The distributed control systems (DCSs) and other higher level software vendors also are prepared for CCE. “To facilitate implementation of our I/A Series systems, we developed an engineering tool that enables collaboration among engineers or customers in different locations throughout the world,” says Foxboro’s Babineau. “Anyone with access to a Web browser can be designated to share information in near real-time.”
Foxboro’s system works during plant design and afterward. “In engineering an I/A Series system we build a unique graphical process display for each customer,” he explains. In the old days, process displays used to go through the typical review cycle, Babineau says. This involved designing the page, printing it out, sending it to the customer, getting feedback by mail or fax, implementing the requested modifications and repeating the cycle until it was perfect.
“We have now streamlined that process with an online system that grabs the screen as soon as it is created and makes it available to the customer. The screen becomes available on the Internet or an intranet via a browser and email notification goes out to all designated team members. From there, the customer has access to tools that enable then to comment on the design and request modifications.”
More important to end users, it works afterward, too. “We call it the Web-based Information System for Executives (WISE) because it was initially designed as a way for customer executives to get a snapshot of information from the control system,” says Babineau.
“Suppliers like Yokogawa do a lot of the configuration of control systems and integration with instrumentation, subsystems, and supervisory or MES systems,” says Bruce Jensen, manager of marketing and sales support at Yokogawa (www.yokogawa.com
). “We are, in essence, a system integrator of our own products with other suppliers’ subsystems, instrumentation or supervisory systems. We do this either turnkey, or in collaboration with an EPC. Rarely is it with an end user.”
For smaller jobs, Yokogawa can handle everything internally. On big jobs, the need for CCE becomes more apparent. “As projects became bigger, several offices collaborate on various aspects of the design and implementation,” explains Jensen. “Some very large EPCs may use a controlled software system, but most automation projects can be managed through internal networking with the project files located on a file server, accessible to all team members through internal security access. Communication between team members involves teleconferencing, videoconferencing and data conferencing using such software tools as NetMeeting, WebEx, PlaceWare or the like.
Similar systems are available from other DCS vendors, HMI/SCADA software developers, and manufacturing automation suppliers. One major problem is that the software may not work with anything else outside each particular company. Foxboro’s WISE may not work with Rockwell’s RSLogix5000 system, for example. Let’s Play Nice
One way to make everyone play well together is to purchase collaboration software from a reputable company. Intergraph offers “data-centric” engineering, design, and operation tools, such as SmartPlant 3D, SmartPlant P&ID and[t2] INtools. Aspentech also has integrated engineering tools, such as the Aspen Engineering Suite, Zyqad collaborative engineering tools, and simulation and optimization packages. Where one company stops and the other starts is difficult to determine, because they have been joined at the sales hip since 1999, and market each other’s products. All the two company’s many tools interface in one way or another with DCSs, HMI/SCADA software, process historians, and other control packages.
Both are often employed at the same company, such as Fluor and Dow Chemical. Fluor, for example, used Aspentech software to help develop the gas processing plant mentioned above, but it also uses Intergraph’s software.
It appears, however, that you just don’t buy collaboration or CCE software and expect it to run all by itself. Considerable effort on your part may be involved.
When Aux Sable Liquid Products of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, decided to build a natural gas liquids (NGL) extraction plant in Channahon, Ill., it wanted to use CCE to help the project go smoothly. They hired Delta Hudson, a local EPC to do the engineering. Tom Pearson, project systems supervisor at Delta Hudson says they used Intergraph’s PDS to achieve CCE. “It integrates all engineering disciplines through one interface, and links them to a common database,” says Pearson. “This integration facilitates CCE. With tools such as SmartPlant Review, we are not only able to complete electronic squad checks across disciplines, but we are able to extend reviews directly to the customer.”
However, Delta Hudson didn’t just run PDS and Smart Plant Review all by itself. They had to run it with their own Online Project Systems (OPS) software.
Likewise, Bechtel employs a combination of software from vendors and its internally developed platforms to perform work globally. “We have our own dedicated Wide Area Network (WAN) connectivity with server farms strategically located to enable our work execution,” says Marshall. “Our hardware systems are constantly being optimized with regard to location and bandwidth requirements as requirements change.”
Bechtel is using Intergraph’s PDS, P&ID, 3DCADD and Smart Plant suite. “Many specialty design applications are integrated for data exchange by DataBroker, a Bechtel-developed application,” explains Marshall.
Seems like an awful lot of trouble for a lone control engineer in a small plant, without access to the resources of a big EPC. “There are many software solutions on the market today that will enable concurrent and collaborative engineering and design,” says Dow-Corning’s Conklin, who has been using CCE since the 1990s. “However, software solutions have a cost associated with them, over and above the initial purchase costs.