As 2D and 3D CAD packages revolutionized the speed of general technical drawing production in the mid-1980s, owner/operators and engineers of process and power generation plants thought they’d found the end-all to production snags. They were impressed with the ability to quickly generate plant drawings and keep them filed electronically.
Now, in the late 1990s, the need to produce drawings quickly has taken a back seat to something much bigger — plant lifecycle data management (PLDM) capabilities — the ability to maintain an intelligent computer-generated data model that supports all the information management issues in the 30- to 40-year operating life of process and power plant facilities. Data-centric enterprise automation systems produce drawings on demand and also provide many high-end functions for design and analysis.
Driving this movement and transition to PLDM are the plant owner/operators, who have come to expect more than just drawings as the final deliverables on their engineering projects.
It’s a change in product philosophy and scope being driven by customers rather than by the vendor community, but one which companies, like EA Systems Inc. have been striving for. Andrew K. Selden II, chairman and CEO of EA Systems, is a strong proponent of this concept and his thinking has influenced a suite of products able to "capture, employ, and maintain essential plant data over the plant lifecycle." This data-centric philosophy employs software to build an integrated 2D logical and a 3D physical model of a plant in a database. According to Selden, "What you see on the screen is a graphical representation of what’s in the database; it’s not just a drawing. Our software maintains data about a plant … we have a 3D physical model and a 2D intelligent schematic model."
The 3D model is a graphic spatial or geometric representation of the plant with dimensions for each room, each object, each pipe, etc. The 2D model is the logical model, showing the "flow" of a line attached to a certain value, pump, heat exchanger, etc. "These functions need to be integrated," he explained, "In order to gain benefits like data consistency and change management."
EA Systems’ PLDM permits a company to capture data early, and build a coherent data model in a database only one time. The company can then modify, change, expand, and build cumulatively on that initial electronic model of the plant as changes take place.
Selden’s quest for an integrated data-centric product suite started in 1994, when he acquired and made a commitment to EA Systems. Since that time the company has grown from 25 people to more than 70 today, with offices in the US, England, and Asia. Selden attributes the company’s current, rapid growth to changing client expectations and EA Systems’ list of powerful "case study" installations where the PLDM approach and products have proven themselves.
The Rohm and Haas Co. (Bristol, PA), for example, uses software from EA Systems in initial phases of a "4D-PLDM" effort, which adds time to the equation so that the longer PLDM tools are used, and the earlier in the cycle, the more users can expect to save. With help from EA Systems, Rohm and Haas is implementing a plan to reduce its capital expenditures budget by 50 percent while, at the same time, reducing its time-to-market for new plants by 50 percent. These benefits are expected to generate savings of several hundred million US dollars over the next three years.
Changing Hands In The Past
The centerpiece of EA Systems is PASCE (pronounced "pace"), an acronym for Plant Applications and Systems for Concurrent Engineering, which is used extensively for building 3D models and databases of process and power plants. It was initially developed by a partnership of Duke Power Co. (Charlotte, NC), ICI Plc (Runcorn, UK), and Combustion Engineering (Stamford, CT) as a "very practical, results-oriented package."
While PASCE was generally acknowledged as a strong and proven lifecycle software product, its development was slowed through a series of corporate ownership changes. Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) (Lucerne, Switzerland) acquired the product suite when it purchased Combustion Engineering, but then sold a majority interest to Digital Equipment Corp. (Maynard, MA). In November 1994, essentially all of the PASCE-related business was purchased by Selden and a core group of senior managers and employees.
Corporate-level changes had little impact on users of PASCE software, many of whom worked closely with the product’s development team members to enhance functionality and deploy the software throughout the various lifecycle phases of plants — preliminary design, detailed engineering, construction, operation, and maintenance.
Rather than just pay lip service to the importance of intelligent schematics to the plant design process, in December 1994 EA Systems went to Cambridge, England for an acknowledged plant expert, James M.D. Merry, founder, in 1982, and managing director of Advanced Systems Consultants Ltd. (ASC), and acquired his company. ASC developed Phoenix, a comprehensive, database-driven schematic design system with wide-spread acceptance in Europe. Phoenix is the basis for EA System’s PlantSCHEMA product.
