Why CAPEX projects must keep the door open for future technical leaps

Posted: September 4, 2020

The digital transformation of CAPEX projects in the plant and processing industry is no small task.  Modernizing a sector that has little changed in 40 years can be daunting. While the benefits of a modern plant are well recognized, what does it mean for the processing plant, offshore platform, or refinery of the future? How can we ensure the effort and investment that companies are making now will have lasting value far past what we can imagine? 

Back in 2006 when ‘cloud computing’ was first being used by the likes of Google and Amazon to describe the new way in which people could access their files, documents, phones, and videos over the internet instead of on their desktops, people had little way of truly comprehending the possibilities this technology would unlock.

The same is true for today’s transformation of our plant and process industries. Moving towards a digital twin in a way that keeps the door open for future technological leaps that we cannot yet predict is critical.

One of the most common pitfalls that we see is companies failing to have the right combination of granular-level digitalization and the right technology that not only allows different teams and individuals from both the Owner-Operator and EPC to access data and use it in a myriad of different ways but that will also act as a launchpad for future innovations such as the Internet of Things (IoT)


A common cloud collaboration space

The advances in cloud computing have opened huge opportunities to revolutionize CAPEX project delivery. New technology is enabling a unified approach to engineering and design that provides greater transparency and collaboration and reducing risks by providing a single source of trusted data.

To create a truly collaborative space on the cloud though, teams need a platform that shows how the plant is built, by whom, at what phase and when, thereby breaking down the traditional team silos.  Unified engineering solutions require:

Granular data: Digitalising data holistically, independent of deliverables, and at a granular level will ensure it can be accessed and used by all disciplines and stakeholders in a way that meets their needs – allowing them to understand how everything comes together and not from just one phase or perspective. It is this that will keep the door open and futureproof the asset by ensuring it can support new technologies such as the IoT.

Redesign data structures: Breaking the siloed approach to data is key it needs to be restructured so that it fits together seamlessly for many purposes.

Add-in simulation: Bringing stimulation closer to design data will give the digital asset the capability to react – the essence of a digital twin.

A common language: Common dictionaries, semantics, interoperability, and diverse views are central to providing quality data that will be the foundation for unlocking the potential of artificial intelligence. 

In today’s competitive and highly challenged CAPEX environment Owner-Operators and EPCs are focused on protecting profits and saving time. To achieve that they must accept that far-reaching change is required that will deliver a systemic step change in house assets are designed, managed, and operated – from cradle to grave. While in the short-term that may be uncomfortable, with the right digital transformation approach the benefits of modernizing for both today and building-in opportunities for the future are clear.

I discuss this further in a recent webinar with AVEVA’s Head of Unified Engineering Lee Tedstone. Watch it here. 


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