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Digitisation, Digitalisation & As-Built Plant Data – Flex Process LTD

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Digitisation, Digitalisation & As-Built Plant Data

Digital Transformation is probably the most widely discussed but least understood business imperative that is currently underway worldwide. The companies that are successfully making this transition are doing so in a staged or phased fashion. Think of it as a journey, think big, but start small, and apply the digitalization initiatives progressively through incremental small achievable steps that bring immediate benefits while continuing to move towards more ambitious targets.

Flex Process has extensive experience with assisting our clients on their digital transformation journey using this approach. This starts at the basic level where we have helped with capturing and digitalizing basic plant information, through reverse engineering where we create or recreate basic plant information such as process flow diagrams, data sheets, and P&IDs etc. and eventually to advanced 3D models and simulations.

Often this starts at a small scale where we tackle a single plant problem or project on one part of the process, solving the problem, and reverse engineering the associated process operating and design details as we go along. Then we tackle other problems, and after a few years we have reverse engineered and developed 3D and simulation models of much of the Clients’ plant. Eventually it makes sense to join the models together to end up with a full 3D model and process simulation of the entire plant or facility.

Talk to us about how our experienced engineers can partner with you to quickly understand your processes and can work with you to resolve your pain points and develop your digitalisation plans in a staged, cost effective manner, often with immediate payback, and always in line with your overall strategy and goals for your facility.

Most organisations recognise that digital transformation is an imperative if they are to remain competitive and prosper in the future, however many are struggling to develop practical strategies for digital transformation or to implement them. In particular, the chemical processing industry is lagging behind other industries, particularly with digital transformation of their processing and manufacturing processes. This sector is where Flex process operates and where we have experience with developing digital twins to improve our clients’ operations.

There are as many different definitions of digital twins as there are people involved with them, this is how we apply the concept. If this can help solve your needs, then contact us to see how we can help. In many facilities, even though large amounts of data are available, often historian data, in their OEM control systems, it is usually difficult to utilise this data, and apply it to their plans going forward.  The different parties involved in the organisation frequently operate as independent “silos” with minimal data sharing across different manufacturing processes and especially across different sites. Ideally all the data on a site, covering all the different processes, should be aggregated and expanded, to allow process simulation of the complete manufacturing site. When this is done the potential for new insight into operations is obvious.  When we do this, we have a Digital Twin.

Flex Process are experts in developing steady state and dynamic models of individual processes and then combining them together in a single model of the whole manufacturing facility. These digital twins can enhance how capital projects are designed, built, and operated, as well as providing great benefits to existing operations allowing them to be safely operated more efficiently and at higher capacity, all the while keeping them within safe operating limits. Building these digital twins is surprisingly affordable, especially when using our stepwise approach. We typically collect data from individual pieces of equipment or individual processes and develop smaller models. This is typically done in response to design, modification or optimisation need; then over time we build up models of the whole process and eventually the whole facility, linking them together and filling in the gaps as required. This approach spreads out the development costs over several years but allows our clients to start seeing the benefits much earlier. Eventually the whole site model allows optimisation of the whole facility, often allowing optimisations and decisions to be made that can save millions of dollars in design operating costs. Digital twins can be applied to both existing operating plants and new projects. Our experience shows that most plants, even new ones can improve their efficiency by 5 or 10%, relatively easily using this technology. Surprisingly, new builds recently delivered by EPCs are especially lucrative for this, since the EPC focus was on getting the plant built on time and on budget and optimising the overall process was never done.

To build the digital twin we collect data about the plant, design and operating data, and equipment data for the plant. This often involves digitally surveying the plant and digitalizing many sources of data, then combining all of this data into steady-state and eventually dynamic models. Besides the obvious benefits in optimising the plant, all this data can easily be used to generate as-build plant information, data sheets, P&IDs and other essential data often critical process safety data that is required to be up to date under the COMAH regulations.

Talk to us to see how we can help with developing a digital twin of your plant and start reaping the benefits soon.