"There was a natural intellectual fit between the products," Merry pointed out. Duke Power and Electricite de France (Paris, France) were among the earliest customers to adopt the 2D tools to design nuclear power plants and manage a full model of those plants through use of the logical model. "Customers had recognized that having both the 2D and 3D products was quite valuable — that’s what sets PASCE apart from other systems," Merry said.
1995 was a transition year for the company in developing new products and working with beta sites like Duke Power to fully integrate and test various modules. In early 1996, PASCE was introduced for Windows NT in addition to Windows 95, UNIX and OpenVMS. It fully incorporated PlantSCHEMA for 2D intelligent schematics and PlantVIEW, a 3D plant modeler for better plant-wide data consistency and single-time data entry. Several complementary modules also were introduced.
The data-centric products caught on quickly with buyers around the world, many of which have used EA Systems’ PASCE software since its inception. LG Engineering Co. Ltd. (LGEN), an international engineering and construction firm with headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, uses PASCE as its core application for a worldwide concurrent plant engineering system. The system lets LGEN’s engineers, drafters and designers work on projects simultaneously from remote locations. "Our experience using PASCE on a variety of projects over the past four years has confirmed that the software provides significant efficiencies for the multidisciplinary plant design environment," said Jung-Hee Won, senior managing director for the engineering division at LGEN. LGEN has used PASCE applications since 1991.
Some of EA Systems other major customers include Dow Chemical Co. (Midland, MI), 3M Co. (Minneapolis, MN), and Samsung Engineering Co. Ltd. (Seoul, South Korea).
The company acquired by Selden and the management team in late 1994 was eight years old, had a good product as a result of a sound beginning, good funding and a stable management team, but a very limited presence in the market. Revenues in 1994 were just $4.1 million. Despite 1995 being a year of transition, incorporating the ASC team from Cambridge and developing a version of the product for the rapidly growing Windows NT market, revenues increased 25 percent to $5.1 million.
The first year that could take advantage of the investments made in product and people, 1996, showed a revenue growth of almost 50 percent. For 1997, the management team predicts another year of growth with revenues of $11.5 million.
Selden came on the scene at the right time, but this turnaround is not his alone. The employees and customers of EA Systems readily acknowledge the good fortune of Andy Selden happening along when he did to effect the management buyout (MBO). However, the company is in a good position today because of the strength and commitment of the key players and the fact they obviously work well as a team.
Selden has a BS in engineering from Georgia Tech, an MBA from Harvard, and is a former executive vice president of E.F. Hutton and managing director of Bankers Trust and Chemical Bank. He brings the benefit of more than 25 years experience in investment banking, merchant banking and venture capital to EA Systems; technology-based and service-oriented companies are not new to Selden.
EA Systems includes many charter members from more than ten years ago and is led by its president Shiraz M. Jaffer. Jaffer holds a BS degree in civil engineering from the University of East Africa and has more than 20 years experience in nuclear plant design engineering and plant information management. Jaffer’s background doubtless has contributed to the company’s success in the utility industry.
PLDM may be new to some readers, but it’s a concept that’s been around for some time and one that will continue to dominate plant automation into the future. Few companies are actually using software for PLDM because most commercial CAD packages haven’t taken a data-centric approach and too many users are not sure where to turn. To succeed, EA Systems realizes it must continue educating customers on its data-centric approach, and assure them that PASCE is an "open" system with access to data in and out of other packages and can be linked to other software and used in the lifecycle phases earlier and later than the plant design phases. By using a data-centric model earlier in the process, EA Systems believes companies maximize benefits and achieve bigger savings.
For example, at Duke Power, PASCE is used during the detailed design and the post-construction phases for lifecycle management. "At two nuclear plants, Duke used other tools to capture data and moved that data into PASCE where it resides. The data can be accessed by other packages like their maintenance management software program, work scheduling programs, and safety and nuclear radiation monitoring programs. PASCE is used as a graphical navigation window into their plant. When they want to see what’s going on in a particular area, or they want to model their work management, they pull up the model and object with PASCE and they know what modifications are being performed," Shiraz Jaffer explained. "They are also linking PASCE with their real-time systems to monitor what’s going on in the plant linked to their electrical systems, instrumentation systems, radiation monitoring systems, etc."
This enterprise-wide outlook means a company like Duke Power will use the software for 30, 40, or even 50 years — literally throughout the facility’s life.
