Global Processing

Walk on virtual side strikes blow for integrated operations

November 1, 2012

The world of television commercials is chock full of “integrated enterprises” — not so ours.

Yet progress is being made toward a kind of roles-based, application-driven integration that will further streamline coordination of complex process-industry supply chains, and that promises continuing 21st century productivity growth.

One clear trend is for corporations to commit to platforms that allow “object-based” access to information gleaned from multiple systems. Leaving brilliant database technology to the side, what it means is, if you’re interested in a pump, go look for that pump in the 3-D model or other type interface, and drill from there to what you need, regardless of whether it’s ultimately from the maintenance, process control, design or some other type system.

For the capital-intensive process industries, organizing information around vital capital assets is as intuitive as it gets.

Product managers from automation vendor Siemens were in Boston recently to talk about Siemens COMOS, its “asset lifecycle management software for process industries.” The talk took place in the wake of a Siemens’ acquisition in September of VRcontext International S.A., Brussels, Belgium. In consequence of the acquisition, COMOS is being equipped with 3-D simulation walk-through capabilities. Users will segue seamlessly, Siemens says, from this 3-D simulated world to the more familiar landscape of P&ID diagrams and 2-D drawings.

Use of a platform like Siemens COMOS can begin during the design and construction phase of a new plant and be the means for a sure handover of as-built documentation. After that, “integrated operations” are achieved by allowing access to information from engineering, ERP and operations systems. This can also lead to a rationalization of applications used in the enterprise, reducing their number. A major benefit of a correctly implemented system should be that information no longer need reside in multiple systems and users securely access the most current revisions. 

Geiss noted that “while there’s a considerable gap between investment rates in developed countries and those in the developing world, growth in software is much more even across global regions. Project execution is changing everywhere. The workforce is changing everywhere. More planning flexibility is needed.”