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VisualAIM Smart Drawings – Mechanical Integrity from dashboards to drawings

Whether contextualizing or visualizing master data sources, Smart Drawing analytics deliver business intelligence, on the owner operator’s PFDs, P&IDs and Isos.

BK: Welcome back to HXGN RADIO, my name is Brian. Thanks for joining us today. Motivational speakers always press their audiences to push themselves beyond their comfort zones. This can be a good thing, as it may surprise you as to what you’re capable of doing. However when building a best-practice anything, sustained  performance requires consistency and repeatability. That comes from enabling others to not just survive, but to thrive within their environment.

VisualAIM’s Smart Drawings does just that. From the familiar environment of the owner operator’s process flow, process and instrumentation diagrams, a foundation is laid for continued success. Smart Drawings creates an open environment for amalgamating all of your plant-wide applications, delivering business intelligence from operational maintenance and reliability insights to name a few. Joining me today is Ed Mullens, president at VisualAIM, and in today’s episode, we will be exploring Smart drawings and their ability to improve the fidelity of people managing the performance and reliability of plant assets at a refinery, chemical plant, or gas processing facility. Ed, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.

EM: Great, thank you for having me.

BK:  Absolutely, so tell us all about VisualAIM, your flagship technology, Smart Drawing, all of this.

EM: Great. VisualAIM actually got its start about 2008 as a consulting arm providing mechanical integrity, corrosion engineering for our sister company Tech-Core, which does inspection management, so we had a very, very deep understanding of what was required  to go out and conduct inspections and then document the inspections. We developed Smart Drawings back in 2008 to support that operation. Then in 2012, we formed the company in late 2012 and began to take advantage of the technology that we had developed, Smart Drawings and some of the embedded applications that we use in the field, in the refinery or a chemical plant to manage the risk of these assets. What we discovered is our focus has been primarily on brownfield, so we’re focusing on existing refineries, chemical plants, and we’re intelligising their CAD-based  process flow diagrams; PNIDs. What that means is we’ll import a CAD file and then we’ll build a database underneath every one of the assets that are on that drawing so the clients can simply go to that PNID, go to their process flow diagram, click on the asset, and up will come the information that they want to see. That’s true for whether it’s a pump, a compressor, or a piping circuit. Our flagship product is our Smart Drawings. We have embedded  applications that we provide in Smart Drawings, but we can communicate with a myriad of applications that are running in the refinery.

One of the favorite stories I like to tell is about the plant managers that will sit back and say, “Why can’t I look at one location to find all the applications running in my refinery?” Well now, they can actually look at that one location, which is their own drawings.

BK: Yeah, that’s nice.

EM: That’s what VisualAIM is all about, and that’s what Smart Drawings are all about.

BK: Excellent, who are your clients then specifically?

EM : Good, great question. Our current client base is some of the tier-one people at Chevron Phillips. We work with Enterprise Products, which is gas processing, we’re putting in risk-based inspection programs and intelligising all of their existing PNIDs and process flow diagrams. They’re pretty excited because the value that they get that’s added to getting Smart Drawings is the ability to also manage the wide variety of applications that they have to bring all that information together and visualise and contextualise information on their drawings. We’re also working with some of the tier-one companies like Exxon Mobile, Chevron, and Dow Chemical on pilots where they look at how to generate some of this business intelligence for the different business applications that they have running at the plant level.

BK: Nice. Excellent. Good to hear that. There was a question posed on your website, by the way, from a plant manager, and the question was, “Why can’t I go to one location to look at all the applications,” which you addressed on this. You’ve done this, and I think it’s amazing. What has been the response on this? Obviously, this person was happy, but … yeah. He posed it to you. You addressed it. What’s been the response from other plant managers now?

EM: Yeah, so what we’re seeing is that the time that it takes to go and deliver some of these CAD-based programs is the same amount of time it takes to deliver intelligised CAD drawings. They’re very … not surprised, but they’re very pleased with the fact that they can get far more value from an intelligised CAD drawing than just from a static diagram. A lot of what these plant managers use is they’ll use these static drawings. They’ll manually colour code the drawings. They’ll send them back to the CAD department where the master is kept, and what we do is we intelligise that drawing, and if the master changes in the CAD format, we have synchronisation with our Smart Drawings, so that the Smart Drawing is always at the same revision level as the master CAD drawing. The plant manager is just enthralled  because now he can indeed look at the variety of applications that he has running right from his own PNID.

