In this podcast episode, we discuss how digital transformation continues to change the way EPC companies execute complex projects.
This episode is hosted by Jay Schwartz, VP Strategy & Enablement at Hexagon’s Asset Lifecycle Intelligence division, and his guests are Vijaykumar Mali, Digital Transformation Manager at Lamprell, and Lorne Jensen, Global Data Manager at Fluor.
BK: Hello, and welcome to today’s podcast, ‘Digitally transforming project execution’, from Hexagon.
Thank you so much for joining us. I’m your host, Brian, and today we’ll be discussing how digital transformation is changing the way EPC companies execute complex projects.
Guest hosting today’s episode is Jay Schwartz, VP Strategy and Enablement at Hexagon’s Asset Lifecycle Intelligence division.
JS: Hi, I’m Jay Schwartz with Hexagon ALI, and I’m going to take just a moment and let you, Lorne, introduce yourself and your role at Fluor. Tell us a little bit about what you do there at Fluor for us.
LJ: Yeah, thanks Jay. Yeah, yeah. My name’s Lorne Jensen at Fluor in the Calgary office. My current role over the last four or five years has been the Global Data Manager for CSA, so that’s a concrete, steel, and civil. So, we’ve been heavily working on building a global data standard within Fluor to feed all our consumers, and that we could have standard rates and subcontract unit rates and pricing put against that standard, but also implemented in all our core tools like Smart 3D and in our feed projects as well so we can pass that to our consumers and just have consistent projects within Fluor. My background has been in engineering for probably 30 some years, and the last 15 years I worked heavily in automation, but still on the engineering side.
JS: Very good. Thank you, Lorne.
Vijay, tell us about yourself at Lamprell.
VM: Thank you. My name is Vijay. I’m working as a digital transformation manager with Lamprell. I will just introduce about the Lamprell. Lamprell is EPCI contractor with 46 plus years of experience, and we are a leading EPCI contractor for onshore and offshore oil and gas projects, marine industry segment, as well as renewable energy industry segment. As a digital transformation manager, my role is execution of the project and operation information management digital twin, Structural integrity management digital twin and it can be physics based or data driven digital twins. We have done the partnership for developing the rotating equipment digital twins. We are active into data analytics space. We are exploring industrial metaverse solution which integrates all digital solutions for smooth delivery of the project.
JS: Very good. Thank you, gentlemen.
Well, both of your companies are into the digital transformation process and you’re coming from similar backgrounds, but I’m sure you’re at different points in your journey of digital transformation. So, a couple of topics that we thought would be very interesting to hear from you fellows on today. So, the first one that I’d like to, maybe Vijay, let you speak to first, is what roadblocks have you experienced when digitally transforming an EPC project execution?
VM: One of the major roadblocks is adoption of the digital solutions. So, there is a mindset when change is required. People are actually sceptical about how this digital transformation will affect me personally first, before they are trying to realise the benefits of the digital transformation.
And then the second thing is, which are the processes, workflows you want to digitise and digitalise? And what will be the benefits of digital transformation of… So, you have to identify low hanging fruits first. We have to identify the pain points, why we are doing this digital transformation. So, to start with, the biggest thing is for us, we have specific client requirements to execute the project and operation information management digital transformation. So, there are requirements like data residency, so we had to have an on-premise setup. Then it has pros and cons because with the cloud-based solutions, you have access to… You can quickly implement the digital twin solutions.
Then second thing is in EPCI project, you have different stakeholders. Each stakeholder has his own budget, his deliverables, and they’re particular about their own deliverables, because they have limited resources to execute the project, and they’re… Once they produce engineering deliverables, the drawings and data that is required to be issued, for the procurement, they have to… So, everybody is after their own activities, and so they are working in silos. Now making them understood how the digital twin or digital transformation solution will benefit them, that is also a challenge until unless they realise themselves about how it helps them.
So, this set involving the integration environment, okay? So, for the integration of the digital twin, we adopted Hexagon SDx software. We have complete Hexagon suite of software. So, in engineering we use Smart 3D, Smart 2D, but then we have to integrate with the SDx, so we had to use SPF. So, mapping of the data or properties, classes, attributes from smart 2D. Validation of these engineering data coming from different tools, 3D models, like the tags, nomenclature. So those things are establishing that common framework and getting the data into SDx, and then also connecting the data from the non-engineering systems like document management system, ERP system, your material management warehouse systems.
JS: Well, you kind of have two areas, right? You have the area of the bringing the village together through—
JS: —to the people side of this, bringing the village together and understanding how they’re going to participate and why they should participate. And then the other side of the equation for you is the technology, because you’re bringing all of the different silos, having to connect those silos together to execute the transformation. So, it’s kind of two sides of the discussion.
VM: We have to break those barriers.
VM: That is the main thing.
JS: Yeah, okay.
VM: And on the top of that, we also have a client on the other side. See, if you implement digital twin solutions during the operation and maintenance space, where the project is handed over to the client, there is a different ballgame. But in the EPCI project, everything is fluid, dynamic, changing, more like data is changing scopes.
