Maintaining a Single Source of Truth

According to ARC Advisory Group (, instrumentation accounts for as much as 10% of a process manufacturing plants capital expenditure and 20% of its operating expenditure. Manage information A key component of controlling costs throughout a plant's life can be achieved by maintaining engineering and design information as a single source of truth that accurately represents the plan...




  • Global engineering

  • Data-centric architectures

  • XML use

  • Enforced good practices

  • Security issues

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According to ARC Advisory Group ( ), instrumentation accounts for as much as 10% of a process manufacturing plants capital expenditure and 20% of its operating expenditure.

Manage information

A key component of controlling costs throughout a plant's life can be achieved by maintaining engineering and design information as a single source of truth that accurately represents the plant's "current" as-built status. (See "Datasheet management's financial benefits" diagram.)

For example, The Netherlands-based specialty chemicals producer DSM has recognized savings of 10% to 20% as a result of using Intergraph PPO's (Process, Power, and Offshore) Intools.

"By maintaining the sole, accurate, and consistent instrumentation database within Intools, we spend less time searching to ensure we are working with the correct information. This has resulted in fewer startup delays related to instrumentation. We also have a strong belief that managing our information leads to less spurious trips during maintenance activities," said Lion Demarteau, competence manager of process control engineering at DSM TechnoPartners.

Depending on throughput, asset utilization, and product margins, DSM reports that millions of dollars could be saved over the plant's lifetime through the accumulated operational savings of managing instrumentation information.

Meeting the challenge

Most people agree that significant benefits can be gained by managing information. However, truly beneficial information is rarely derived from a single application source. The challenge is to efficiently and accurately populate one authoring application's database with data created using a different authoring application.

Though some elements don’t apply to both columns, the overall result is $350,000 in savings.

Commencing in 1999, Aspen Technology, Dow Chemical's design engineering department, and Intergraph PPO initiated a project to develop a better, less-expensive way to manage information, workflow, and shared application data. This collaboration has resulted in The Engineering Framework (TEF) data-centric architecture. (See "Sharing engineering information" diagram.)

Developed using XML (eXtensible Markup Language) schemas, TEF permits authoring applications, such as Aspen's Zyqad front-end engineering software, to function as a stand-alone engineering tool, yet share common data with Intergraph's Smart Plant P&ID and Intool applications. (See "Defining the integration opportunity" diagram.)

Located in 19 sites around the world, Dow Chemical's design and construction group completed more than $1 billion in 2002 capital projects using a standardized work process know as Global Project Methodology (GPM).

Projecting that the TEF architecture with GPM would contribute to reductions in the total installed costs of a plant by 3.5%, Dow engineers launched the GPM Automation Improvement Project (GAIP).

Dow's vision for GAIP is to:

  • Improve engineering performance on all projects by using modern, more intelligent process and design engineering authoring tools;

  • Integrate the exchange of shared data between authoring tools and improve communication across work processes;

  • Enable reuse of engineering information in the detailed design and operation of subsequent projects; and

  • Reduce information technology costs.

According to Dave Jasper, Dow Chemical's GAIP project manager, "Dow agreed to participate in this project with AspenTech and Intergraph PPO with the vision of creating a de facto industry standard that will hopefully become the means for EPC [Engineering Procurement and Construction] and owner-operator companies to execute projects. This has not been a short or easy journey, but we are just completing the final major phase of a four-phase development process. The first three phases consisted of developing, testing, and refining the applications. In this final phase we are testing the GAIP applications to replicate actual engineering on a previous project."

The engineering framework (TEF) architecture uses XML schemas to share data among authoring applications.

Like many others in the industry, Dow Chemical applies the methodology of Six Sigma throughout the company and thus requires that tangible benefits be quantified and documented. To this end Dow's GAIP toolset is expected to extend current tangible benefits beyond design and construction to include operations and maintenance activities, such as:

  • Process troubleshooting by comparing design data with current operating conditions;

  • Turn-around planning; and

  • Regulatory compliance.

Global workplace security

When examining a global, collaborative engineering workplace, security issues are one of the first "red flags" raised.

Beyond addressing the organization of people, infrastructure, culture, and work processes, there are technical issues related to securely passing sensitive data around the globe.

