Unlock the Value of your Engineering Models
Recently I had the opportunity to visit the DNV GL archive – it’s a truly impressive place, it almost felt like discovering a hidden treasure. Certificates, approval letters and literally tons of paper drawings of hundreds of vessels! Imagine the man-years, or rather man-decades of engineering work collected in the basement shelves of our headquarters.
Obviously, you wouldn’t want this enormous value to remain trapped and be useful only to those lucky ones with physical access to this (let’s face it, Høvik) rather remote place of our world. Because after all, it’s these drawings that – through visualization – help us understand the complex designs of the ships and offshore assets we deal with on a daily basis.
Luckily, technology came to the rescue. Paper drawings were digitized and today new designs never even leave their digital state anymore. The immense value of these fine artifacts of engineering can be distributed with the click of a button.
The reason I’m telling this story is because we’re currently seeing a very similar thing happening. Only this time we’re adding another dimension in the truest sense of the word. In offshore engineering we no longer produce drawings to begin with but instead build information-rich, three-dimensional analysis models. From these models, we eventually can still derive drawings if need be.
The true value, however, is within the 3D model itself and all the engineering expertise that’s been built into it. It’s still the same story of comprehension through visualization, except today the structures we analyze have become even more complex and our ‘drawings’ have become 3D engineering models. Unfortunately, we don’t make use of them enough and therefore tend to lack insight into the assets we build and operate. Ever flicked through a couple dozen pages of a tabular listing of jacket members to find the one with the highest utilization? Ever tried to describe in an E-mail how that pipe rack stool of some topside module should be redesigned? Ever felt a little uncertain if your colleague from the offshore crew on the phone is looking at the same deck member on-site as you’re looking at on your screen?
If any of the above scenarios sounds familiar to you, I’m sure you appreciate the effectiveness that visualization of these situations could have given you. Look at the digital model and highlight the utilization or stresses by color and you’ll find the answer you’re looking for within a matter of seconds. Log a comment on the pipe rack stool directly on the 3D model and attach a sketch of your redesign solution. Let your offshore colleagues see the same information about that deck member on their phone as you see on your laptop. All stakeholders would benefit from this way of tackling challenges graphically, and luckily all the information we need is already in the analysis models! The problem today is that these models typically remain with the few engineers who created them and within the desktop applications only they have access to.
Spread the Wealth
I say, let’s not allow the engineering departments to become the next archives for hidden treasures. We take it for granted to have access to drawings, add annotations and use them as a communication tool, and it’s about time we expect the same of the 3D analysis models of the assets we work with today. Technology allows us to visualize even the largest engineering models with nothing but a regular web browser on a laptop, tablet or smartphone and an internet connection. Light-weight, cloud-based and easy-to-use web applications unlock the remarkable value of these models and spread it beyond the boundaries of departments and organizations.
And think of the positive side effects too. Recently I heard from a customer I visited that she spends only about half her budgeted time on a project modeling and analyzing structures. Guess what she spends the other half on: Writing reports! You know, these hundreds of pages of structural analysis results that design engineers hate to write and the recipients hate to read. Yet somehow that seems to be the only way for us to communicate the totality of the study and to withstand the scrutiny of clients and regulators. But aren’t these reports just largely the consequence of poor and inefficient means of communication? If we manage to put an asset’s analysis model in the center of collaboration where it belongs, we can let all stakeholders benefit from visual comprehension and reduce the need to create lengthy and painful documentation instead. The analysis model will continue to provide value during the asset’s operational phase, much more so than a static report ever could. And then maybe – just maybe – instead of writing reports, engineers can spend more time doing what they do best: invent, design and analyze amazing things.
Want to know more?
Get in touch with me via LinkedIn or drop a comment below to find out about our most recent project, Structure Insight. Learn how it helps boosting collaboration in offshore engineering and lets you build shared understanding among all stakeholders through visualization.