From diagrams to data

Aucotec Technology Day allows plant engineering experts to benefit from innovative practical solutions
from l. to r..: Thomas Möller (Rippert), Ulrich Cord (Claudius Peters), Jörg Hammerich (IKN) (PresseBox) (Hannover, ) Plant engineers in particular, who are facing very complex challenges, came to Hanover in early November to attend Aucotec AG's fourth Technology Day. In addition to presentations on the latest engineering developments and different practical examples presented by users, there was an emphasis on the participants networking with each other. The companies Claudius Peters, Rippert, and IKN presented clear examples of the synergies which resulted from changing their engineering processes to database-driven design.

The speakers agreed that the approach that has emerged with the software platform Engineering Base (EB) requires rethinking, but saves a significant amount of time and produces documentation of a significantly higher quality. Reinhard Knapp, Senior Product Manager at Aucotec, explains it thus: "EB moves engineering from the diagram to the data. Instead of being document-centric as in the past, the data itself is now the main focus, including its links." The basis for this is the database, which enables all information to be accessible at any time to everyone involved as a "single source of truth". A diagram is now only one of the possible perspectives of the plant model, and is not necessarily the starting point. Objects can be compiled and edited purely alphanumerically, while the graphic counterpart is created automatically to a large extent.

Database instead of data islands

Ulrich Cord, Group Manager of Automation Engineering at the bulk material and process engineering specialists Claudius Peters in Buxtehude, explains: "We wanted to get away from the paper processes of the document world. We are in a state of flux which was initiated by Aucotec's platform EB. This is already a success story for us." EB has built interdisciplinary bridges and changed the communication culture in engineering. "We now collaborate much earlier and much more closely," says Cord. The inefficiency of sequential work has only been demonstrated by the new, database-driven design, which has enabled the work from various disciplines to be done in parallel to a significant extent. "Our expectation has been met fully in terms of eliminating the impediments to the workflow caused by the previous data islands from different tools," says the engineering expert.

"All information consolidated"

Work on a cement production line in Iran was the impetus for IKN, experts in pyro line issues for cement clinker production: The increasingly complex projects require significantly more modern software. An overview is top priority for projects with thousands of e-mails, over 5,000 drawings, 900 instruments, flow charts with 15 revisions and partners from several countries. "EB's data model was preaching to the converted where we were concerned, and we have internalized that very quickly," reports the Technical Director Jörg Hammerich. He highlighted the transparency which major IKN projects now possess since complex plants can be fully mapped and everyone involved works with the same database. The system is already used to define the first rough plant idea. The individual disciplines then base their details on it. "All critical information about the plant sections is consolidated in EB," says Hammerich. Result: more of an overview and less effort in terms of consultation, monitoring and correction.

"Function-oriented thinking developed"

The surface treatment company Rippert designed its plants according to the internationally binding standard IEC 81346, which also requires a function assignment for the components in addition to the product and installation location aspect. The designers took advantage of this requirement. "We have really developed function-oriented thinking," recounts the Administrator Thomas Möller. “This way of thinking requires a different work method, but it's worth it because it saves a significant amount of time and divides the plant sections very clearly. The option of function-oriented assembly formation and the accompanying standardization are EB's major advantages," he explains. In an initial major project, the structure of an enamelling booth was built once only, copied several times and combined into three lines. "Graphic changes were not needed there, the circuit diagrams were generated automatically," says Möller.

Consistency as a common thread

However, the fact that EB supports function-oriented thinking in particular was not the main reason why Rippert opted for EB. The future viability and the consistency of projects from the process engineering flow diagram to control technology were decisive. "Only EB was able to fulfil this requirement," says Thomas Möller about Rippert's search for the right system.

The topic of "real" consistency was like a common thread which ran through the presentations and discussions of the guests. All guests saw it as a decisive advantage that it is no longer necessary to search for data via interfaces and file boundaries, but have instead consistent mapping and monitoring of projects from the initial idea to the tender phase up to the maintenance documentation.

"'It's not possible' is no longer possible"

The audience accepted the "surprisingly open" comments during the presented challenges. One of the guests concluded as follows: "'It's not possible' is no longer possible as EB can solve even strange customer requirements." Other participants spoke of "valuable broadening of horizon", "many interesting ideas" and "great practical relevance" with "good, already pre-planned paths." The unanimous agreement on exchanging addresses and making appointments for further individual discussions concluded the day. This encourages Aucotec to pursue its network concept. In recent years, customers and interested parties had already come to similar events, to learn from each other and to benefit from ground-breaking practical solutions. We are already planning the fifth Aucotec Technology Day.

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