Most engineering and design authoring application software packages provide some amount of user-customizable security features. However, functionality of some software seems to assume the packages will be used in a single-site environment. This is seldom a good assumption and may even lead to unexpected problems when it comes time to pass engineering and design information around the globe.

Generally, the two types of engineering data needing to be transferred are: drawings, such as P&IDs; and the reference and key internal data, such as fluid properties, instrument tags, etc.

Data overlap between authoring applications defines the opportunity for integration using an XML schema.

From a security viewpoint, the desirable mode of operation would be to send only changes to a master system at selected times–a suitable solution for drawings. Unfortunately a project's success relies on the timely availability of reference data. However, live-link reference data updates introduce additional security issues.

Some companies, such as Aspen Technology and Intergraph, incorporate a tiered approach and involve users in how best to address security.

At the base of the tier, and as an alternative to the widely used, but less secure FTP (File Transfer Protocol), is the use of a more robust Oracle protocol operating over standard TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) or TCP/IP w/SSL (Secure Socket Layer).

Moving up a level, users can use standard network solutions, such as DMZ (Demilitarized Zones) and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks).

At the highest level (and highest costs), additional security modules are available from Oracle that inspect and validate each packet of information.

For many companies, global, collaborative engineering and design is rapidly becoming a way of life. With sensitive data flying all around the globe, each participating party must address new risk assessment scenarios and solutions.

Enforcing good practices

Good engineering practices can include obvious things, such as not specifying use of a carbon steel valve in an acid line. However, one of the challenges facing a company's adoption and use of good practices is enforcement, which gets more difficult with increased size and global reach.

The most effective means of enforcing a consistent application of good practices is to use rule-based application authoring tools, such as those built on Intergraph's SmartPlant architecture.

The foundation of the SmartPlant architecture is a data-centric information management solution designed to manage availability, integrity, and accuracy of all plant engineering information from conception through decommissioning.

One of the SmartPlant-enabled tools is Intools, an instrumentation design and engineering authoring application software. Intools includes instrumentation-related modules for calculations, calibration, construction, maintenance, hook-ups, instrument indexes, instrument specifications, loop drawings, process data, and wiring. Much of the Intools database content is also important when programming (configuring) a control system and having the ability to eliminate or minimize data re-entry can pay big dividends over a system's life.

In the evolution of its manufacturing practices, Dow Chemical developed a leading-edge process control system known as the MOD 5 (See Control Engineering , Sept. '02, p.24, "One controller, many uses.") A major justification for Dow to develop, support, and use the MOD 5 system was the ability to securely and consistently enforce Dow's good practices.

All MOD 5 software programs are viewable by anyone, but the software compiler ensures only authorized persons perform changes. Once the compiler is satisfied with authentication, it evaluates the software structure against approved Dow practices. Only after the compiler is satisfied the person and software structure is correct will the software actually compile. A final check prevents loading new/modified software into an "online" controller.

It was the combination of MOD's work practice enforcement and its robust security that resulted in the MOD 5 achieving TÜV certification.

Until recently, Dow Chemical continued to use its own MOD 5 control system in lieu of using commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) control systems. However, as common systems and the functionality of COTS control systems advanced, Dow made a decision to work with ABB.

In May 2001, Dow's Process Automation (DPA) group signed a 10-year agreement with ABB covering products, services, and knowledge transfer to develop a commercial product incorporating key MOD 5 functionality including a combined basic process control and programmable electronic safety system.

According to Jasper, Dow's GAIP toolset doesn't yet include capabilities to automatically populate a COTS control system database, such as ABB's IndustrialIT system. However, using ABB's Aspect Exchange Service, IndustrialIT does support data integration with Intools, also a part of Dow's GAIP toolset. Additionally, continued conversations between suppliers and Dow Technology groups, including those working with ABB, will help ensure that Dow's engineering and process control applications will integrate into a unified architecture.

Anytime a process facility can maintain a single, up-to-date source of information, that facility gains competitive advantages and moves steadily closer to operational excellence. Dow Chemical is well on its way. How long should your plant wait before it embarks on establishing a single version of truth?

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