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clip_image001The past year I have written about PLM in the context of digital transformation, relevant for companies that deliver products to the market. Some years ago, I have advocated the value of a PLM infrastructure for EPC companies and Owners/Operators of a plant.

EPC stands for Engineering, Construction, and Procurement, a typical name for often large capital-intensive projects, executed by a consortium of companies. Together they create buildings, platforms, plants, infrastructure and more one-off deliveries, which will be under control of the Owner/Operator after going-live.

Some references:

2014 EPC related: The year the construction industry did not discover PLM

2013 Owner/Operators related: PLM for all industries?

As you can see from the dates, these posts are not the most recent posts. Meanwhile, EPC-based businesses are discovering the value of a PLM infrastructure. Main component for them is BIM (Building Information Model or Building Information Management) and they use cloud-based collaboration environments to be more cost-efficient. Slowly these companies are moving to a single repository of the data supporting multidisciplinary collaboration related to a BIM model to guarantee a continuity of data and better execution. I am positive about EPC companies that are discovering the value of PLM- It might be slightly different from classical product-selling companies, mainly because data ownership is different. In an EPC environment many companies are responsible for parts of the data and each of them keeps the real knowledge as IP (Intellectual Property) for themselves. They only “publish” deliverables. For companies that deliver products to the market, the OEM keeps responsibility for all relevant product information and h has a different strategy.

 

clip_image003I worked in the past with one of my peers, Bjorn Fidjeland (www.plmpartner.com) on PLM for EPCs and Owner/Operators. We share the same passion to bring PLM outside traditional industries. As Bjorn is now more active than I am in this domain, I recommend to read Bjorn´s posts on this topic. For example:

EPC related 2016: Handover to logistics and supply chain in capital projects

Owner/Operators 2015: Plant Information Management – Information Structures

Bjorn provides a lot of details, which are important as implementing PLM for EPCs or Owner/Operators requires different data structures. I wrote about these concepts in 2014 in two posts – PLM and/or SLM ?  post 1 and post 2. At that time not realizing the virtual twin was becoming popular.

PLM complementary to EAM

The last year I have explored these concepts together with (potential) Owner/Operators of a plant, where PLM would be complementary to their EAM system. In the world of Owner/Operators, Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) software is the major software these companies use. You find some of the major EAM players here.

You will discover that all these software suites are good for plant operations, but they all have a challenge to support data consistency and quality in particular when dealing with plant changes and efficient, high-quality  plant information management. Versioning and status management, typical PLM capabilities are often not there.

Owner/Operators have challenges with EAM environments as:

  • EAM systems are designed to support an as-operated environment, assuming all data it correct. Support for Maintenance, Repair or Overhaul projects is often rudimentary and depending on document-driven processes. The primary business process of these companies is producing continuously, such as, electricity or chemicals. Therefore typical engineering projects to change or enhance the main production process do not have the same financial focus.
  • A document-driven approach is the de facto standard common for these industries. Most of the time because the plant has been established through an EPC approach, which was 100 % document-driven due to the different disconnected disciplines/tools working at that time in the EPC project. As the asset information is stored and delivered in documents, most owners/operators keep the document-driven approach for future change projects.

Owners/operator can benefit significantly from a data-driven PLM system as complementary infrastructure to their EAM system. The PLM system will be the source for accurate asset information, manage the change and approvals for the assets and ultimately push the new released information to the EAM system. The PLM system will offer the full history an traceability of decisions made, important for regulatory bodies or insurance companies.

.A data-driven approach for asset information allows owners/operators to benefit from efficient processes, reducing strongly the amount of people required to process data (documents) or reducing the time for people working in maintenance and operations to search for data. I found a nice slide from IBM explaining the concept of PLM an EAM collaboration – see below:

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The same benefits modern digital enterprises will have related to a data-driven approach will come available for owner/operators. Operational management is supported by the EAM system combined with real-time capabilities provided by a modern PLM systems to analyze, design and deliver changes to the plant without a costly data conversion process (e.g. compiling new documents) and disconnected processes.

Moving to a virtual twin

clip_image007Interesting enough the digital transformation is bringing the concepts of connecting engineering, manufacturing and operations together into an infrastructure of digital platforms interacting together. Where owners/operators historically do not focus on optimizing the engineering process to build and maintain their assets, in the “classical” industries companies were not really focusing on how products behaved in the field after they were delivered. With digital continuity (the digital thread) and IoT now these “classical” companies can connect to their products in the field. Their products become assets of information, and in case these companies change their business offering into leasing products and services, these assets become managed assets, like the assets owner/operators are managing.

The concept of a virtual twin (or digital twin – image proprietary of GE) , where a virtual model-based environment is linked to one or more real instances in operations, is the dream of all industries. Preparing, Simulating and verifying changes in a virtual world is so much more efficient and cheaper that is allows for higher quality of products and in the case of plant operators higher safety will be the number one topic.

Conclusion

What I have learned so far from plant owners/operators is that they are struggling to grasp a modern digital enterprise concept as their current environment is not model-based but document-driven. Starting with PLM to complement their EAM system could be a first step to understand the value and business benefits of digital continuity. It requires a new way of thinking which is not a commodity at this time. It will happen in the next 5 to 10 years. Expect it to be driven by the realization of virtual twins in the industry and further BIM maturity. The future is model-based !!!

p.s. I am happy to announce WordPress provided a new feature to my blog. In the side panel you can now choose your language (based on Google Translate) if you have difficulties with English. Enjoy !

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