To avoid that software geeks are getting curious about the title – in this context, ALM means Asset Lifecycle Management. In 2008 I was active for SmarTeam to promote PLM concepts relevant for Asset Lifecycle Management. The focus was on PLM being complementary to asset operation management (EAM Enterprise Asset Management and MRO – Maintenance Repair and Overhaul).

This topic has become actual for me in the past two months, having discussed and seen (PDT) the concepts of a model-based approach for assets and constructions. PLM, ALM, and BIM converge conceptually. Every year I give a one-day update from the field for students doing a master for PLM & BIM on top of their engineering/architectural background. Five years ago, there was no mentioning of BIM, now the ratio of BIM-oriented students has become significant. For me it is always great to see young students willing to learn PLM or BIM on top of their own skillset. Read more about this particular Master class in French when you click on the logo to the left.

In 2012 I started to explain PLM benefits to EPC companies (Engineering Procurement Construction), targeting a more profitable and efficient delivery of their constructions (oil platform, plant, building, infrastructure). The simplified reasoning behind using PLM was related to a more efficient and quality of multidisciplinary collaboration, reducing costly fixes during construction, and smoothening the intensive process of data handover.

More and more in the process industry, standards, like ISO 15926 (Process Industry) and ISO 19650 (BIM – mainly in the UK), became crucial.  At that time, it was difficult to convince companies to focus on the horizontal-integrated process instead of dedicated, disconnected tools. Meanwhile, this has changed, thanks to the Digital Twin hype. Let’s have a look.

PLM and ALM

The initial value for using PLM concepts complementary to MRO systems came from the fact that MRO systems are mainly focusing on plant operations. You could compare these systems with ERP systems for manufacturing companies, focusing execution and continuous operation. Scheduled maintenance and inspections are also driven by the MRO system. Typical MRO systems are Maximo and SAP PM. PLM could deliver configuration management, linking the design intent to the physical implementation. Therefore provide higher data quality, visibility, and traceability of the asset history.

The SmarTeam data model for Asset Lifecycle Management

In 2010, I shared these concepts in two posts: Asset Lifecycle Management using a PLM-system and PLM for Asset Lifecycle Management and Asset Development based on lessons learned with some (nuclear) plant owner/operators. They started to discover the need for configuration management to ensure data quality for operations. In 2010-2014 the business case using PLM complementary to MRO was data quality and therefore reduced down-time when executing large maintenance programs (dependencies between the individual projects were not visible without PLM)

In MRO-systems, like in ERP-systems, the data for execution is based on information coming from various engineering sources – specifications, PFDs, P&IDs.  Questions owner/operators ask themselves are:

  • What are the designed operational settings?
  • Are the asset parameters currently running as designed?
  • What is the optimized maintenance period?
  • Can we stretch maintenance intervals?
  • Can we reduce inspections?
  • Can we reduce downtime for maintenance and overhaul?
  • What about predictive maintenance?

Most of these questions are answered by experts that use their tacit knowledge and experience to give the best so far answers. And when the answers were wrong, they were accepted as new learning points. Next time we won’t make this mistake, and the experts become even more knowledgeable.

Now, these questions could be answered if you can model your asset in a virtual environment. In the virtual world, you would use simulation models, logical models, and 3D Models to describe the asset. This is where Model-Based Systems Engineering practices are used. However, these models need to be calibrated based on reality. And that is where IoT and Asset Operation Monitoring comes in connecting physical behavior with virtual predicted behavior. You can read more about this relationship in my post: Will MBSE the new PLM instead of IoT?

PLM and BIM

In 2014 when I started to discuss PLM concepts with EPC-companies (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction), mainly in the Oil & Gas industry. Here excellent asset development tools (AVEVA, Intergraph, Bentley) are the standard, and as the purpose of an EPC company is to deliver a plant or platform. Each software tool has its purpose and there is no lifecycle strategy.  The value PLM could bring was providing a program overview (complementary with Primavera), standardization, multidisciplinary coordination and visibility across projects to capture knowledge.

Most of the time, the EPC companies did not see the value of optimizing themselves as this was accepted in the process. Even while their productivity and cost due to poor quality (fixing during construction /commissioning) were absurd (10-20 % of the project budget). Cultural change – think longer instead of fix later – was hard to explain. In the end, the EPC was not responsible for operations, so why bother that much?

My blog posts: PLM for all Industries and 2014 – the year that the construction industry did not discover PLM illustrate the challenge at that time. None of the EPCs and construction companies had the, that improving collaboration based on information-continuity (not data-driven yet) could bring the significant benefits, despite their relatively low-profit margin (1- 3 % is considered excellent). Breaking the silos is too.

Two recent trends, however, changed the status quo that existed.

First of all, more and more, the owner/operator does not want to be responsible for the maintenance and operations of the asset. The typical EPC-companies now became DBO-companies (Design Build and Operate), this requires lifecycle thinking for these companies as most of the costs of an asset are during its maintenance and operation phase.

Advanced Thinking (read: (Model-Based) Systems Engineering) can help these companies to shift their focus on a more sustainable design of the asset for the future and get rewarded for that. In the old EPC-model, the target was “just” to deliver as specified.

A second significant trend is the availability of cloud infrastructure for the construction world. A cloud infrastructure does not require considerable investment for the stakeholders in a construction project. By introducing BIM in a common data environment (CDE), a comparable infrastructure to PLM is created and likely the Maintenance-and-Operatie stakeholder is eager to have the full virtual definition here for the future. Read more about BIM and CDE for example, here: CDE – strategic BIM process tool.

Of course, technology and standards are there to collaborate. Now it is up to the stakeholders involved to develop new skills for collaboration (learn or hire) and implement them through new ways of working. A learning process can never be pushed by a big-bang, so make sure your company operates in two modes while learning.

As I mentioned the Maintenance-and-Operate stakeholders or in traditional cases, the Owner/Operators are incredibly interested in a well-defined virtual model of the asset. This allows them to analyze and simulate the implementation of fixes and enhancements for the future with an optimum result. Again we are talking about a digital twin of the asset here

Conclusion

Even though the digital twin is on the top of the Gartner Hype cycle, it has become already a vital principle to implement in particular for substantial, critical assets. As these precious assets, minor inefficiencies in data continuity can still be afforded to learn. From the moment companies have established a digital continuity between their virtual and physical assets, the concept for Digital Twin can also be profitable (and required) for other industries. In particular when these companies want to deliver their products as a service.

 

Note: I have been talking this year a lot about the challenges of digital transformation applied to PLM in particular. During PI PLMx London 2020 on February 3 and 4, I will lead a Think Thank session related to the challenge of connecting your PLM transformation to your executives’ vision (and budget). See you there ?