This is the first in a short series of posts, intended to stimulate ideas and gather input and experience from industry experts to drive the digital transformation of how we create, manage, share and use engineering and asset information across the lifecycle of large complex and normally one-off assets such as oil and gas, petrochemical, power and offshore.

The industries we serve have been using some of the most sophisticated technology to design and build such assets for many years, but frustratingly are often seen to lag behind others such as retail and discrete manufacturing in digitising the entire business of designing, building, maintaining and operating these assets.

An interesting comparison is how the building industry is pushing forward with its BIM agenda, albeit the reality of BIM is a long way behind what is achieved in our industries, especially with 3D modelling, material and construction management.  So, is BIM leading the way for us or is BIM simply catching up?

There are a lot of knowledgeable people in our industries that really ‘get it’ and are convinced of the business advantages that truly mastering the engineering data will bring. So why are we seen as laggards and how can we galvanise a movement to improve?

The time is right now.  Everywhere you look the phrases digital transformation, digital twin, Industry 4.0, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are at the forefront of many articles written by the systems integrators and industry analysts.  But a lot of this commentary is very high level and uses terms such as digital asset, digital twin, digital thread interchangeably, often with reference to digital prototyping which, as we know, is more suitable to discrete manufacturing (where you design once and then sequentially build many) and a key challenge is managing the “product model” as it evolves over time, rather than the single asset.

What we need in our industries is a digital story that fits the way we work and can be applied practically and consistently, taking into consideration the complexity of the business and especially the supply chain.  Hopefully this series of posts can be used to stimulate debate and input, understanding that the answers revolve around a combination of people, processes and technology focused on a common approach to data.  We must also consider the point of view of the owners, operators, engineering contractors, and suppliers in the context of the life cycle.

So, looking at our industries can we say we feel truly in control of our master data?  To answer that let’s start with a suggested definition of master data and control in the context of these posts.

The term master data is normally associated with a defined set of key data attributes relating to equipment and systems that are seen to be process and safety critical, but the precise definition of master data really depends on who you are.  If you are a piping design engineer then your master data is the P&ID, the piping specifications and catalogues and the design rules of your company, regulatory bodies and international standards. If you are a maintenance engineer then it is the manufacturing and operating data of the equipment you are maintaining, the functional design parameters of the equipment, its performance and maintenance history, the isolation and safety data related to the equipment and its function and place in the asset, and the work permitting processes.  And so on …

The point here is that the master data depends on the task in hand, the stage in the asset lifecycle and the form and function of the asset itself.

In my view, we can say we are in control of data if we can:

  • Access it easily and precisely
  • Trust it for the purpose needed
  • Share it easily and seamlessly with others
  • Visualise it in context of need
  • Repurpose it based on context and activity

If we can’t say ‘yes’ to all the above points how can we take advantage of the digital transformation agenda presented by Industry 4.0 initiatives and technology advances to truly master engineering and asset data to improve project and operational excellence programmes and ensure high quality design and safe operations?

Please share your views/opinions with us on LinkedIn, via our website or email our Marketing Director louise.webb@digatex.com

In this series, I will be looking at:

  • Why we are seen to be laggards with regards to digitisation
  • The opportunities for those that embrace digital transformation pragmatically
  • Possible visions for the future that fit with an Industry 4.0 agenda
  • The key concepts for success in a digital transformation program
  • Common misconceptions that trip us up
  • Creating a winning strategy
  • Ensuring success through phased and practical execution

All articles will be published on our website www.digatex.com and posted on LinkedIn over the next few weeks.