We are standing at the beginning of a technological revolution that will fundamentally change the way we live and work. It has become clear that the future now lies within innovation.

The Internet of Things, machine learning, predictive maintenance, assets that communicate with each other, sensors that can show assets’ operating parameters, 3D scans that can transform into 3D models with an accuracy of one millimetre. These are all innovations that can significantly boost a company’s productivity, but they all have something in common –  they create isolated datasets.

The fourth industrial revolution has opened up a world of possibilities to produce data, that if aligned, can propel a company to the top of its sector.

CEA Systems, founded by a mechanical engineer with a passion for data, has been developing software that challenges the limitations of existing modelling systems, leading to the development of its own database-driven 3D-modeler.

The solution, Plant4D, has allowed CEA Systems to become a market leader in the process industry. It provides a solution to digitise, visualise and secure asset data. All of the data used is accessible and virtualised in the CAD environment as a visual interface and held as one source for all users.

Enrich your database

Plant4D becomes the backbone for a company’s asset-related applications, virtualisation and data lake. It is available for use on-premise, or in the cloud, and soon online when its web version is launched in March 2020. It connects all asset management silos by following the great equaliser of parent/child relationships between unique asset locations.

“What we have is a database that can be enriched by any type of asset data,” explains Robin van der Mijl, Commercial Director of CEA Systems. “It makes it not only suitable for engineering purposes but also the whole lifecycle of a site.”

Unifying characteristics

The process involves reducing asset data to a unifying characteristic, its unique parent/child relation to another asset position. Every design, audit, inspection, incident or other asset data is deduced to its position in the asset tree. To enable a shared understanding, this asset information is visualised in process drawings and 3D.

To handle asset a company’s asset data, an analysis of assets and consensus on asset language is needed, this includes assigning location tags and functional reference tags, explains van der Mijl. “The implementation process begins with assessing standards on-site, then moves to proposing a new standard, converting the current content to the new standard and uploading that in Plant4D. We then train the workforce to use the system.

“Plant4D is a configurable software. It is not tailor-made; it is not one solution, one customer software. It is a solution that can align with any customer standards within weeks.”

He notes that the asset information, visualized with Plant4D is generated from the database in real-time and not pre-generated, therefor always most recent.

Clear line of sight

For every organisation within the process industry, a clear line of sight is crucial to make well informed, high impact decisions for asset management. During an assets lifecycle Plant4D creates one source of truth within one communication protocol fitting specifically to the company’s procedures and activities.

The advantages of this are unparalleled. “Say you were to perform any maintenance activity, HSEQ assessment on-site or execute an inspection or undergo an audit, you will have to relate it to a unique asset, or group of unique assets,” explains van der Mijl. “Plant4D can virtualise any asset data available in the market.”

This means that asset data is created, edited and viewed from one database, visualised in one view and interfaced to cater to specific needs. Everyone with access to the Plant4D works from a single, continuously updated dataset.

“We can offer inspection and engineering companies a module in which they can virtualise their engineering and inspection results.” Plant4D draws any P&ID, PFD, isometric, loop and other drawings or 3D model to meet modern standards and enable asset master data management.

The user is able to upload an inspection report into Plant4D, and the results will automatically light up the associated assets across the 3D model. Although CEA System’s Plant4D has been around for quite a while it’s application is new. As life cycle data management solution it is able to flag any inconstancies in asset data and create a shared view of all and up to date asset data is able to offer results of the current situation based on the latest asset data as opposed to flagging up an asset that could have since been changed in the field and not updated in drawings that so many companies rely on.

The software can virtualise any data inputted, this includes engineering and inspection results, e-learning, operational data or performance, sustainability footprints, among many others. “Where there is a unique asset location defined in an asset dataset we can virtualise it.”

CEA System’s integration of Plant4D functionalities for its clients is largely customer-driven. Once implemented, the client is able to adapt and use the platform to cater to its individual needs. CEA Systems is then able to use this knowledge to improve its products continuously.

Vopak & Plant4D

When the chance came to implement Plant4D at Vopak, CEA Systems jumped at the opportunity. The process industry is a cautious one. The high-risk environments on-site alone see companies, understandably, more conservative with implementing new technologies and software systems. This resistance to change can reach all levels of a company’s hierarchy.

Refreshingly, Vopak and it’s innovation team has found that to prepare for the future it must recognise the present. “By understanding how to control your data, the more value you can drive,” explains van der Mijl. “At the same time, we draw a lot of our experience on how to develop our software from our customer base.”

Vopak and CEA Systems have been working together to, step by step, create a digital representation of Vopak’s physical assets, known as a Digital Twin.

A full-fledged Digital Twin is continuously maintained and easily accessible in Plant4D. The integration of asset analytics applications and reuse of data between different types of analyses provides the foundation of a more collaborative, effective and innovative way of working with models in real-time. The digital asset ecosystem, a platform for seamless collaboration, delivers services and results digitally.

“If you want to design a new part of a terminal it needs to interface with your current infrastructure and then therefore scanning is a good tool used for years,” says Mathijs Kossen, Innovation Manager, Vopak. “But now we also use it for maintenance management as a search interface and to validate alignment between records of assets in various asset data systems like safety, maintenance and operational systems.”

There is also an operational benefit to digitalising a terminal in Plant4D. In the sense of work preparation, each department can easily access the scans of the infrastructure without having to walk outside and survey an area. Engineers can work cost-effectively on a collaboration platform that gives early insight into potential conflicts, resulting in fewer errors and less rework.

“The ability to create a 360 deg view of an asset provides insight and puts a lot in perspective,” explains Kossen. The digital twin has been compiled from several sources and source data. It currently shows all the terminal drawings, the maintenance system data and the 3D scans.

Kossen notes that Vopak is in the process of extending the model, either by inputting more source data, such as from its safety or operational systems.

“We have many more applications that contain some asset information that we can add step-by-step,” he explains. “The more data we add to the platform, the more functionality we are able to achieve.”

New ways of thinking

The industry is used to linear thinking. It is in the nature of those in technical professions. “What we at CEA Systems are trying to achieve is introducing another dimension,” explains van der Mijl. By linking each silo within an organisation to the same real-time, shared data, organic evolution of that data begins.

Plant4D can even be used for commercial applications. One customer of CEA Systems, one of Europe’s largest tank terminal operating companies, uses their digital twin to gain a commercial advantage over their competitors. For example, by having complete asset timeline and lifecycle information at the touch of a button, a tank terminal is able to offer more insight faster into which assets are available, which adjustments need to be made and how this brings value to a new customer, outperforming their competitors.

Having complete control over your data is one of the most valuable assets a company can have as the global digital revolution advances.

For more information visit www.ceasystems.com

16th December 2019