Digitalisation does not always refer to one and the same thing. For more than half a century, digitalisation has made continuous progress, especially in plant engineering. Learn about the most important milestones in plant engineering and what modern engineering in this field means today.
When digitalisation was first introduced
The first digital tools in plant engineering appeared between 1960 and 1980. At that time, modern working meant digitising paper documents as far as possible and working with computers. Each engineering discipline started to use computers to create spreadsheets and digital blueprints. As the number of files increased, it became necessary to store them in a file library. A combination of AutoCAD and Excel would be the typical modern equivalent of that time.
First steps of parallel engineering
Around 1990, a new concept for plant engineering was developed. For the first time, shapes were placed in the diagrams of various disciplines. These shapes corresponded to a series of attributes that contained the data. For example, if you would click on the representation of a pump in a P&ID flowchart, the attributes of the pump would be displayed. Diagrams were thus quasi data containers. Instead of file libraries, databases were used to store these intelligent diagrams and their metadata for each discipline. With the rise of databases, more sophisticated search and reporting functions became possible. The parallelisation of engineering made it necessary to synchronise the data of the various disciplines at the same time. For this purpose, a synchronisation agent, usually called a platform, was used. This was supposed to improve data communication. Thus objects existed in schemata for the different disciplines. These were stored in databases, which in turn were synchronised by a platform. As a result, plant engineering in this period was based on a three-tier software architecture. Although quite advanced, this approach differs from modern, truly parallel engineering.
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Today, modern engineering is model-driven. For a better understanding, this approach can be explained using a water supply system. This type of system consists of various components such as a tank located in a tank farm, a pump located in a pumping station, several instruments, user interfaces, a junction box and a process control system. The first model that can be created using this example shows the system components. The second is the functional model, and the third is the site model. Using a modern engineering platform, there are connections between all three. The plant model, with its graphical 2D and 3D representations, presents the union of the three models and is interdisciplinary.
Single Source of Truth for highest efficiency
A software tool for plant engineering based on a model-driven engineering concept covers all aspects of the plant data model and offers unlimited graphical representations of all data. This package is stored in a central database and serves from this point on as Single Source of Truth. As a result, plant data is always accessible in real time to all engineers from all disciplines, no matter where they are, what discipline they work in or what language they use. The result is true parallel engineering. Engineering Base from Aucotec was developed on the basis of this concept. In this way, the software tool achieves cooperative engineering with all the associated advantages. The platform has been so convincing that it is now used by more than 9,000 plant engineers worldwide.
About the authors
Our editorial team consists of Aucotec employees supported by the technical copywriters of our press agency. Together we keep you updated on the latest trends in the industry and show how Aucotec can facilitate your engineering.