Plant Construction & Process Technology

Faster Planning of Process Plants

Optimized Engineering Fosters Quicker Development of Chemical Facilities

02.04.2014 -

Speed Through Standardization - Chemical company Evonik has been pursuing a holistic approach to plant planning for years. Strictly defined XML files within a very modular working environment form the core of this concept. All data is saved in a central database. The company is currently developing standards for piping and instrumentation (P&ID) creation with the target of uniform and accelerated plant planning.

Researchers and engineers at Evonik cooperate very closely on a global basis to facilitate a fast market launch of innovative products. Nevertheless, the planning of correspondingly tailored production plants generally still takes several years. This planning period can be minimized only when the individual planning phases are merged more closely and overlapped more intensively.

In this context, a suitable approach is the use of information generated within the scope of basic engineering throughout the further planning process. Using a procedural guideline, P&ID flow diagrams can be generated from the process flow diagrams created during this phase. The guideline should cover approximately 80% of the information contained in a flow diagram. The earlier initial P&ID flow diagrams are available, the faster initial plant costs can be calculated.

Standardization In Basic Engineering

An extensively applied standardization concept can accelerate the planning of chemical plants. Analyses implemented at Evonik Industries show that the proportion of plant parts that must be planned individually is much lower than expected. This gave a clear reason to implement standardizations in the still very complex field of P&ID creation. Time expenditures both during planning and during plant cost calculation can be significantly reduced through the introduction of standards.

"Initial discussions on standardized P&ID creation already took place 20 years ago," said Dr. Dorothea Schwarz, project manager at Evonik Industries AG. "However, we had to put these discussions on hold, as no suitable software tools for realizing this kind of standardization were available back then."

Holistic Software Solution for Pooling Know-How

Over time and with various software developments for plant planning, this situation has changed. Today, the chemical company employs the Comos software solution from Siemens for plant planning. Among other things, it is used for the creation of P&ID flow diagrams for individual users. This object-oriented software is based on a uniform database.

With its engineering block technology, it represents the core of the standardization concept. These eBlocks consist of a query tree and a graphical component, which adapts to the response behavior. The planners are thus reliably guided through the decision process on the basis of blocks.

At the end of the process chain, a flow diagram is generated in which every line, measurement and apparatus is interlinked with a procedural decision. Some of these decisions go into great detail. However, manual reworking may be required, especially for more complex units and genuine "know-how goodies," which constitute the specific Evonik knowledge. As the standardized queries are carried out very time-efficiently, ample leeway is available for such reworking.

The eBlocks form an integral part of the general planning database and are seamlessly integrated into the Comos working environment. Furthermore, data consistency is ensured at all times. As the eBlocks can be very easily supplemented by further information, every decision can be immediately assessed with regard to costs. This facilitates the rapid identification of "expensive" versions.

User-Friendly Interface for Easier Planning

The plant planners are working with a prototype developed by the chemical company. This prototype features a query tree structure, which is based on an expert system. For P&ID planning, the planners answer concrete questions on specific subjects via a user-friendly interface, for example, "Is an inflow armature required in the feed supply?" or "How many feed supplies are required in the column?"

Traffic-light colors show the user whether further planning decisions have to be made. Defined eBlocks are incorporated in the P&ID flow diagrams in accordance with the plant planners' answers. All prepared planning steps can be immediately graphically implemented and displayed by the software. All decisions made are documented and can be reversed if required.

Time Savings during Basic Planning

The application of the developed standards resulted in a considerably optimized P&ID creation process at Evonik Industries. What took half a day in the past can now be realized within roughly 45 minutes.

"We expect significantly reduced planning times with the use of Comos eBlock technology. These time savings will then be invested in developing intelligent solutions, which are matched even more closely to our customers' requirements," Schwarz said.

Furthermore, the uniform database supports interdisciplinary work flows and smoother coordination between the individual departments.

"For long-term success in this highly innovative business, we need to be able to invent products faster than others can copy them," Schwarz said.

Staff Development

At Evonik Industries, plant planning involves not only the cooperation of different colleagues all around the globe for the realization of customized plants but also includes the training of young colleagues for future tasks in the Evonik group, for example as plant engineers. Correspondingly, these persons are only assigned to the field of plant planning for a limited period. The resulting constant staff fluctuation has to be compensated for accordingly.

"It is therefore all the more important to ensure that our young colleagues can become productive workers as early as possible in this situation. From our point of view, eBlocks can make a decisive contribution to time savings for basic planning and to a faster utilization of the young engineers' creative potential," Schwarz said.