VM: So, to execute and meet these requirements and when digital twin solutions actually start delivering the end results, I can actually understand the project performance, project progress, cost, schedule, risk, value, quality of the e-stakeholder, then there is a, again, different type of reaction. Then there is a resistance to adopt the digital solutions.
JS: Just more of the people issues, right?
JS: So, Lorne, at Fluor, what is it for you at Fluor that you see as big barriers, challenges for you there?
LJ: Yeah, the roadblocks we have had… We are focusing more on building a digital twin right now because we have the data standardisation in place, so now we’re building digital twins to align with that standard. But when we put our engineering detail engineering out for bid, for, say, fabrication or with our subcontracts, we used to, on the bid list, they’d qualify them by having price, schedule, technical capabilities, but we’ve introduced now in the last few years, they’re also their data capabilities, their big data capabilities.
LJ: So, if a subcontractor is not able to, say, receive a structural steel model without drawings, we actually give them a sample for the bid prequalifying. If they’re not able to provide that background level of quality that we need, they would possibly not be on the bid list. So we find that getting very involved upfront with big data at the contract awards stage has really helped the industry us, and I think helped our subcontractors to understand that if you want to move down this road to data-centric execution and big data, we need to have our contractors involved, but also at the contract level, not just through your IT people or your software automation people or your tools, even. It has to be at the contract level.
Definitely, like Vijay said, the confidence in big data is a bit different, because if you don’t have a drawing or a sketch or something to look at, to look at big data, it’s difficult to show people that it truly is there. So to have non-proprietary software like software with SUD, it’s an SQL database that everything’s open, we can do a lot of reporting, graphs, charts automatically to show our engineers that confidence level that your data is sitting here.
The one pitfall that we are working with right now is our clients who maybe are not exposed to big data as heavily as engineering is because we’re building digital twins, we’re doing global data standardisation, our clients can’t review the simple document they did in the past.
LJ: So, we have SmartPlant review, but even it doesn’t have enough rich data in it. So, it is a people, a human factor right now, is the roadblocks.
JS: Gotcha. Yeah. I appreciate the contracting, too. That’s a big deal. And again, like I said with Vijay, there’s a village that it takes to execute a project, and that’s partners within your companies where you’re partnering with other engineering firms, but it’s also those suppliers, those fabricators, those other people that need to participate. Really good, guys.
Well, let’s move on to another topic here. So, what are the biggest benefits digital transformation is bringing to your daily work? And how about on an organisational level?
So, Lorne, let’s go to you. Let’s pitch that to you first.
LJ: Yeah, and it’s a great question. Definitely in the last few years, I think what it’s done is it provides clarity, because in engineering you’re trying to communicate your intent of what you’re trying to build or what you’re trying to design, and a lot of times, say, on a drawing or just in simple reporting, it’s hard to interpret that. But with a digital twin model, everybody that looks at it, the client or the fabricator or even the engineering manager, the clarity is there. You know exactly what it is.
So, the digital twin or the data transformation has given clarity to everyone. And what we’ve done is now provided everyone access, like viewing access only to the model at any time, and also the ability to get reports from the model at any time. In the past, you’d have to request a report. Maybe a day later you’ll get that report. Now with digital transformation, it’s immediate. So, we have these dashboards that are available through web-based browsers, and every couple hours they refresh. And whoever you are, you can get a report from the model. So that accessibility to data has really built confidence in what we do in the engineering. And also, it’s given engineering the ability to focus more on the hard challenges, right?
JS: Put more value engineering cycles into the design, right?
LJ: Yep, yep.
JS: It’s the single source of truth cliche. Now you’ve got a true single source of truth there.
JS: Vijay, tell us where Lamprell sits with that question.
VM: I will just take the lead from the single source of truth. It is a very catchy term. But what it really means, when in the EPCI projects, it starts with engineering. Engineering is the biggest data source, but they are working in silos. They are actually developing 3D models, 2D drawings, smart deliverables. But the other stakeholders during this EPCI phase, first it starts with engineering, but procurements, material management, warehouse, production, QAQC, welding, pre-commissioning, completions, subcontractors. They don’t have access to the engineering data until engineering is completed. So, what digital twin or SDx serves is to collaborate with engineering, and every stakeholder in the project has access to the data from the day one.
VM: And the data is another the biggest advantage. So, you have the right information at the right time. So, it gives you a lot of advantages. Just take the case of the document management system. During the execution of the EPCI projects, the hundreds or even thousands of documents are generated during the peak phase of the project. You have limited number of document controls team, and they can’t transmit these documents, correct?
JS: Right, yep.
VM: But what you do is Hexagon SDx has advanced document management system.
VM: We have actually advanced workflows. So, we have completely automated that workflow, and now the document originator just places the document into the folder and the complete workflow takes place. We eliminated 95% of the manual information. So, the moment document is copied, within two or three minutes, document is actually getting distributed to our clients or reviewers or approvers. So, it takes, say, typically it takes 21 to 48 days for document turnaround, but now because of the SDx advanced workflows, we can actually complete this document turnaround from 48, 21 to 48 days, to, say, couple of minutes.
JS: Fantastic, Vijay. That’s great.
