Overcoming operational challenges in metro stations through digital twins


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Seamless transition, maximum efficiency

Metro Istanbul aims for a seamless transition from construction to operation and maximum operational efficiency with the digital twin project.

Achieving High-Quality Service Through Digitized Operations

Image Courtesy of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality
Image Courtesy of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality

Metro Istanbul, a subsidiary of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IMM) and a major public transit authority in the city, provides transportation for over 3 million people daily through its network of 18 urban rail system lines covering 241 kilometers. With ambitious goals of enhancing service quality, the company focuses on minimizing downtime and maintaining the efficiency of its railway systems, stations, and facilities. To maintain the highest service standards possible, the Metro Istanbul team responsible for operating and maintaining the rail systems has implemented a digital twin project using Autodesk Tandem. This initiative aims to ensure a smooth transition from construction to operation, maximize operational efficiency, deliver an outstanding travel experience through proactive solutions, and optimize the city's resource utilization.



What is Digital Twin?

Image Courtesy of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality
Image Courtesy of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality

A digital twin is a precise digital replica of a physical object or system. While BIM (Building Information Modeling) is a key aspect of digital twins, the concept encompasses much more. A digital twin replicates the characteristics, performance, and behavior of its physical counterpart, facilitating real-time analysis, prediction, and optimization. The digital twin project undertaken by Metro Istanbul ensures smooth operations across various aspects, guaranteeing uninterrupted quality in metro services, including the seamless operation of escalators and elevators. Committed to delivering timely, comfortable, and cost-effective transportation services to Istanbul residents, Metro Istanbul endeavors to minimize operational and maintenance expenses, boost efficiency, and proactively address potential issues using the Autodesk Tandem digital twin platform.

A Visionary Management

General Manager Dr. Özgür Soy serves as the President of the Eurasia Region and Vice President of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), an organization boasting more than 2000 members spanning over 100 countries. He played a significant role in organizing the 100th UITP Metro Assembly held in Istanbul in December 2023. In 2022, as part of the National Quality Movement Award Program, Metro Istanbul underwent the EFQM Competence Assessment, resulting in it becoming the world's first and only 6-star-rated rail system operator.

Özgür Soy states, "We embrace a sustainable management approach at Metro Istanbul. To achieve this, we are investing in the technologies we deem necessary. The use of digital twins in rail system operations and maintenance is a relatively new concept globally. We aim to scale our project, currently underway at one of our stations, to all of our stations. The project strongly supports our vision of leading the industry's development".

A Highly Comprehensive Operation

Metro Istanbul manages a vast equipment inventory spanning 18 lines and 234 stations, which is expanding gradually with the addition of new stations. A significantly large infrastructure extends from traction transformers to auxiliary service transformers, and lighting systems to HVAC systems, forming a continuously expanding network. Stating that hundreds of thousands of light bulbs, heating, and air conditioning systems, and numerous electromechanical systems are utilized in nearly 2 million square meters managed by Metro Istanbul, Dr. Özgür Soy said, “In addition to all these systems, we have over 2,000 escalators and elevators to ensure comfortable access to our stations, many of which are located at considerable depths due to Istanbul's topographical characteristics. We are number one in the world in terms of the number of escalators and elevators. We must keep all these systems operational at all times and save energy by using them efficiently. We manage a very large asset base, allocating 60% of our time to passenger transport operations and 40% to maintenance systems. This makes creating digital twins a necessity.”

A Pilot Project at Çırçır Station

Image Courtesy of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality
Image Courtesy of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality

Highlighting the metro as a unique mode of transportation unmatched by others, General Manager Soy stated, " The significance of proper design becomes paramount in systems, such as metro systems, which are 50 years old, 100 years old, or whose longevity is uncertain. Details such as the operational costs over 50 or 100 years, frequency of breakdowns, and passenger comfort levels are established during the design phase of metro systems. The earlier we attain this information, the better equipped we are to proactively address potential issues during operation or mitigate costs. During the design phase, we created the digital twin of Çırçır station on our M7 Yıldız-Mahmutbey Metro Line using Autodesk Tandem. Developing a digital twin of a station during the design phase provides significant benefits for operations. It gives you the ability to perform all station operations through the digital twin, except for physical maintenance. You can visualize the malfunctions through the system, and maintenance teams are dispatched already knowing what needs to be done. We are planning to scale the digital twin implementation to all of our stations”.

Up to 37.5% Increase in Operational Efficiency

Image Courtesy of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality
Image Courtesy of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Image Courtesy of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality

Metro Istanbul General Manager Dr. Özgür Soy says, "We have developed the Digital Twin project, in simplest terms, to utilize the city's resources efficiently. We aim to achieve up to a 37.5% increase in operational efficiency and to save up to 25% in energy consumption and maintenance costs. The use of digital twins in rail system operations and maintenance is a relatively new concept globally. We see the digital twin project we have implemented using Autodesk Tandem as a crucial part of our vision of leading the industry's development."

