Tools have come a long way.
Users of Comos FEED from Invensys can convert their simulation into a Process Flow Diagram (PFD) and thereafter into a conceptual 3D model, and share it with other users.
Many of the design and engineering tools available today use the Web to collaborate with team members.
Jonathan Marshall, a project engineer at Bechtel in San Francisco, says we are finally leaving the paper chase behind. “The industry execution methodology is migrating from a document-centric approach to a data-centric approach as enabled by data warehouse software technology,” he says. “Today it is rare to see work performed in one location by a contiguous team of engineers.”Ground-Up Collaboration
Concurrent engineering all starts at the plant level, where the local team works on systems design, control system configuration and software development. From there, it radiates outward, taking in all the other project team members around the world. It is vital to coordinate the work of all engineers and programmers, even those working side by side.
“Most programming methodologies still mimic the assembly line of old, where the system layout drawing is created, then the electrical design is mapped, then the application code is written,” says Ron Bliss, Logix/NetLinx software marketing manager, Rockwell Automation. “It’s an extremely time-consuming, linear process, with programming costs consuming up to 80% of a control system’s budget.”
As you might expect, control equipment companies are certainly aware of the need for CCE, and each has a solution. “In the past the question kept recurring of how to integrate the work of the different programmers in a single project,” notes Graham Harris, president of Beckhoff Automation (www.beckhoff.com
). “Up to now, this was only possible by comparing, importing and copying. Our TwinCAT Engineering Interface (ENI) enables tasks to be coordinated via a source code management system.”
Rockwell Automation does something similar. "RSLogix 5000 software and Logix5000 controllers support concurrent engineering with programming techniques such as tag aliases, multiple data scopes, built-in and user-defined structures, arrays and application import/export capabilities,” explains Bliss. “These tools allow applications to be created with less effort and completion of projects in a shorter duration.”
Tag aliases are becoming a primary contributor to concurrent engineering, says Bliss. “In the past, a programmer responsible for writing code sat in limbo until every last sensor was assigned a physical address. Now, with tag aliases, programmers can write code independent of electrical connection assignments.”Separation Anxiety
While concurrent engineering has its obvious advantages, it does have a downside when you start involving internationally diverse and widely separated project teams. For example, although the universal language of business is English, we all don’t speak the same version.
“Words have different meanings in various languages,” says Conklin. “Language and language skills are fundamental, but you also must take time to understand the cultural differences. We have all experienced this within the U.S. when working with external engineering resources and we all speak English as our native language.”
CCE seems to help, because the team can see documents. “Changes made to designs and justified in digital comments are less likely to cause misinterpretations than e-mail content or voice communications because the engineers can see the design and comments at the same time,” says Greer.
All this is nothing new, says Bert Aragon, a project engineer at KBR, Houston, a global EPC. “The challenges of English as a second language have existed all along. Concurrent engineering helps in that we get responses quicker and they can be analyzed faster. E-mail is a tremendous help. As someone whose native language is not English, I can attest to the power of reading over hearing spoken English, and having the opportunity to consult a dictionary before responding.”
In the U.S. and England, we cling to standard units of measure, while the rest of the world uses metrics. This can cause problems, too. “The issue isn't a language problem, it is a straight engineering problem,” says one engineer. “It has been with us since Bechtel started using H1B foreign nationals in the 1960s.”
Greer says if you use the right CCE software, it’s not a problem. “SmartPlant P&ID for piping and instrument schematics supports multiple measurement units and the major standards,” he explains. “For example, a U.S. engineer specifies MAWP of a valve in psi and his German counterpart's SmartPlant P&ID displays it in kPa.”
“KBR has worked in both metric and English units for years,” says Aragon. “We have processes to check these. CCE helps identify inconsistencies earlier.”
|THE PROCESS AND THE P&ID |
|New collaborative software tools can deliver systems renderings and corrsponding P&IDs to engineering teams world-wide through a simple query. Source: Intergraph |
Even when everyone agrees on the language, working apart can cause programming problems. “Data collisions can lead to time-intensive debugging,” Bliss explains. “By isolating the tag definitions into separate areas known as âscopes,’ RSLogix 5000 helps to eliminate this particular side effect.”