Digital Plant Engineering Plant Engineers Shake Hands with the Cyber–Age

Author / Editor: Bhupinder Singh, Anne-Marie Walters* / Dominik Stephan

The age of digital engineering has just began: As operation, information and technology are about to merge, engineering enters a new era — Digital engineering models and actual operational data don’t have much in common — or have they? The Internet of Things and intelligent field devices are about to usher in a new era, in which the boundaries between cyberspace and on-site production blur. It is up to us to harness the technological change and reap its benefits.

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As operations technology (OT) leverages the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) with sensors and assets producing an enormous volume of big data, there is a need for improved security, information sharing and data management. This, in turn, is driving an unprecedented convergence with IT.

However, organizations are struggling to make use of the data from their OT and IT systems, causing them to miss opportunities to improve performance. This is due, in part, to the fact that the digital models developed during the engineering phase of capital projects, are typically not playing a role in operations.

From Digital Model to Business Results

What if owner-operators could use these models in operations? Imagine how a digital engineering model — the engineering technology or ET of an asset — could help operations and maintenance staff forecast problems, do better planning, and improve performance.

It is now possible for companies to converge their IT, OT and ET — and seamlessly integrate process and information flows between them. This enables asset performance modeling to deliver actionable intelligence for decision support through an immersive environment for visual operations.

The Information is There

For many years, engineering departments have been using advanced modeling and simulation applications that focus on the process of design and construction of an infrastructure asset in a way that improves project delivery and asset performance. Better project delivery enables companies to optimize Capex — through both the depth of information modeling and the breadth of information mobility for collaboration during design and construction.

There’s a staggering amount of information related to assets — detailed component specifications, precise geo-location, configuration management, fabrication details, cost information, predicted lifetimes, recommended maintenance and repair information. Today’s engineering technology makes it possible to bring all this information together within the federated digital engineering model, making it possible to track, access and share with others.

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