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Unlock the Value of your Engineering Models

Hidden Treasures

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.

DNV GL Archive

The DNV GL archive: priceless engineering knowledge condensed into 30,000 files.

Visualize everything

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.

Structure Insight - Collaboration the Oil and Gas Industry

Cloud-based and easy-to-use web applications allow more stakeholders to benefit from engineering models 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.

2 Comments Add your comment
Jan Land Jan Land says:

Hi Octai,

thank you for your many interesting points. Let me say that in principle I understand your concern. I too see a challenge in building an easy-to-use engineering application without oversimplifying a complex physical or mechanical problem. We see that some software packages in the market will produce results no matter the input. Less skilled or less experienced engineers will be given a false sense of accomplishment: they are able to complete a study but unknowingly producing many errors in their assumptions and calculations, because the software ‘lets them do it’. I believe, this is dangerous and can potentially lead to what you called laziness.
However, when it comes to 3D visualization, I see a great opportunity also for stakeholders outside the engineering departments to benefit from the work that e.g. the structural experts have carried out. So while I agree with you that an easy-to-use software application cannot replace good engineering skills, it can make the outcome of the engineers’ work more accessible and valuable to all stakeholders through visualization.
You mentioned some examples of too little / too much information in drawings and 3D models. I think that is a really good point and ties nicely to the above challenges too: it is important that we always keep in mind the audience of our tools – are they domain experts vs. less-technical stakeholders, skilled vs. junior engineers, etc. Put the right tool in the right hands!


Octai Dersamet says:

Hi Jan,

Thanks for sharing.
First of all I appreciate the DNV GL effort to put money in archiving documents and drawings of tested solutions as a “witness” of sound practice in engineering.
I also agree that an image transmits more information than 1000 of words.
But in the same time the ‘visualization’ is an easy a comfortable way for engineers too lazy to try to understand the drawings.
In late years I was horrified to notice that few engineers know to ‘read’ a drawing, to understand what other engineer ( the designer) tried to convey.
This type of approach will ultimately mitigate the level of those engineers seeking only to have 3 D visual communications.
I used this type of 3D sketches mainly to transmit information to poorly trained craftsmen who wasn’t capable to read the drawings and to understand how to layout the connecting pipes in between equipment’s for example.
The 3D visualization or 2D many times tend to offer more information than needed to achieve a certain goal.
This makes like of trained people more complicated sometimes inducing confusions rather than helping them.
This is the reason why detailed design is needed where the information is targeted to the scope.
One of my teachers in university used to say that the lack brain usage lead to ‘rusting’ it.
In the same way the abuse of software and 3D visualization reduce the capacity of engineers to use their brain, demotivating them to learn the basics of engineering processes and making them addicted to the opinion of very few engineers who developed that software’s.


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