Plant Lifecycle Management or PLM is a business strategy. The advent of increased computing power present for the average capital intensive business today has made this strategy possible. In manufacturing, where PLM was focused on products instead of plants, the PLM business strategy was adopted more than a decade ago. Part of the reason was the relatively simple products such as automobiles which have roughly ten thousand parts were a couple orders of magnitude less complex than large capital facilities. So as desktop computers and servers made available the necessary capacity at reasonable cost the manufacturers implemented PLM. As reasonably priced computing power availability increased the expansion of the strategy took hold in other industries such as aerospace, where a commercial airline may have over a hundred thousand parts, and shipbuilding, where there is well over a million parts. Due to the continued improvements and reduced costs of computing power, major capital projects such as refineries and nuclear power plants are now in a position to benefit from PLM as a business strategy.
What are the key aspects of a PLM business strategy? PLM by its very nature if deployed early in the lifecycle of the facility will reduce the risk and improve the productivity in each phase of the lifecycle. In the design phase, there are opportunities to capture and reuse design, manage design control and improve collaboration among all stakeholders. In the construction phase simulation tools allow “to build it before you build it” approach by using the virtual 3D design and simulating the manufacturing, fabrication and construction of all components, assemblies, systems, etc. The virtual construction allows validation of the constructability of the plant design, promoting changes in the design in the design phase instead of during construction. Costs for design changes in the design phase are drastically cheaper to implement than in the later phases of the plant’s lifecycle. This greatly reduces the number of field change notices, improves the predictability of a construction schedule and reduces the capital project’s costs.
In the operational and maintenance portion of the lifecycle, a well implemented PLM strategy not only benefits from the availability of design, construction and as-built information, but from the ability to manipulate that design in the 3D model well in advance of any required plant modification or major maintenance evolution. This aspect of PLM provides significant improvements just as it provided in the design-construction phases. As the one source of the truth for the plant design, the 3D digital model is used in lieu of mountains of drawings and documents to extract actual design parameters, physical dimensions, etc. With the selection of technologies such as those available from Dassault Systemes (.pdf) through BCP the model can be used to simulate the construction or major evolution. This allows the owner-operator to better plan the work thus reducing risks during implementation and risks to operating or production schedules. The ability to simulate the evolution also serves not only to optimize the planning, but is an essential “just-in-time” training tool for crews and craft physically executing the evolutions. The Dassault Systemes DELMIA (.pdf) simulation tools can literally focus down to the second evolutions performed by individual workers or teams of workers.
Implementing PLM at operating facilities will be covered in the next article.