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How to optimally exploit the value of plant data

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World Cement,

Johanna Kiesel, AUCOTEC AG.

Millions of pieces of data are generated, changed, updated, and documented in plant engineering. This costs time, money and expertise. What happens then? The plant is delivered and in operation, but the documentation lies unused in some files, in cardboard folders in a surprising number of cases.

However, plants change, expand, and become older. Their documentation usually does not keep up with this development, as changes are not reflected in the planning tool. Although hard copies of diagrams contain redlining entries from maintenance, the overview is easily lost in the process. The up-to-date status is often unrecognisable, due to the number of corrections in red. Furthermore, the more outdated the documentation, the more difficult it is to ensure targeted, efficient maintenance.

This means that aging plants not only lose value, but also their data that has required such effort in its creation. One of the largest chemical companies in the world estimated the legacy data value of its Cologne site alone at around €5 million. This is a good reason in itself for the company to switch to Engineering Base (EB).

Whether malfunction or planned maintenance, quality and speed are worth more

This is because it is not only unnecessary to accept loss in value, but also to refrain from using the added value provided by up-to-date legacy data that is easily accessible and usable. AUCOTEC thus relies on EB's versatile data model, which maintains all engineering information across disciplines and also supports maintenance with practical solutions. It enables technicians to easily and promptly pass on the results of their work, even without special engineering knowledge. They use an app to send their redlining information via the Cloud directly to the design department, which checks it and implements it in an appropriate position. If desired, the corresponding changes to an object are immediately visible in all its representations in EB, or they are controlled via proposal fields. This ensures that data remains consistent and up-to-date.

The value of such data is evident, for example, in the event of a malfunction, when every minute counts. A lot of money can be saved by immediate knowledge of what exactly needs to be exchanged and having the right device available. Plants often have long paths.

Up-to-date plant data is of immense value even for planned revampings. The data model, for example, immediately indicates the amount of reserves the plant has in terms of signal inputs or the status of the cabinet capacities. EB also offers high-efficiency management of major change measures (execution management). They are made directly to the central plant model. During this process, EB coordinates the subcontractors, even at multiple assignment levels. It also facilitates the design of new measuring functions, actuators and loads, which are independent objects in EB. The software modules for their control can be designed at the same time for the distributed control system. Time-consuming manual parameterisation becomes superfluous, which is another added value.

From as-designed to as-is

How does a company obtain an up-to-date plant model, however, if it has worked without EB thus far and the design documentation has never received any service information? For this purpose, AUCOTEC further developed its intelligent migration solution for legacy data. A southern German chemical park operator used it to successfully transfer 1800 tags with a total of 6700 diagrams of the most diverse plants in just one weekend. The data is configured, mapped and imported in common formats, such as DWG or XLS. Thus the system consolidates all information about a particular object from different disciplines into an object model.

All imported objects, from the pump in the P&ID to the terminals in the cabinet, then form the comprehensive as-is plant model with all logic links that is typical for EB and editable for everyone involved.

When importing, EB compares the legacy data with the allocation lists in the distributed control system. This is because a distributed control system naturally reflects the up-to-date status of an operating plant. For each import, EB automatically displays the delta between the existing model and recently added data. Discrepancies can be eliminated directly, with EB thus gradually consolidating the documentation into a consistent "single source of truth" for everyone involved, regardless of the system with which it was originally developed.

Smart data evolves from big data

This versatile model constitutes the highest level of digitalsation and further increases the value of the existing data because it can be used at any time in terms of Industry 4.0, unlike in PDFs, DWG graphics, or scans. Just as a navigation system cannot read one-way streets or traffic congestion information from a simple digital street map, PDFs and other documents impede engineering experts because the objects in them are not available separately. In contrast, EB's corresponding data model transforms big data into smart data, which enables future-oriented use without limits in terms of discipline or format, also beyond maintenance and revamping.

Thus a major AUCOTEC customer uses, for example, the structured data in EB's up-to-date data model in order to avoid having to manually configure its predictive maintenance system. This enables the company to offer its customers worldwide predictive maintenance and continually optimise its products at the same time. This constitutes a business model that could not have been thus realised without EB.

It's not possible to be more digital: the logical twin

Conventional plant overviews can only display objects graphically. The invisible intelligence behind them is only comprehensible with a data model. EB contains the logical representation of mechanical and electrical engineering and control data. On the one hand, this also reduces work and errors in connected systems such as automation, ERP or 3-D. On the other hand, a central model is THE prerequisite for mapping the digital twin of a plant, not only from a mechanical point of view but with the complete structure including logic, connections and device manufacturer data. There is added value in every plant, EB detects and unearths those hidden treasures.

About the author: Johanna Keisel is Press and Public Relations Manager at AUCOTEC AG.

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Cement news 2018