A Glance at AVEVA’s Future of Plant Design

AVEVA, a computer aided design (CAD) pioneer, opened its doors under the name CADCentre in 1967 as a breakaway of a research initiative of Cambridge University. Its history is closely related to the Silicon Fen phenomenon, which is the UK equivalent of the high-tech and information technology (IT) hub Silicon Valley.

Important milestones in the history of the company include the release of the world’s first plant design management system (PDMS), in 1976, plant visualization system, in 1988, and Internet-based solution for plant design, in 1998. These innovations, plus a series of acquisitions, make AVEVA one of the most important players in the plant design space, with more than 1,300 employees on all continents and more than 2,000 customers.

Why “The Future of Plant Design”?

“The Future of Plant Design” began as one of AVEVA’s projects, which took more than 18 months to complete and launch. It all started with a vision for a new era in plant design, but as many vendors tend to speak about new eras in their sector when releasing new solutions, I wanted to know what specific changes in the plant design industry this entailed. So I asked Simon Bennett, senior product business manager at AVEVA to tell me more about the new benchmarks in plant design and how their "Future of Plant Design" initiative can address them.

The first major trend that has had a tremendous impact on plant design is the changing requirements of the customers. The flexibility of the plant design solutions is a must nowadays, as changes need to be implemented quickly and seamlessly. New technologies such as mobile devices are also used extensively and engineers want to benefit from them at work.

Industry-specific trends also impact the plant design market. The pressure to find new sources of energy forces companies to adopt new extraction techniques, which can be riskier (e.g., deep-sea drilling), or controversial (e.g., oil sands). In some locations, threats such as bad weather, terrorism, or military conflicts complicate matters further.

Another issue affecting all engineering companies is the major shift in the qualified workforce: many very experienced engineers will soon retire, but Europe and North America aren’t producing enough qualified people to replace them. Even though emerging countries such as China and India are generating an impressive number of engineers, most of these are still very young and will need time to learn the specifics of the industry.

All these challenges are global, and long gone are the days when manufacturing or energy companies had options to move to other regions to avoid facing them.

How can “The Future of Plant Design” help?

The end result of the "Future of Plant Design" initiative is a solution that will be previewed by AVEVA at World Summit 2012 in October and will be followed by the first release in December 2012. The new offering will be interoperable with existing AVEVA solutions, but it is not intended to replace them.

The solution brings new functionality to plant design engineers:

  • Deployment speed will be reduced from weeks to days so that users can promptly begin working on projects without being concerned about the setup of the solution.

  • Design efficiency through better collaboration within and between teams, which is particularly important for projects involving people working in various regions of the world.

  • Full validation and authorization for design projects enables a speedier delivery and reduces costs by avoiding unnecessary delays caused by miscommunication or rigid hierarchies.

  • Linking the design project with the actual execution enables faster and more efficient resolution of emerging issues during the application of the design while allowing for updates to the original plan.

If we look at the energy industry, we can see that a more efficient plan design solution will definitely help companies better manage the $38 trillion investment in supply infrastructure, as estimated by the International Energy Agency for the period between 2011 and 2035.

Other vendors such as Autodesk, Intergraph, Bentley are providing solutions for plant design software, but AVEVA seems to be one step ahead of its competitors. As Simon Bennett told me, AVEVA plans its products for the medium- and long-term future, and the company has been doing this for more than 40 years. I will be following the evolution of the project and will provide more details when the solution is officially launched.
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