related data and documents associated with the object that was searched upon. 

Data Management 

What if there was a solution where data relationships are automatically built for all associated data within the system and can link to related information in other systems as well? This would allow for very quick navigation of all related information about an object. Notice I stated object and not document. Hexagon’s advanced Smart Digital Reality is an object-based data management platform 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. For example, your engineering tags get linked to the associated information like documents, 3D models, laser scans, work packages, change request, PBS (Plant Breakdown Structure), manufacturer documentation, etc.  

By managing the data at the object level, the data is updated as it is revised, ensuring the users always have the latest version. Users can also graphically view the data, whether it is documents, 3D models, laser scans, etc., without native applications. This solution eliminates information silos and gives the users a single source of truth for actionable insights and decision-making. 

A 2022 study by Forrester on search-powered technologies included 832 data leaders across 8 countries resulted in these key findings: 

  • Search-powered technologies drive the future of business. Data leaders rely on them to improve cybersecurity, drive digital transformation initiatives and help with cloud migration and usage.  

  • Firms will respond to unstructured data and interoperability challenges with fully featured, integrated search platforms that comprise critical point-solution capabilities. 

  •  Data leaders turn to search-powered technologies to drive digital transformation initiatives through improvements in data quality, access, and usability. 

It also revealed that 56% expect to implement an integrated search solution in the next three years. 
The importance of finding trustworthy information quickly so business decisions can be made and trusted is of extreme value and can only be accomplished through a data-driven focus. Companies that focus on just going digital rather than being data-driven will most likely fail in their transformation. 


Another important aspect of Hexagon’s Smart Digital Reality is the ability to create and/or configure automated workflows. These workflows can have parallel and/or sequential steps that can include sending notifications, requiring approval steps and tracking progress, just to name a few. These workflows also help streamline collaboration with internal and external stakeholders. In the context of document management, these workflows can be configured to your specific needs and include submittals, transmittals, QA/QC document reviews, work packages and so much more. We will discuss more on workflows in the next blog. 

About the Author

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.

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