As I work with different clients to help them manage their piping design specifications and materials catalog, I see a common issue. Their piping specifications and material catalogues are often stored in word and excel files. It’s a system that worked initially, but it doesn’t take advantage of new technology or scale up as the business grows in size and complexity.
The process to make updates and keep the two aligned is manual, time consuming, and often inconsistent. Integration with design tools is non-existent, and managing the data seems daunting and costly.
All too often, the work of interpreting the design specifications and delivering updates to the material catalogue gets lumped into EPC work during capital projects. This not only drives up the cost of engineering, it means your data can become more and more misaligned as various EPCs interpret things differently or give you different descriptions for the same materials. In addition, many companies ignore the underlying problem and continue to use word and excel because “that is the way we have always done it”. This status quo mentality will continue to degrade the quality of the information and the number of duplicates will continue to compound year after year, creating significant risks, inefficiencies and costs to the plant’s operating lifecycle.
But is there a better way?
We recently worked with a client who was about to undertake a new capital project. They had a choice – continue to outsource the work to an EPC or update the way they manage their piping specifications and material catalogue and bring control back in-house.
They asked us to analyze their data and determine what it would cost to implement a new system. Following leading industry practices, we recommended a new, scalable, digital piping specification and material catalogue system that would enable our client to:
- Generate up-to-date specifications that are ready to be stamped
- Integrate specifications directly with design tools for consistent use by any EPC on any project
- Generate reports to make sure specifications comply with regulations
- Validate their material catalogue to eliminate duplication and gaps
The estimated engineering costs to send the existing word-based specifications to the EPC, having the EPC translate those into design tools and deliver the material data was in the low six figures.
The cost of rolling out the recommended, standardized software solution and populating it with the all the relevant specs and catalog information was 70% the cost of sending to the specifications to the EPC for just one project.
By bringing the way they manage their piping specifications up to date, our client realized an immediate savings of 30% and they also eliminated the ongoing cost of paying EPCs to re-do the same work over and over on each new project, and they’re able to see long term improvements in efficiency and reliability.
To see the impact this new data integration has, look at how they’re able to respond to an issue such as the discovery of a leaking valve:
|Create a one-off solution – Have a piping engineer assess the situation and develop a solution for the individual valve.
||Find all the data available for the valve – They can see its tag number, the P&IDs and drawings it is on, the lines that are impacted and their temperatures.
See where the valve came from – They can see the manufacturer, when it was bought, and who did the original engineering.
See the valve’s physical characteristics – They can see the dimensions of the body and the hand wheel, and the various sizes that exist.
Determine the full scope of the issue – They can see how many similar valves are out there, the units they’re in, and even the exact coordinates and locations (before sending someone out there in the middle of winter to look at high spots on a scaffold).
Determine the impact to the specifications and material catalogue – They can see who entered the valve into the catalogue, any open requisitions or POs that need to be held, and any specifications that need to be updated.
None of this would be possible if they had left control of their piping specifications and materials catalogue to EPCs and ad-hoc updates. Now, more than ever, custody and control of vital asset information is critical to operational excellence, safety, and value.