Digital Transformation today has become a necessity for every industry in the world - much as the internet, computerisation, and electrification were the transformational necessities earlier. The criticality and mechanisms of the internet, computerisation, and electrification are now obvious – it was not the case when the process was underway. Many questioned the need, cost, immediacy, and applicability to different businesses. Digital Transformation is also is subject to similar hesitancies as the earlier transformations.
The EPC-LSTK industry nevertheless is now committed to the path of Digital Transformation. This commitment by the EPC-LSTK industry is far more monumental than that for many other industries. Today, much more than in the past decades, the role of EPC-LSTK has become paramount in creating the modern world’s industries and infrastructure and this trend continues to accelerate.
While Digital Transformation in the EPC-LSTK industry involves Engineering, Procurement and Construction phases – in this article we will predominantly focus on the process and advantages of it in the Engineering Design phase.
Engineering even simple equipment for a project requires the capture of as many as 15-20 data points in different formats and recording systems. To set up an entire plant we need to capture these data points for not just each piece of equipment but also for the movement of people, materials and maintenance required during operations. The interplay of all these forces thus exponentially multiplies the complexity. A problem in any one of the data points can create cascading issues and result in delays and losses.
Despite these complexities, the EPC-LSTK industry and all other industries have existed from before the Digital Transformation era. Thus, Digital transformation begets the questions such as - Is it absolutely necessary? Is the cost justified? – and the answer is Yes, and Yes.
The above-explained complexity in engineering design had frozen innovations in the sector. EPC productivity thus grew in incremental steps compared to 50-70 percent productivity growth for the overall economy as per McKinsey. The considerable risk of cascading issues when making simple changes to the historical
engineering design did not allow for much innovation. It also made it difficult and time-consuming to incorporate newer process technologies in due to longer testing requirements for reliability and precision.
Digital Transformation in the form of Automation, AI, Big Data is a serious measure creating all-round cost efficiencies in the Engineering & Design phases along with radical downstream improvements in the Procurement and Construction phase.
The evolving global forces of sustainable manufacturing, environment safeguarding, worker safety, remote management, demand shift due to ageing, reduction on oil dependence, the emergence of newer material and even eCommerce driven consumption are all going to be better managed with the help of Digital Transformation of Engineering Design.
Take the case of sustainable manufacturing – According to US EPA “Sustainable manufacturing is the creation of manufactured products through economically sound processes that minimize negative environmental impacts while conserving energy and natural resources. Sustainable manufacturing also enhances employee, community and product safety.” All the factors mentioned in the definition are moving targets and as the world’s understanding and technology progress, so will the industrial requirements for sustainable manufacturing. Digital Transformation of Engineering Design process will enable varied industries to adopt the changing requirements much more efficiently and, in the process, create a competitive edge for themselves. Similarly, confirming to changing paradigm in each of the other global forces will become easier for the industry and in the process also make the world a better place for all.
The adoption of each additional component of Digital Transformation is therefore steadily increasing the management control on the engineering design process, and the final outcome and its fiscal impact. The adoption of cloud technologies is enabling better access to engineering resources spread geographically. Big Data is helping in smarter design. Automated parametric design and object libraries are improving the design process. AI-driven intelligent automation is helping in developing a detailed initial design that is more than 95% fit as the final design.
Automation enables Open API for integration of in-house document management and configuration systems etc., close, bi-directional integration of leading 3-D systems for mechanical design and integration of the design systems of different control engineering suppliers. Robotic process automation performs high-volume and repeatable tasks, offering a significant opportunity to streamline and improve efficiency. AR and VR are enabling visualisation of the final outcome and associated problems and solutions. All these together form some of the components of Digital Transformation components in the Engineering Design phase.
The other critical component of Digital Transformation is the talent required to maximise the leverage of the transformed organisation. Due focus on training, upskilling, and reskilling is key to successful implementation and adoption. It is this people power that will harness the full potential of the Digitally Transformed organisation, deliver superior output and create the ROI on the entire outlay.
When Digital Transformation is taken up with complete commitment the ROI does not always take time to materialise. For us at Nuberg EPC many of our recent projects win/completions, (India’s first commercial-scale Hydrogen Purification (fuel cell grade), Compression, Storage & Dispensing Facility and multiple projects across the Middle East) had major contributions from our Digital Transformation efforts. So, take heed, commit yourself, and you will reap the rewards.