The PASCE Family Of Products
All PASCE applications run under Windows NT and UNIX platforms. Windows NT is a platform that EA Systems views as especially strategic, because the company realizes that Windows NT interoperability provides an opportunity for further integrating physical plant data assets with information management packages from other vendors.
The key products of the PASCE applications suite include:
• PlantSCHEMA 10 - a comprehensive 2D schematic modeler that consolidates both 2D graphic and non-graphic information into one central database. All plant design and operating information, including P&IDs, resides in this single database, providing a tool that can be used throughout a plant’s lifecycle.
Standard features of PlantSCHEMA include:
- Object connectivity
- Component catalog
- 2D-to-3D interface for transferring components to PlantVIEW
- Expanded symbol libraries
- Multiple database access
- Workflow management
- Enhanced image handling
- Object linking and embedding (OLE) support
- Report writer that can generate reports in hypertext markup language (HTML) for Web publishing
- User-defined interface tools and interfaces to other engineering software applications
• PlantVIEW - a 3D plant modeler that lets engineers create and extensively evaluate the operation of a complete, computer-based model of a new or existing plant before any financial commitments are made. PlantVIEW supports piping; structural; electrical; instrumentation; HVAC; and civil engineering disciplines by providing 3D geometric information; automatic generation of piping isometrics and associated bills of material; as well as integration with third-party tools.
Features for the PlantVIEW physical (3D) data manager system include:
- Stored dimensional data on more than 16,000 standard plant components
- 3D modeling creation and editing functions
- Parametric equipment modeling and volumetric calculations
- Pipe routing
- Interference detection, display, and resolution
- On-demand hidden line and shaded view generation of 3D volumes
- User-selectable choice of drawing automation and drafting facilities
- Interfaces to other engineering software applications
- OLE automation and ODBC drivers for accessing standard desktop applications
- -Ability to import/export 3D DXF and DGN files
Complementary PASCE modules include:
• PlantCAD - links the PASCE plant model database to AutoCAD, providing drawing updates as design changes take place.
• PlantLINK - combines PASCE’s database-driven 3D modeling system with Bentley Systems’ MicroStation applications.
As a native AutoCAD or MicroStation user, all annotations and dimensions created are linked directly to the 3D PASCE model in PlantVIEW. This linkage maintains associativity between PASCE’s database and the drawings created. All modifications made to the PASCE model are automatically recognized through PASCE’s configuration manager and implemented (if properly approved) in the appropriate drawings.
• PlantWALK - the PASCE animation application for plant design review uses models created in PlantVIEW to produce realistic animated "walk throughs" of the 3D models. Users can use the virtual models to review, comment, verify, and simulate "what if" scenarios, such as construction sequencing, long before the design is approved for actual construction.
• PlantWEB/PlantBROWSER - integrates into the Microsoft Internet Server and provides access to PASCE databases for Internet/intranet-enabled plant engineering in real-time for multi-users
• PlantSTEEL - a structural steel analysis interface.
• PlantPIPE - a piping analysis interface.
Data linkage between PlantSCHEMA, PlantVIEW, and the complementary PASCE modules means that the data contained within them is entered only once. Centralizing this data helps ensure the accessibility and consistency of current information by whomever needs it, regardless of the size of the or complexity of the plant model.
The PASCE product and data architecture also supports live, online links to instrumentation and control monitors in a plant, letting owner/operators use the database for operations, maintenance, and regulatory compliance throughout the life of a facility.
Prices for the basic PlantSCHEMA and PlantVIEW modules range from $15,000-$20,000. Contact EA Systems for specific prices on the PASCE complementary modules.
New Directions, New Products
Use throughout the total lifecycle is exactly the marketing message EA Systems is trying to get across to expand its customer base. Earlier this year, the company demonstrated work from a major project undertaken in cooperation with Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. (MCC). The project integrates the process evaluation and costing software from ICARUS Corp. (Rockville, MD) with PASCE for use by MCC, providing an integrated conceptual design environment with automation functionality for basic engineering and subsequent detailed design and operations.
It’s also the springboard for other products to be announced by EA Systems, thus moving PASCE further into the "conceptual design" phase of plant design with a new product called PlantCONCEPT. From the beginning, the PASCE suite of products were developed to store all plant information in a single, comprehensive database. PlantCONCEPT further extends this single database to include planning process data on the front-end of a project, thus virtually eliminating redundant data entry.