Reverse engineering is a requirement for many of our projects. Many sites have minimal or no data on their existing facilities, and what they have is often out of date. Reverse engineering is the process we use to fill the gaps, creating new data, and bringing existing information up to date. At Flex Process we do not just focus on the hardware, we also look at the process details – what is happening inside your plant. Using our advanced simulation tools, and actual operating data, we can generate new process information such as process flow sheets, equipment specifications, alarm, and trip requirements, allowing us to check that existing plant operates safely and then to optimise it for current requirements ensuring its profitability.

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Reverse engineering is typically required for a variety of reasons:

  • Regulatory requirements (Process Safety Information such as P&IDs, Spec sheets, alarm & trip details, relief valves etc.).
  • In preparation for plant upgrades (capacity increases, yield, and energy efficiency improvement projects etc.).
  • Develop a digital twin (improve the operation, efficiency and yield of existing facilities, trouble shooting and training etc.).

In some cases, reverse engineering is applied to existing ‘legacy’ plant, built during the pre-computer era or more commonly for plant with no “As-Built” drawings, equipment details or process safety information.

Flex Process can generate new or revised plant records for existing facilities using our reverse engineering approach. This is essential for existing plants where this data has never previously been generated or has been lost. In many cases this data is essential as a basis to progress with modifications, perform a HAZOP or as process safety information that is needed for regulations such as COMAH. Depending on your requirements, we can generate all engineering records including drawings, equipment and process data required for engineering purposes or as process safety information for regulatory requirements.

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Flex Process can generate new or revised PFDs and P&IDs for existing facilities using our reverse engineering approach. This is essential for existing plants where this data has never previously been generated or has been lost. In many cases, this data is essential as a basis to progress with modifications, perform a HAZOP or as process safety information that is needed for regulations such as COMAH. Our process, mechanical, and instrumentation & control engineers can generate this data using both survey techniques and advanced simulation tools, based on actual operating data.  The advanced modelling techniques generate the process engineering details necessary to thoroughly understand the process which is an essential prerequisite for generating the PFDs.

It is often necessary to generate as-built plant data for existing facilities where this data has never previously been generated, has been lost, or more commonly is simply out-of- date. Flex Process can perform surveys to collect plant data in the form of scans which are then used to generate 3D models of the plant. These models are then used as part of our reverse engineering methodology to form the basis for updating all your plant equipment and process data that enables you efficiently meet your future engineering needs, to meet regulatory requirements such as for COMAH process safety information, or to develop a digital twin of the plant.

Flex Process can generate process safety information and other basic design data from existing plants where this data has never previously been generated or has been lost.

Using our advanced simulation tools, and actual operating data, we can generate new process safety and foundational information such as process flow sheets, P&IDs, equipment specifications, relief valves, alarm, and trip requirements, allowing us to check that existing plant operates safely and then to optimise it for current requirements ensuring its profitability. This type of information is often required for regulatory reasons such as for the preparation of a COMAH safety report or as a requirement from a HAZOP, Audit, or similar study.

When you operate a large, complex process, it is sometimes hard to get to grips with the large amount of data necessary to optimise or troubleshoot the plant.  Many sites have access to large amounts of historical plant data but are unable to efficiently analyse this data due to resource and time limitations. In many cases facilities are operating in reactive mode and the engineers are constantly fire-fighting operating problems. You may already have tools that monitor plant performance, but the data is un-verified, of inconsistent quality, and you can only see the problems but cannot visualise solutions.  As consultants, we understand that you understand your process and that making changes needs to be practical and cost effective.  We can analyse your plant data and develop process simulation models that match your process, allowing you to visualise solutions.  Models often reveal the cause of plant data inaccuracies, through locating faulty plant instrumentation, prompting further investigation.  With Flex Process analysing your data, the characteristics of your process can be quickly observed, saving you significant time and allowing you more time to solve the problems rather than analysing them.

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When you operate a large, complex process, it is often hard to get to grips with the large amount of data necessary to optimise or troubleshoot the plant. Many organisations are developing Dashboards that present relevant, condensed information, in a format that the Operators and Management personnel can use to quickly understand how well the plant is operating and meeting its operating targets.  When used correctly, well designed dashboards can greatly assist these personnel with optimising plant performance, safety, and profitability.

 

Get in touch today