INTERVIEW – Taking stock of our long-term partnership with ENGIE Lab CRIGEN

Interview with Guy-Alexandre Grandin, Smart Factory – R&D Program Leader, ENGIE Lab CRIGEN

In an interview with Guy-Alexandre Grandin, Smart Factory – R&D Program Leader at ENGIE Lab CRIGEN, we take stock of our three-year partnership with ENGIE Lab CRIGEN, during which the Synergiz teams deployed a complete range of mixed reality equipment, services and software solutions.
Based on 3D multi-physical simulations, generally called CFDs (Computational Fluid Dynamics), this partnership now offers a new working tool integrated directly in the operational phases of the industrial project cycle.

What was the context at ENGIE Lab CRIGEN that led to the initiation of this mixed reality project?

“ENGIE is a large group with a variety of businesses that all have energy as the common denominator.
Whether it’s in production, distribution, storage, sales, transport, or any other field, we help our customers to be smarter energy consumers and ensure that energy production is in line with their needs.
In both cases, operational performance is an important issue, reflected for example in the field by our technicians who ensure that our energy assets are maintained and working properly.

Among its various entities, the ENGIE group has three research and development (R&D) centres, including ENGIE Lab CRIGEN, which is the only “corporate” centre covering all the group’s business lines.
Its mission is to enlighten the ENGIE group, show that we can do things differently, and lastly to transform ideas into proposals that have real value.

Three years ago mixed reality was one of the technological building blocks that was maturing in the market. My role in R&D was to identify how this technology could create value at ENGIE, particularly within the framework of operational performance.”

What were the challenges or issues identified?

“ENGIE Lab CRIGEN makes it possible to meet the industrial challenges of tomorrow, in particular thanks to its capacity for running industrial-scale tests, models and simulations, but also thanks to its qualified teams of research technicians and engineers.

We therefore carry out simulations on physical phenomena that take place in environments at varying scales and within different contexts, for example within a building, inside an industrial furnace, around a wind turbine, and so on.
We also virtually reproduce – in 3D with the help of mathematical tools – the occurrence of the physical phenomena that characterise them.
Whether it’s air flows within buildings relating to thermal comfort, particle dispersion for health and sanitation issues, or even chemical reactions within industrial processes impacting both product quality and equipment structures, breakthroughs in software now make it possible to use CFD for fluid analyses as well as for any object that can be physically simulated.

Usually carried out during the design or optimisation phases of an industrial project cycle, these simulations are very difficult to apply during the operational phase. On the one hand, because the production times of CFD simulations are generally too long to provide answers to immediate questions in the field. On the other hand, the results of these simulations are usually transmitted in 2D (reports, videos, photos, etc.) to field operators and stakeholders, which may then lead to limitations in the interpretation of phenomena and communication difficulties between business lines. In other words, we create data but we do not use it to its full potential.”

The idea was to provide a cross-business-line tool to make data – previously isolated in silos – that could be easily accessed and processed while improving the decision-making process.

Why did you identify mixed reality as the solution?

“The identified solution then had to answer these different questions:

  • How can we make the most of the data produced by 3D multi-physical digital simulation (CFD)?
  • How can we provide tools to field operators to boost their operating performance and improve communication between business lines?
  • How can we provide a common basis for interpretation accessible to everyone?

The idea was to provide a cross-business-line tool to make data – previously isolated in silos – that could be easily accessed and processed while improving the decision-making process.

Thanks to the testing capabilities available to us at the ENGIE Lab CRIGEN Research and Development Centre, we had previously been able to carry out a few tests with mixed reality, and understand its use. We simply needed to identify an agile and responsive partner, which would allow us to implement a functional solution that could be applied to the various ENGIE business lines and entities.”

How did the partnership with Synergiz go?

“I am very pleased with our partnership with the Synergiz teams.
We needed an open and flexible partner because we had identified and analysed our need, but then it was a matter of setting up a genuinely collaborative partnership to bring the project to life.

Synergiz’s responsiveness and status as a Microsoft Mixed Reality Partner (MRPP) interested us because we wanted to work with an agile company.”

How has mixed reality changed practices?

“The solution deployed by the Synergiz teams is unique on the market and adapted to the ENGIE group’s ecosystem, as a result it meets the different needs of the group’s business lines. This is an absolutely essential asset.

When we launched the project three years ago, we wanted to move away from the existing situation already achieved with mixed reality, and put in place a real working tool integrated in the operational phases that could be used daily by the field operators and all stakeholders (technicians, engineers, directors, etc.).

Today we can really work with mixed reality. This is not just about showing data, but actually interacting with information. This brings us a lot from an operational perspective, and it also allows us to get business lines out of their silos. A collaborative approach in a real and augmented contextualised environment is what makes this solution truly valuable. We are not stifling ourselves in a virtual environment – we’re using a tool for our day-to-day work that is accessible to everyone and that allows several people to collaborate at the same time.”

The collaborative approach in a real and augmented contextualised environment is what makes this solution truly valuable.

What are the next steps?

“We will continue this incredible partnership with the Synergiz teams and focus on the solution’s technical developments, as well as developments in the deployment across ENGIE’s business lines and entities.”

*ENGIE Lab CRIGEN is the ENGIE group’s corporate R&D centre dedicated to green gases (hydrogen, biogas and liquefied gas), new energy uses in cities, buildings and industry, as well as emerging technologies (simulations, digital twins, collaborative and immersive solutions, digital technologies and artificial intelligence, drones and robots, nanotechnologies and sensors).
ENGIE Lab CRIGEN conducts operational R&D projects, develops trials, and implements innovative offerings to stimulate and accelerate the energy transition.