Mitsubishi evaluated many engineering and data management packages before choosing PASCE for their worldwide plant design work. The company will use PlantCONCEPT as the basis for a concurrent process engineering (CPE) environment for the conceptual phase of projects. EA Systems claims that PlantCONCEPT has more features than any other process and instrumentation diagram (P&ID) package. To back up this claim, EA Systems says that PlantCONCEPT is the only software tool that provides links to process simulation, cost estimating, and heat exchanger sizing software. PlantCONCEPT also automatically converts block diagrams to process flow diagrams (PFDs), then converts PFDs to P&IDs.
By automating much of the drawing process for conceptual designs, PlantCONCEPT also simplifies initial design review and approval. After conceptual design work is completed, the PlantCONCEPT module integrates the data in the early process planning with the PASCE plant information database for use in subsequent detailed design, operations, and lifecycle maintenance.
Plant data, and the reports generated by PlantCONCEPT, are incorporated into PASCE’s object-oriented, data-centric, 2D plant information database — PlantSCHEMA, an intelligent schematics and plant logic modeler.
Several PASCE customers are using current Internet/intranet technology to provide members of their staff with engineering drawings and current data from PASCE models. To address this need, EA Systems introduced PlantWEB and PlantBROWSER in late 1996. According to the company, this back-end server and client allow easy access to PlantVIEW (3D) and PlantSCHEMA (2D) data over the Internet or corporate intranet.
Economic drivers are causing companies like American Electric Power (AEP) (Columbus, OH), Rohm and Haas, and LGEN to insist on delivery of a coherent data model for PLDM. Regulatory organizations, such as OSHA and the NRC, are establishing new regulations for safety and environmental compliance, which drives companies to demand more integrated toolsets. "They need software that can retrieve the data and give them logical connectivity to achieve compliance objectives," said Arvind Patel, vice president of sales and client management at EA Systems. "Until two years ago this market was focused heavily on plant design. Now, companies are asking for an electronic data model to use for plant operations and maintenance. They are asking how our model works, what are its benefits and how can we deploy this not just for engineering design but enterprisewide or even worldwide. It’s really a significant shift," he noted.
And it’s saving time and money with early adopters, which is leading other companies to look around. "Any company using process simulation packages could use PASCE — that’s a pretty significant market," Patel advised.
The company plans to expand its base of clients by rolling out a series of discipline-specific applications, such as intelligent P&IDs, elementary electrical drawings, and wiring and instrument loop diagrams. "We’re trying to offer something that is not traditional and that offers benefits in areas that aren’t tapped. We think the market is sizable for that, it brings us into domains where CAD historically has not been used," he said.
EA Systems is active in open systems groups like PlantSTEP Inc. and has its eyes open for new partnerships and joint product-development opportunities. "We don’t believe that we deliver a total solution in any one phase of the lifecycle," said Selden. "But we feel we’re part of the total solution. We are open to exploring alliances that address those other lifecycle phases or where we have complementary products with those of other companies."
"We are true believers in PLDM and fortunate that companies like Duke Power and Rohm and Haas have done it. Now we need to communicate the vision and make sure people understand that it’s not just a theory at this point. The results are real bottom-line savings," Selden said. The mixed blessing is that competitive software companies are also hearing the message, and migrating products to adopt a more data-centric look and feel. "However, we’ve had a two-year lead in terms of products and technology and we think we’ll maintain that lead."
For 20 years, A-E-C Automation Newsletter has followed the plant design industry, espousing a data-centric approach, and we’ve seen too many vendor companies fail in this heady endeavor. We are confident, however, that EA Systems is a survivor and will continue its successful ways, and the market they’ve targeted is sure to follow with similar successes.
Note: EA Systems has produced a 16-page white paper that does a nice job presenting the company’s products and services, and where it thinks this industry must go if it is to continue to meet the needs of the owner/operators of process and power plant facilities. It is entitled, "The Four Dimensions of Plant Lifecycle Data Management." For a copy of the white paper, contact Marie P. Telepneff, manager of marketing and communications, at 510/748-4855 or email@example.com.
EA Systems Inc.
980 Atlantic Ave., Suite 103
Almeda, CA 94501
Software and services for designing and engineerings complex industrial process and power plants, and managing information over the operating life of plant facilities.
Ownership: Privately held