Double Bubble: Virtual Twins Can Lead Us to Better, More Predictable Outcomes

Outcome-based services and virtual twins don’t have to coexist but together they are a great match.

Dassault Systemes
Double Bubble: Virtual Twins Can Lead Us to Better, More Predictable Outcomes

Ralph Smith - Global GEOVIA Services Director, Dassault Systèmes 

Ever since IT existed, organisations have sought ways to align their goals with vendors' tools and services they provide, using what we call outcome-based services. That makes a tonne of sense: we need to calibrate what we do with technology with our overall mission and strategic goals. In this space I'd like to discuss how I see a great opportunity to make that a reality, thanks to an emerging technology we call virtual twins.

First though, let's define our terms…

Outcome-based services is the name we use for arrangements with shared risks and shared rewards. It's all about finding mutual agreements where project success is front and centre of what both vendor and buyer are trying to achieve. In other words, together, we both win.

As for virtual twins, you may have come across the concept under another moniker, digital twin. Whatever we want to call it, this refers to a technology by which highly accurate and lifelike 3D mock-ups of current or projected physical products, operations, systems and processes are created. These simulations can then be used to test integrations and run ‘what if' scenarios, as well as helping with maintenance and monitoring of operations.

Outcome-based services and virtual twins don't have to coexist but together they are a great match. Virtual twins de-risk prototyping, live projects and iterative changes through lifecycles. Outcome-based services are more likely to be successfully executed using virtual twins because we have a better sense of what's going on and the potential impact of actions we take.

Virtual twins is a relatively modern phenomenon but the model has an immaculate heritage. Many experts see it genesis in NASA and while not all projects are as complex and sophisticated as a space mission, replicating the approaches of mission-critical project isn't a bad way to proceed in the world of manufacturing, medical operations or, since we are here, mining.

If we can forensically model pit excavations, haulage movements and the like through parametrically connected designs then we have a better chance of successful planning cycles. We can sequence how we extract, say, copper concentrate and get it onto trains and ships or into smelters, all with granular levels of detail. So, we enjoy the benefits of modular constructs that can safely and affordably be edited. And if we interconnect these virtual twins with OT data, we can get to real-time (or near real-time) control of resourcing, conveyor scanners, fleet management systems and other value-chain elements.

Using virtual twins can have radically different outcomes because it reveals alternative approaches. An example: Dassault Systèmes worked on an industrial cement project where we simulated a quarry as part of the evaluation process and ran over 600 scenarios. The result was a completely different strategy to that original envisioned and a project workflow that saved over 35 per cent in costs.

Ultimately, we can cost better, understand the parameters of uncertainty, monitor the effects of systems adaptations and track step-by-step changes to original decisions. AI can help to model variability and Machine Learning to learn as we go along so results get better over time and our ability to predict becomes sharper and more accurate.

The net effects of this are many and positive. We can reduce time to discovery of mineral resources, make extraction more efficient, reduce physical risks and generally cut the number of links from idea to execution, production, supply-chain management and servicing. Complex questions can be chipped away at: what happens if geo-tech parameters change, and will they materially affect the final outcome? And if so, how and to what effect?

By creating these forward-looking exercises and simulacrums across tens of thousands of scenarios, we can see around the corner, anticipate the future, visualise impacts and better prioritise investments. In short, we can move that bit faster, unloosen the usual time and money constraints, jump to focus on what's more likely to succeed or get us to the next phase.

How to get there

The combination of outcome-based services and virtual twins is becoming a mature, sophisticated approach with a library of best practices available and a range of tools to choose from. What is potentially missing, as with so many modern technologies, is skills. Using a partner makes it possible to leverage their knowledge: not only of technical skills but their applicability to the vertical sector and use cases. Working side by side with a specialist can provide not only a fast track but also the chance to build knowledge in house and make it possible to develop iterative projects so they mature and improve rather than dating badly as with speculative ‘big bang' projects.

It's also fair to say that outcome-based services are still in their infancy. We all need to get better at establishing fair KPIs and thinking about what success looks like both from a business and technical point of view. Deals must be equitable with all players having skin in the game.

But the stakes are bigger than just finding a tactical way to move faster and smarter. Mining faces many challenges, not least the common perception of it as suffering under the three D's of being dull, dirty and dangerous. Miners need to figure out how to attract the next generation of people into the business and virtual twins show the path forward to a digitised, safer sector.

We are amid a shift to an "as a service" model where lack of budget or people skills needn't stop projects from going ahead and where miners only pay for the tools and services they use on a pay-per-sip consumption model. In the future, we may even be so bold as the envision mining companies that simply own the lease and outsource all operational aspects from drilling and blasting to haulage. That will place yet more emphasis on virtual reimagining of the sector though and having a reliable single source of the truth and blueprint that acts as master planning and tracking document. But what's clear is that by making optimal use of technology we can shift towards a smarter mining world that depends more on the ability to consider, with options, compute and balance probabilities rather than relying on brute force and sweat of our collective brows.


Join the GEOVIA User Community, by Dassault Systèmes to read about industry topics from experts, be the first to know about new product releases and product tips and tricks, and share information and questions with your peers. All industry professionals are welcome to learn, engage, discover and share knowledge to shape a sustainable future of mining.  


Dassault Systèmes

Dassault Systèmes, the 3DEXPERIENCE® Company, is a catalyst for sustainable innovations.

Europe/Middle East/Africa Dassault Systèmes:


A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the mining sector, brought to you by the Mining Magazine Intelligence team.

A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the mining sector, brought to you by the Mining Magazine Intelligence team.


Mining Magazine Intelligence Future Fleets Report 2024

The report paints a picture of the equipment landscape and includes detailed profiles of mines that are employing these fleets


Mining Magazine Intelligence Digitalisation Report 2023

An in-depth review of operations that use digitalisation technology to drive improvements across all areas of mining production


Mining Magazine Intelligence Automation Report 2023

An in-depth review of operations using autonomous solutions in every region and sector, including analysis of the factors driving investment decisions


Mining Magazine Intelligence Exploration Report 2023 (feat. Opaxe data)

A comprehensive review of current exploration rates, trending exploration technologies, a ranking of top drill intercepts and a catalog of 2022 Initial Resource Estimates and recent discovery successes.