What if…? – Cause & Effect in Plant Engineering

In the commissioning phase, plants are thoroughly tested to ensure their intended operation. The check also includes the plant’s operating protocols during startup or in cleaning mode, in case of an emergency stop and in all other conceivable situations. The basis for this is a cause & effect (C&E) matrix. It assigns a corresponding reaction to each occurrence during plant operation. In this way, operators can identify whether a valve remains closed at an 80 percent fill level, because it is intended this way or because of faulty C&E-specifications. This requires engineers to meticulously compare and contrast vast amounts of data. However, this process is both time-consuming and prone to errors. An interdisciplinary database can remedy that.

Extensive searches and DIY

To create such a matrix, logic diagrams, P&ID-schematics and other data from all engineering departments have to be painstakingly searched. Often, the information is manually entered into the cause & effect matrix. The operator has to go through it item by item to find the information in question. The problem: An ‘effect’ in one department can also be a cause for an effect in another. However, in most cases the engineers can only see their own logic-definitions, not those from other departments. If a C&E-connection is wrong, the documentation of all departments involved needs to be altered and coordinated and the cause & effect check starts all over again.

Ineffective use of skilled personnel

The time-consuming creation of these tables can often occupy highly-skilled engineers for weeks. The even bigger challenge is the reliability of the data. The matrix is the only document that allows operators to verify the specifications for the plant’s complex functionality. If the definitions are erroneous, they may lead to faulty commissioning – which in turn can lead to expensive and time-consuming consequences.

A new dimension of efficiency

To counteract this, Engineering Base (EB) from Aucotec enables the automated creation of C&E matrixes. The database-driven platform is unique in terms of its data consistency and helps to accurately document and support the entire plant-design-process in a cooperative and interdisciplinary way.

All departments mutually benefit from the data entered by others. In addition, EB changes in real-time as the plant develops. The plant’s digital twin generated by EB ages and evolves along with its real-life counterpart. This provides a major benefit for the cause & effect experts. When defining specifications, they can be sure that the plant documentation at hand is always up-to-date, even if it was created collaboratively throughout several locations. For example, changes in the P&ID immediately impact all of the altered object’s representations. Error-prone transfers and time-consuming consultations with other departments thus are a thing of the past. MCAD can easily and bidirectionally be integrated as well.

C&E at the press of a button

EB prints logic diagrams and R&Is and automatically handles the laborious merging of information from different departments. Based on the C&E specifications from all areas involved, EB generates a C&E-diagram for the desired mode of operation. The commissioning experts can expand this information with additional details, for example the span of time before an alarm occurs. Should the check reveal any irregularities, the item in question can simply be modified. All of the engineers involved can see that a change occurred and are able to adapt their C&E-definitions accordingly. At the press of a button they can generate a new diagram – without prior consultation or transfer errors.

Faster, better, safer

Its singular data consistency enables EB to automate and thus significantly shorten C&E-processes and ensures the matrix’s overall quality. Since they no longer have to spend their time creating complex diagrams, engineers are free to use their expertise to complete other tasks. All the while they can be sure that the data quality is up-to-speed.

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