Case study

VR delivers annual £1 million savings and carbon footprint reduction for Yorkshire Water


See how engineers at Yorkshire Water are using virtual reality and visualisation solutions for design reviews, training efficiency and engineering maintenance.

By using advanced visualisation as suggested by AMRC and Virtalis, Yorkshire Water has achieved...

  • Annualised savings of £1 million by replacing physical prototypes with virtual ones
  • Reductions in environmental and carbon impact thanks to virtual prototypes
  • Improved health, safety, and ergonomics by identifying and changing potential hazards at the design stage
  • Increased use of off-site manufacture to ensure the build is right first time

The issue – costly and time-consuming physical prototypes

Yorkshire Water had begun a project to lower the whole-life-cost of its assts, improve delivery times, lower emissions, and improve exports. Traditionally, this meant building expensive physical prototypes (up to £40,000 per prototype), difficult to modify, and which would take weeks or months to build. Worse, the models would become a graveyard of prototypes – no good for a company looking to reduce carbon emissions and waste.  

Moreover, Yorkshire Water’s standard design review process had failed at times – the process didn’t highlight issues in the interface between the standard product and the existing infrastructure it would be fitted to.

Yorkshire Water turned to the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) at the University of Sheffield to explore how immersive visualisation could improve its prototyping and the organisations began evaluating software and hardware.

The solution – why the AMRC proposed Visionary Render

Yorkshire Water works with a range of CAD formats when creating its designs – but converting CAD into a fully-realised VR environment can often be a challenge. So, it was vital that whatever the solution, it would streamline this conversion process. And that’s exactly what we at Virtalis could offer.

  • Comprehensive list of CAD importers – Yorkshire Water used formats including AutoCAD, Autodesk Revit, Autodesk NavisWorks and Dassault Systemes SolidWorks, all of which Visionary Render handles with ease
  • Handles huge files – Visionary Render’s unique architecture means it can handle massive files far more quickly than any other software of its type – so Yorkshire Water could work not just with models of singular products, but site-wide models too
  • All-in-one solution – Yorkshire Water wanted a portable solution to take to operational teams at different sites – we provided our ActiveMove CVR package, a lightweight turnkey solution that included a HTC Vive headset and VR-ready laptop, complete with a sturdy flightcase, saving Yorkshire Water the hassle of sourcing these separately

How Yorkshire Water used Visionary Render

The AMRC began by building VR prototypes using Visionary Render and Yorkshire Water’s CAD data to prove the concept before moving onto a whole site that included seven different models – the Irton water treatment works, which were undergoing a massive upgrade.  

As the manager of standard products and solutions at Yorkshire Water put it: “A full site model would have been impossible using the old approach. What we now have is a totally immersive experience that enables us to check all the interfaces; to check that everything fits where it is supposed to fit before it goes on site; to ensure that safety and efficiency are fully integrated into the design, to give our operators and maintenance engineers a plant that is easy to run.”

In one instance, users inside the model stood on top of a 30-metre-high tank, protected only by a small rail – which induced uncomfortable vertigo even in the virtual world. This experience immediately led the team to change the design to a more substantial guard, a far more efficient and effective process than making changes on the site when it was built.

Even technicians and engineers with no experience of VR had an overwhelmingly positive response, with a strong preference for this innovative process compared to traditional ones.

The impact of immersive design reviews

  • Avoiding design mistakes - operational staff, such as health and safety or ergonomic experts, could provide input earlier in the development cycle when they otherwise would not have been involved, picking up on issues that may have been missed, and resolving those issues ahead of physical construction.
  • Reduced environmental impact - as well as the monetary cost, the physical prototypes used before had an environmental cost, and were often thrown away once finished with. Virtual prototypes with Visionary Render avoid this waste and can be modified on the fly far more efficiently and easily.
  • Increased off-site manufacturing - VR helps Yorkshire Water to standardise its products, making them easier to manufacture offsite in a clean factory environment rather than on a building site, and helping teams to get the designs right first time. This drives the improvement in productivity, with equipment being ready to plug in and go.
  • Quick and easy design validation - the powerful Visionary Render software can run on a standard VR headset, which Yorkshire Water’s CAD engineers can use to jump into a fully immersive quickly to validate their designs and make any changes quickly on the fly.

Customer testimonials

“Virtual reality is a brilliant way of communicating with all our stakeholders, providing an instantly recognisable visual experience that enables them to not only understand the design, but also to contribute to making it more efficient and effective. It takes a technical drawing and converts it into a powerful, immersive experience.”  Director of Asset Management, Yorkshire Water
“Virtalis is well known to us, and its product is incredibly versatile and robust. It allows us to move quickly from raw, native CAD data directly into an immersive VR environment. By building a site-wide model, we could test the system to its limits to see how it held up. The success of the site-wide demonstrator gives us absolute confidence it is fit for purpose.”  Technical Lead, AMRC
“Usually, the first time the operatives see anything on site is when it's built and then it's too late or too costly to change any of the design. By doing it virtually these guys can have input before it's actually built. So, from a cost point of view, it can save thousands of pounds. From a health and safety point of view, we can see how things interact and we are reducing carbon by not building these things in the first place. We're doing it virtually.”  DFMA Development Engineer, Yorkshire Water

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