VM: And if the reviewer is available then, and if he does the review in the, say, next two or three hours or, say, maybe two to three hours. So now that complete document turnaround time is reduced from, say, 42 days, to, say, two to three days. So, it actually positively impacts the complete EPCI project.
Another thing is, because now information is accessible—
VM: —because as Lorne has said, we have web client, correct? So, we have actually given the reach of the SDx to the bottom of these ecosystem up to workers or supervisors. So now they’re accessing this SDx, either from their tablets or mobiles, and they understand which is the document. In earlier case, what happens, it takes, say, 14 days for passing the documents to a transmitter of the documents. By that time, engineering is issuing another revision of the document. So, production is working on the earlier revision, so there is obviously rework.
JS: Right, right.
VM: So, these are the typical issues, and there is a lot of… All the processes are manual, so you have… what digital transformation does is, you reduce those manual barriers, manual interventions. And then you relieve the people from doing those repetitive tasks, non-productive tasks, I would rather say, and enable them to focusing on the productive task, which is the main thing.
VM: So, document controls job is to—
JS: So, what I’m hearing both of you guys say is obviously there’s acceleration, yep. A massive, big acceleration, right? And then the other thing I’m hearing is quality. Okay, I’m hearing that come through in all the different use cases that you’re sharing with us. Two fantastic points there.
LJ: And one other thing, Jay, that does… Just listening to what Vijay was saying, is it provides traceability. When we create, say, an object at feed stage, we model something at feed. When it goes to detailed engineering, when it goes to the fabricator, we actually can track that GUID, that individual item all the way back. So, when there’s revision, we have full revision control now at the data level.
JS: Right. All that traceability.
LJ: Yeah, and it is almost like DNA. Every item we touch has DNA to it and we can track it, which is, we never had that ability before.
JS: Very bearable.
VM: I will just add one point, what Lorne had told. Just take the case of the redline markup. So previously what happens is the production guys who are doing the redline markup, they are not aware whether this is the latest drawing or not, but with SDx, we have those smart workflows. If by mistake, even if the production supervisor is selecting, say, revision two instead of revision three, it immediately gives a message saying that, “Hey, this is not the latest revision,” and it’ll not allow you to redline markup. So now amount of… Just imagine that guy has to go toil into the… Go to the site, he has to cheque the site changes, at the end of the day he’s saying, if he realises that this is not the right revision, then what happens is then poor guy has to run back. So, what digital solutions does is, it gives that transparency, access to the information, and it positively impact your project quality, project delivery, cost, budget.
JS: Beautiful. Okay.
All right. Let’s see if we can get one more in real quick. Another question here. What role does having technology partners in digital transformation, what role do they play for you guys? Do you use technology partners to help you with this transformation journey there, Lorne?
LJ: Well, when you mention technology partners, you mean like yourself, Jay?
LJ: In that role?
LJ: Yeah. So, it’s actually a really key point, because up to this point, we’re using file-based systems unless we’ve been using Smart 3D for many years. But once we’re outside of the smart 3D system, we’re in a file-based world. So, our technology partners are critical in big data because they can ensure that that data that we’re trying to communicate to our subcontractors, to our clients, to the regional authority for stamping requirements or for permitting, they can make that network larger for us. We’re not able to write the software, we’re not able to talk to all the divisions around the world and get them to participate in this, so the technology partners in big data actually become even more important than file-based systems, because with the file-based system, anybody can write that software, deploy it onto a project and generate a file. But what you have to do if that file becomes very complicated, especially if it’s proprietary, where with data-centric execution and Hexagon to incorporate more people into the village, that’s Hexagon’s strength, I would say, right?
JS: Yeah. Beautiful. Beautiful. Okay.
VM: Yeah, so technology partners play the role of the accelerators. So, in our case, when we started the work, we don’t know everything of the Hexagon. So, we have… Actually, we have to execute this digital twin within the given EPCI project schedule, and we must adopt this digital transformation solution. So, if you have to reach those goals, you have to have the smart guys from the Hexagon to help us and to… Otherwise it is very difficult, and the technology is disruptive. It is changing at such a—
JS: Rapid rate, yeah.
VM: —rapid pace. And digital transformation solutions. If you have to make sense out of it, you have to have those technology partners, particularly from Hexagon. Our experience is excellent, Hexagon UA team has supported us very well. We are very new into this EPCI project. This is the first EPCI project for our client also to implement the digital twin solutions. And without technology partners, it is difficult. You have limited budget, limited resources. Resources is also issue—
VM: —in the digital transformation solution.
VM: So, you need to have those right resources. Those can come from the technology partners. They have the…yeah.
JS: Really good.
BK: Jay, Vijay, and Lorne, thank you so much.
Appreciate you all joining us today and taking the time.
Jay Schwartz, VP Strategy and Enablement at Hexagon’s Asset Lifecycle Intelligence division; Lorne Jensen, Global Data Manager at Fluor; and Vijay Mali, Digital Transformation Manager for Lamprell.
Thank you so much for joining us and listening. We really appreciate it. You can get more information over at hexagon.com. Have a wonderful day.