Integration of simulations for optimal solutions

Simulations 2023 Article
Dirk Boumans

Dirk Boumans

Expertise Director Digitalisation

NIRAS is actively keeping up to speed with these advancements in digital services and simulation tools, aiming to make the design processes of our clients' future factories more efficient using the latest technologies.

November 23, 2023

The world of digital tools intended for tasks like master planning, operational management, logistics, and supply chain optimisation is rapidly evolving. NIRAS is actively keeping up to speed with these advancements in digital services and simulation tools, aiming to make the design processes of our clients' future factories more efficient using the latest technologies.

A digital representation of reality

Unfortunately, the phrase "Digital Twin" has become a trendy buzzword for many different types of digital modelling. It appears to suggest the basic idea of making a digital representation of factories or processes, mimicking the real world. Thankfully, at the same time, this term has also developed into a concept expected to be a vital part of consultancy and engineering services. The key point here is to establish a shared language among all project participants when it comes to digital models. This helps prevent misunderstandings and ensures the best project results, ultimately benefiting our clients.

A Digital Twin is a digital representation of a physical asset, process or system, accompanied by the necessary engineering data that facilitates the understanding and modelling of its behaviour. This virtual counterpart can be continually refreshed with data from various sources and is capable of interacting with the actual physical asset. It enables users to visualise the asset, monitor its status, conduct analysis and derive insights, ultimately enabling predictive and performance optimisation capabilities.

Utilising a digital twin, or digital representation of reality, enables us to simulate different situations by adjusting settings and comparing results. This method helps us assess the impacts of uncertain factors, improve Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), identify problems or bottlenecks, and reduce unnecessary margins. By using a digital twin rather than testing scenarios in real life the design process is more cost-effective, risk free, and more comprehensible, enhancing the accuracy of optional changes.

Currently, the simulations we create for clients in the food and beverage, life science, and logistics sectors mainly focus on decided aspects of real-life processes. However in the future we see possibilities of including a more complete range of real-world elements.

Simulation is highly valuable for improving current operations and equipment. With the continuous improvements in computer power, these digital models will become even better at addressing more complicated challenges quickly.

An extension of our expertise

While our core services centre around consultancy and engineering, the integration of simulation might seem to be an entirely new discipline. However, simulations seamlessly aligns with our expertise. Simulations can strengthen engineering solutions or consulted advice and validate hypotheses, sometimes they even take less time or cost less than conventional methods.

Our specialists are skilled at identifying the essential data required to handle the project's objectives. Moreover, our colleagues possess the ability to think up scenarios for testing, owing to their real-life commissioning and start-up experience, as well as familiarity with simulation tools. The experts also know what level of detail is needed since the level of detail of the input of data significantly influences the outcomes and the accuracy of results.

The added value

In comparison to conventional scenario assessment methods, simulations stand out in providing a thorough view of the real-world situation. Complex planning scenarios that involve various products, processes, or shifts are typically managed using Excel or similar software that only deliver results at a high level of abstraction. Visual Simulations however, greatly improve the accuracy and communicability of results and KPI’s like Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) in a full-scale production situation, making it easier to understand and quickly test improvements.

Especially in environments characterized by significant automation, such as factories or similar organisations, an great amount of data is at our disposal. Leveraging this data, a digital simulation can verify whether an installation realises its potential or still harbours untapped opportunities.

While Lean approaches and Design for Six Sigma offer valuable insights into processes and production plants, they rely on cognitive oversight and focus, rendering them vulnerable to fallacies. Although human insights remain essential, computers are better at calculations and handling multiple variables simultaneously, and they continue to get better at running these tasks.

Concerning simulations, NIRAS not only possesses expertise in the digital tools themselves but also excels in managing project sessions to gather information from the entire project team or other important stakeholders. Our experts navigate  complex processes, unpredictable factors, and combine them with innovations and engineering solutions, thereby offering a holistic perspective.

Experiences thus far and prospects ahead

Over the past few years, NIRAS' digital experts operating within the Food and Beverage and Life Science sectors have harnessed their expertise to serve multiple clients. Our collective understanding has revealed that simulations are:

  • Suitable for existing and new production plants and logistics
  • Initial time investment, but time-saving in later phases
  • Initial budget allocation, preventing end-phase expenses
  • Improves over time with data integration
  • Dependent on the level of detail, but easily expandable

The last two points are pivotal for future developments. At present, simulations serve to test engineering solutions, facilitate design modifications, and enhance processes. In the future, we envision digital tools evolving to come up with best practices independently. Looking to the concept of Industry 4.0, another trendy sector term, where sensors, software, and manual data input will get better and more easily available, it is clear that simulations will benefit greatly and evolve in parallel.

As the food and beverage, life science, and logistics sectors embrace heightened responsibility for sustainability, NIRAS is determined to explore solutions and methods, that not only to boost capacity and enhance market competitiveness for clients but also reduces emissions and the consumption of precious resources. These crucial considerations are embodied by our efforts to drive simulation deployment and the development of our digital services.

Dirk Boumans

Dirk Boumans

Expertise Director Digitalisation

Rosmalen, Netherlands


Martin Bo Jensen

Martin Bo Jensen


Allerød, Denmark

+45 2761 8583