A modern approach to managing plant, project, and asset enterprise data.
Much has been written over the last two decades on improving the way technical information is authored and managed in the energy & utilities (E&U) industry. Much has been done to improve the tools that each engineering discipline uses to produce its content. The quality of how that information is visualized has improved dramatically, and exciting new mixed reality technologies allow us to interact with project and asset data in highly interactive and engaging ways. But we’re not there yet, and doing more of what we’ve always done isn’t the best way to move forward. This reminds me of an excellent quote from Bill Gates, former CEO of Microsoft.
“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”Bill Gates
In E&U, valuable technical information often resides in incompatible file formats after being created in software that wasn’t typically designed to exchange information with other tools. While this frequently happens between different engineering disciplines, it can also be a big problem between adjacent project teams, such as construction and operations. However, in the interest of bridging the gaps between silos of valuable information, innovative E&U knowledge workers will use spreadsheets to get the results they need to continue with their work.
Unfortunately, the number of resulting spreadsheets can number in the tens or even hundreds of thousands on a major capital project, creating project risks and vulnerabilities on many levels. It also means that some of the project information passed to the owner-operator after commissioning resides in forms that are not easily found when needed, especially when plant personnel must respond to a problem or need to be creative and improve processes.
Given the enormous challenges and opportunities that E&U businesses are facing with dynamic markets and meeting sustainability targets, the complexity discussed above presents an opportunity. It’s generally agreed that your physical assets’ digital twin represents tremendous value by synchronizing them to produce insights that improve productivity and performance. The challenge we hear most in the industry goes something like, “We have 3000 software tools in the company, and our data is still all over the place.” Or perhaps, “We like the digital twin idea, but we don’t know where to start.”
That’s why we developed a digital thread we call “Digital Lifecycle Excellence” (DLE) at Siemens Digital Industries Software. A “digital thread” will not be your 3001st piece of software, and there is no license you can buy for it. Yes, there are underlying solution capabilities that support DLE as we’re not advocating purely conceptual ideas. But if you’re looking for an improved and holistic approach that addresses the very compelling business problem discussed above to manage your enterprise technical data, look no further. DLE allows industry leaders to turn complexity into a source of competitive advantage across the enterprise.
How big is the opportunity? One of the best independent studies on the subject continues to be the “Cost Analysis of Inadequate Interoperability in the U.S. Capital Facilities Industry,” published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST GCR 04-867). Although it was initially authored in 2004, the study solidly demonstrated that inadequate information management costs a typical capital project 4.2% of the project value. It follows that, for a $1 billion project, this represents $42 million in process friction that comes straight out of the capital project margins that were never budgeted. The study also concluded that, once the project is in operations, the facilities owner continues to pay an annual performance penalty of over 2% of the asset value each year in lost efficiency as the issues created in the capital project are often never fully resolved. Furthermore, given the explosion in the project’s data volume and complexity since 2004, that number is now likely very conservative.
Digital Lifecycle Excellence was developed to help E&U businesses get the most value from the information, keep it up to date, and apply it to increase competitiveness. DLE also enables other capabilities, such as requirements management, to improve project quality and specifications management and systems engineering to solve the interoperability problem.
If you’d like to learn more, here are two suggestions. First, an eBook on Digital Lifecycle Excellence provides a closer look and is available here. If you’d like more detail, our recent OnDemand webinar on the subject of DLE with more on the underlying solution capabilities is available here.
You’ll see additional blogs from Siemens on DLE and other digital threads, so stay tuned for more in the coming months.