Creating a Digital Twin

Metro Istanbul Design Center Manager Ertan Toprakal states, “The challenging part of creating a digital twin was to generate high-quality BIM models of lines and stations that did not have BIM models. We are using Autodesk’s point cloud technology ReCap to overcome this challenge.”

Metro Istanbul Architectural Design Executive Hande Akkoyunlu adds: “In terms of creating BIM models, our task is particularly more challenging for lines and stations designed before 2015. However, the mandatory integration of BIM models in metro projects since 2015, along with the provision of these models during the turnover of constructions, offers a significant advantage.”

Ertan Toprakal says that to create a digital twin model, they require information on real-time facility data, maintenance procedures, and data flow from asset management systems, alongside BIM models, as well as information on the purposes for which the digital twin model will be used.

“Another challenge was transferring data from real-time systems to the digital twin platform through a common communication protocol,” says Toprakal, describing their experience during the project. “Our data came from a large system. Processing, analyzing, and utilizing this data for decision-making purposes has been a fantastic opportunity to acquire know-how. We will continue to increase our data sources feeding into the digital twin project with further IoT and sensor investments”.

What Goals Does the Project Support?

Metro Istanbul's main focus is to provide excellent service to its passengers. In pursuit of this, their goal is to develop swift and agile solutions to address any kind of challenges that may arise. Vehicle maintenance, line and station maintenance, as well as repair, revision, and renewal operations at stations, play a crucial role in achieving this goal. In the operation of rail systems, energy consumption is a crucial factor in determining costs. Therefore, the ISO 50001 Energy Management System is implemented in all activities, to ensure the efficient and effective use of energy resources.

Metro Istanbul aims to continuously improve its environmental management performance in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The company is committed to enhancing its efforts to reduce environmental emissions stemming from its activities through innovative approaches.

Metro Istanbul Deputy General Manager M. Fatih Gültekin states, "We see the digital twin project as a crucial step towards our goal of providing excellent service to our passengers. We are rolling out our digital twin project because of its robust features that will enhance our maintenance processes, energy consumption, and sustainability practices, all of which are closely aligned with our primary goal".

Ease of Access and Analysis Capabilities

Image Courtesy of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality
Image Courtesy of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality

Ferdi Tatar, Metro Istanbul BIM and Visual Design Executive, outlines their expectations regarding maintenance processes with the use of Autodesk Tandem as follows: "We aim to utilize digital twin technology to streamline our maintenance processes, implementing improvements that lead to significant savings on high energy costs. Our expectations are also high in terms of preventive maintenance. To achieve this, we need to ensure quick access to equipment and maintenance documents. We must have the opportunity to inspect the condition of the equipment before any equipment failure occurs. We need to quickly access the asset information, installation, and maintenance dates for all equipment. The Autodesk Tandem digital twin platform serves as a repository for facility management data. It creates a database where all necessary information such as operation and maintenance manuals, warranty information, and other applicable data can be easily accessed. This data is associated with the 3D model of the building, enabling operators to make accurate predictions about how their systems will be impacted by potential equipment failures, and plan preventative maintenance.”

Ferdi Tatar also states that they will conduct operations on the digital twin platform, including Total CER Power Analysis, Comparisons of Energy Consumed by Trains with Renewable Energy Generated, Optimization of Train Driving Modes with Train Speed-Time Profiles, and Analysis of Energy Consumption for Station Auxiliary Services, to make improvements for energy efficiency.

Autodesk Tandem and Workforce Productivity

Image Courtesy of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality
Image Courtesy of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality

Metro Istanbul Digital Twin Project Supervisor Şaban Kuş says, "We are effectively utilizing Autodesk Tandem in our maintenance procedures”. They can monitor equipment maintenance periods through Autodesk Tandem by utilizing data transferred from the asset management module of the ERP system. This allows them to intervene before faults occur, ensuring timely maintenance.

Equipment signal information from the monitoring and control system is also stored in Autodesk Tandem. Şaban Kuş adds, “We are continuing our efforts to conduct predictive equipment analysis by integrating this signal data with AI applications. We examine equipment failures and anomalies within the equipment.”

Şaban Kuş states that digitalization and digital twin initiatives have been welcomed by all employees, particularly maintenance and repair teams. Kuş adds, "We aimed to make maintenance processes more efficient and easier, especially for the personnel working in maintenance units. The digital twin has also had a positive impact on certain decision-making processes. For instance, the energy management systems unit can make more effective decisions regarding energy management by analyzing energy values gathered through the digital twin model. In the future, when all our stations are analyzed with digital twin models, we anticipate being able to prevent unexpected faults and energy losses.”