To capture processes that we use in our daily business is not an easy task. This is even truer for engineering since procedures go beyond individual department boundaries, and through different communication channels. However, capturing these processes is worth the effort, which is realized when a new engineering data management backbone is to be introduced. After all, it’s not only about supporting the as-is condition, but also about understanding whether it makes sense to modify it in order to sustain competitiveness in the future.
Bernhard Hübner with Westinghouse Electric Germany based in Mannheim, Germany, confirmed this observation in an interview with our editors: “All Westinghouse engineering services in Germany are located here at the Mannheim site. As an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) organization, we have to ensure that the entire plant is actually working at the handover from ourselves to the client in accordance with the client’s requirements.” The Manager of Plant Layout & Mechanical Design is aware that misunderstandings in communication between the individual engineering departments can impact customer satisfaction.
That’s why in advance of the implementation of Comos PQM, Westinghouse was willing to accept the invitation of Siemens Industry Software to intensively visualize how the actual engineering workflow would really look.
In order to get to the nub of the matter, Mr Hübner asked his colleagues from other departments for a meeting. “First, all participants were firmly convinced that they knew how the workflow is executed because a successful operation has been established over the last 20 years.” A closer inspection, however, revealed disagreements over the exact procedures, such as one manager believing that sending an email was sufficient for providing important information while another expected a more formal process. “We realized pretty quickly that we need to define a planning process for our integral system design approach that is accepted by all parties involved,” Mr Hübner recalls.
Certainly, the case is very different in certain areas, such as in the Computer-aided Engineering department: There, calculation engineers do their work independently and generate single references. But when it comes to piping design many stakeholders are involved: “Piping classes and routing, the definition of the types of plugs and their settings have to be determined, wall loads calculated, just to name just a few related activities where cross-discipline collaboration is necessary,” Mr Hübner explained. Incidentally, with the help of the targeted moderation of Siemens, the in-house workflow could be collated in a rather long document and signed-off by all department heads. This agreement provided the basis for the cooperation with Siemens to support the engineering procedures with Comos PQM ― including technical and functional testing, formal examination of the documents, quality inspection, release and so on.
Deliverables right in time and in quality
Comos PQM enables the legally compliant release and storage of documents. Therefore, the software clearly distinguishes between plant and project documentation. It is not only possible to view all the documents created in Comos, but also to integrate external documents via links to popular Office programs. In this process, the application automatically saves the information identifying who made which changes to the document at what specific time. If a document is released, it is made available as a PDF file that can no longer be edited. The history such as author, review steps, or person responsible for release is attached to the respective Comos object as metadata.
Comos PQM is to be used at Westinghouse Electric Germany, in addition to Comos Process & Instrumentation Diagram (P&ID), which has already been in use for more than two years. Based on the successful implementation of Comos over the years, it was a natural consequence to decide to implement Cosmos PQM as the next step. In the engineering phase at Westinghouse, the P&ID is the leading document in project execution. Within the P&ID, the individual components and fittings are not only associated with the process, but the entire process is also documented, including information such as flow rates and fluid types. The P&ID contains all input parameters for further planning, such as detail engineering. Fluid-containing radioactive materials can be characterized in Comos with an attribute. This information serves to derive the correct piping isometrics. “The charm of Comos is that it covers practically all engineering objects for a plant project, and these can be easily linked to one another,” Mr Hübner said, getting straight to the heart of Comos. No data conversion, or import or export to other tools is necessary.
From product break-down structure or the work break-down structure, the boundary conditions for organization of the Comos project are derived. For example, the component developers have access to meta-data from Comos. This information is important for the assignment of the individual components, such as a steel platform, within a plant project.
Easy way to data access in addition, the web services provided by Comos will be introduced. Its user interface is tailored to the PQM user, which greatly facilitates the work. Anyone with a license of Comos WebPQM can now access documents and data through the Internet – for example, through using MS Internet Explorer; also the user can make documents available or react according to workflow tasks, such as checking or releasing documents and drawings immediately.
For piping and plant layout, PDMS from Aveva is used, which has been adapted extensively. In this 3D-CAD application, there is a ‘Westinghouse area’, through which special libraries and macros can be accessed. Through a common 3D data exchange format such as the STEP-interface, equipment envelope geometries from PTC Creo Parametric can be read in PDMS as interfering edges.
Next level of document management
“The main reason for the introduction of Comos PQM was the comprehensive tracking of each document during project execution: for example, knowing exactly in what status the documents are in at any given planning phase,” recalls Mr Hübner. Final tests in February 2015 will complete the introductory phase of Comos PQM. Mr Hübner expects a go-live in March. “We have already gathered experience with Comos in some plant design projects for customers worldwide. It has been found that users quickly understand the usefulness of the Comos product suite in their daily work.” Within Comos, engineers involved in the development of components have the same view on the data sheet that they did when they had to fill out a slip of paper. The difference is that the parameters are now captured directly and centrally.
Westinghouse is in the fortunate position to have been awarded contracts to build four identical cementation projects for the nuclear power plants in China. And for this, Comos also shows its benefit as it is possible to copy entire projects within the software solution. By demonstrating to Mr Hübner that the effort of rebuilding a complete new project can be done within only one hour, he was convinced. “It is only necessary to build up a systematology for unique plant identification numbers for each equipment item or component once and then the Comos database can be copied with little effort for the other capital projects.”
Moreover, the Comos’ integrated change management has been met with Mr Hübner’s complete enthusiasm: “If a component developer changes the length of a valve, the planner is immediately informed about it via the datasheet in Comos and can optionally modify the pipelines concerned.”
As Mr Hübner says, the debate leading up to the introduction of Comos strengthened the awareness that all parties need to align their work to a standardized engineering process. This mode of operation better serves quality assurance and traceability, in terms of the rules of ISO 9 000 regularities. Thought has to be given to whether the current working style is still up to date and what aspects should be improved. “Before, we were well aware of the right way, but workarounds were not uncommon, because they led to the destination faster. Our debate has led to the consolidation of the lived processes,” he remarks.
The intuitive support from Comos is also so essential, because – as everybody is aware of – compliance management takes more and more time from the real engineering work: Engineers must create many reports. The good news is that Comos provides the user with templates that help them to perform these tasks very efficiently. And the project team is now able to work with Comos.
Westinghouse has no complaints about the implementation partner Siemens: “From Siemens proposal in the run-up of the Comos PQM implementation to first perform a workshop. As a result of it, 25 work packages were identified to meet our requirements, which has been really helpful. For example, one work package was about the attribute-linking with the various types of documents and the use of appropriate sheet styles. Also questions arise such as: What should the mapped workflow look like; for example, in terms of the approval process? Siemens gave us valuable advice on these individual issues.” As an example, Siemens advised that a work package can only be started after another has been completed because input is required from the earlier work package.
In the course of the Comos PQM introduction, all document types could be assigned a unique key. This also applies to all project documents such as incoming e-mails from the client or from subcontractors, contract documents and documents from controlling. At a glance, the comprehensive Comos infrastructure has enabled Westinghouse Electric Germany to speed up its engineering and, at the same time, increase compliance and transparency while reducing costs for the operation of the engineering processes. (bv)