Multi-site engineering has clearly left its mark in project execution, because it places new demands on the supporting tools — a background discussion with Andreas Geiss, VP Comos Industry Solutions at Siemens.
Mr Geiss, EPCs are increasingly confronted with requests to purchase services on international markets or to provide deliverables on a cross-border scale. What impact does this have on project implementation?
The constellations of EPCs in the execution of capital projects have indeed become rather complex – among other reasons, because of additional requirements to the scope of delivery. Meanwhile, there are often multiple EPCs and sub-contractors at several locations involved, using different tools. But, of course, despite this complexity, the client wants to ensure that the goals of the project are met, well-defined in a contractual framework — delivery in time, in budget, and with the expected quality.
This is quite demanding for the individual EPC, especially since its sites are scattered around the globe. Very critical in this context is consistent data management, because typically multiple data entry and revision can’t be charged.
What are the strategies for tackling this issue?
We are clearly observing the trend towards the use of open interfaces instead of proprietary solutions. The client would like to see his investment covered today and in the future. You can realize his demand with the application of open standards.
What conclusions do you draw as a software vendor?
In some ways, it means for us that there is the danger of becoming more interchangeable — what is a opportunity but also bears risks. However, we are convinced that, at the end of the day, that system will succeed that is capable to handle all the complex requirements of an integrated approach. And our clients take note of this.
With regard to the theme of openness, the various vendors take different approaches. Siemens Industry Automation, for example, is leveraging a close partnership with Bentley Systems with regard to the standard for data exchange in the large industrial manufacturing industries, called ISO 15 926…
…that’s right. Other vendors don’t.
Harsh words. How can you tell?
Working groups such as Dechema’s DEXPI1 in which the three major German chemical companies BASF, Bayer, Evonik, and software vendors like Siemens, Bentley Systems, and others have joined forces make this clear. These owner/operators are considering how to drive us software vendors into meeting their requirements in terms of openness and data exchange.
A difficult undertaking?
I am clearly of opinion that, even today, with respect to this we have a compelling offering with Comos. Take the interfacing to automation systems as an example: Comos cannot not only exchange data to a wide extent with PCS 7 control system layouts — in this case, it is already possible without any XML interface — but also with third-party solutions.
With the existing cooperation with Bentley Systems, we enable our clients a tight coupling of 2D-/3D data across the whole plant lifecycle. In a multi-discipline manner, all the information of engineering to plant operation are captured, aligned, and prepared for reuse.
Based on P&IDs, the user can check in 3D, for example, whether all containers have been supplied with piping or not. This check takes place completely as a batch process, so nobody has to go through any lists manually line by line.
There are fears that with the initiative of the German chemical plant operators, they are trying to bring their own ISO 15 926 standard on its way. Do you have such fears, too?
This can in fact happen. Because the ISO 15 926 standard and the ideas contained therein, such as how a plant should be defined, is dominated by the big players in the Oil & Gas industry. In chemistry, such a 90 to 95 percent standardization level is at the moment something like “mission impossible”. In contrast to Oil & Gas, there are hundreds of thousands of different unit operations in the Chemical and Life Science industry what make a standardization difficult.
And if the German Chemical industry fails to agree on how they want to live the ISO 15 926 standard, it won’t succeed anywhere else in the world. Then it makes no sense to discuss this topic with the chemical companies in the United States.
Nichts desto trotz bin ich der Überzeugung, dass sich die ISO 15926 letztlich auch in der Chemiebranche durchsetzen wird, um die Produktivität unter immer schwierigeren Markt- und Wettbewerbsbedingungen nachhaltig zu steigern. Seitens Siemens sind wir jedenfalls bereit, unsere Kunden dahingehend tatkräftig zu unterstützen und den Weg zu ebnen.
In spite of that I am convinced that ISO 15 926 also will succeed in Chemistry in order to significantly increase productivity necessary for the challenging market conditions there. Siemens is ready to support its clients on that journey.
In other words: You’re glad that something is moving in this regard, at least from German side?
Absolutely! We and our market competitors are invited to participate in working groups on the design of the corresponding specifications. And I tell you: We are driving this topic forward with the necessary degree of seriousness and commitment.
The discussion on the ISO 15926 is a perennial favourite. It is said, that some system vendors are not participating with the same commitment to it as others. Has something fundamental changed in this trench warfare?
No, the political climate has remained the same.
Many new, however, is to report on Comos Project Quality Management. What distinguishes this offering for quality and project management from tools, otherwise available on the market?
With Comos PQM customers are able to manage their documents in an as-is status and not in an outdated as-built status. Today plants are modified within a year, while previously this was done in a three to fiveyear timeframe. It is therefore necessary to ensure more frequent access to design data in order to keep them à jour.
Therefore, we have developed Comos PQM as a mobile solution, called Comos Web PQM, not only to make data available, but also to bring data into the system — from all sites, putting it at your fingertips if you like.
How does it work?
We make use of a viewing mechanism that lowers the barrier of entry. On a Tablet-PC, you just open an app and then you get access to projects via e-mail or database connectivity. The functionality for editing is intentionally limited, because it is understood primarily as a tool for data deliverable and data management. Basically the app is comparable with Internet Explorer on your desktop.
Do your customers share your enthusiasm?
Yes. In particular for operators, it is important to get provided a tool that runs in the easiest possible environment — no server connection, usage of thin client or tablet-PC technologies that are easy to learn. And: No special Comos expertise is necessary.
A successful pilot project was conducted with a large pharmaceutical company and presented at our Customer Advisory Board. The feedback we got is very convincing.
Would you give us some insights into your current software development?
Why not. We are going to launch the next version of Comos Web PQM. Finally, data management and data visualization is only the first step. Now it’s time for task management including a dashboard for the intuitive viewing and analyzing of project states and KPIs. We shall deliver this functionality with one of the next service packs of Comos release 10.1.
Why task management?
In particular, for the pharmaceutical industry, this is of particular interest. Each customer there wants to have an unambiguous image of his processes. A change in the system layout should be carried out not only on the say-so of a single department, the impact should be discussed with all stakeholders. Consider this: A change in a process step can cost millions! Therefore, such a move has to be reviewed and approved by the other departments involved and the management.
Task management is often managed with the help of SAP. Can the procedures derived by Comos PQM be synchronized with corresponding SAP data?
We can already import commercial data from SAP into Comos and play back information on maintenance work into SAP. For example, if a maintenance procedure is scheduled as part of a planned shutdown, the technical aspects of it, such as material and labour take-off, are determined in Comos. The qualifications needed for the services are determined and handed over to SAP. Then, a request for proposals for a number of predefined services providers is triggered. Their offers are finally restored in operator’s SAP system. This is standard practice!
Impressive! Thanks for your comments!
Interview: Bernhard D. Valnion