BK:  That’s good, and it really is important to be able to find things in that one area instead of trying to … information gets so scattered eventually.

EM: That’s a great point and really, part of what I want to talk about today is how we’re migrating from a docu-centric world with hard-copied documents, and I know part of what certainly you’re interested that Hexagon is how we work with some of the Hexagon products to deliver our technology. One of the products that we work with is Fusion. We work with Fusion to take all this unstructured  data that’s in the field; hard-copied documents. We’ll scan the documents, and we’ll use optical character recognition to generate the information that we need in our Smart Drawing database. We have Hexagon, which is looking at taking the unstructured data putting them into a structured format and then, we take that and intelligise the PNID and deliver all that within the capability within the drawing from the intelligised  database.

BK: Good, good. What are some synergies with Hexagon and the immediate long-term value for its clients.

EM: I think we’re a relatively small company, and I’ve been doing this for about 15 years with a number of companies. I’m very pleased to say that the relationship with Hexagon is going to be fantastic for us because it does compliment the technology that Hexagon has, but our focus is primarily brownfield. A lot of what the SmartPlant enterprise and SmartPlant Fusion brings is they bring a lot of information and capability to the engineering side of the documentation whereas we bring a lot of the information from the actual technologies that are working in the plant. The combination of the two technologies compliment each other very nicely and of course having Hexagon’s sales force to help us deliver our technology is a huge benefit to us.

BK: You’ve already addressed some of the challenges, but what other challenges are you attempting to address and take care of?

EM: Great question, so I think one of the biggest challenges that the industry has is being able to take these various master asset data that you get from all the applications in a refinery or chemical plant, and we’re able to visualise and contextual that on our drawing. The next step then is to take all those different silos of data and then run business analytics on it; generate business intelligence. I’ll give you an example. A major company up in Canada, we take all of their static applications and put it on a spreadsheet. When they had a shutdown, an unplanned event, then they would gather 10 people in the room. Each person was responsible for one of those applications on that spreadsheet, and simply by having all that data organised on a spreadsheet, they were able to shorten the downtime and were able to basically get back to the value proposition that was recovering about one and a half per cent of annual revenue. When you think about that this company was an eight billion-dollar company and by simply being organised enough to have all that data statically in one place, they were able to generate an additional one and a half per cent of their bottom line. That’s tens of millions of dollars.

BK:  Yeah.

EM:  We come in and we say, “Not only can we have that statically on your spreadsheet, we can now align that and take that information and dynamically represent that on your drawings.” That’s what we’re actually working on now. We’re actually taking that to the next level, so the challenges; we need  to grow, we need to get the right resources. It’s a pretty marvelous culture that we have in our company, and I think we’ll get there through partnerships like with Hexagon or others.

BK:  Absolutely, I have no doubt. So going along with that, what is your long-term vision? Where do you want to be? What are you looking at in getting these challenges taken care of?

EM :  Yeah, so I think some of the challenges that we have from a growth standpoint is really how to maintain our technology, and how to share that technology with our partners because it’s a very large service component to delivering these technologies. For every dollar spent on a licence for this technology, there’s five to ten dollars in services that accompany that. What we’re doing from a business model is we’re trying to enable our partners and our consulting partners to be able to capture some of that service revenue for themselves and pull our technology forward. The biggest challenge we have is developing the relationships with the right partners and then getting out there in front of their clients and helping position our technology and the gain that they get from providing those services.

BK: Absolutely, yep. It’s a win-win for sure. Well that’s great. Well you’ve had a lot of success. How are you feeling about this? I’m assuming you’re pretty excited.

EM:  I’m very excited. I’m excited  because not only is the technology terrific, but I think the culture and the personnel that we brought into the company really has manifested itself to I think where we’re gonna take this thing going forward.

BK: Good.

EM : It’s an interesting business model having partnerships to be successful. I personally have been there and done it several times with a couple of startup companies, so I kind of know what to expect and help those around me deal with some of the idiosyncrasies of working with others. The team that we have built … it’s a lot of young engineers, a lot of smart people, and we continue to underpin the existing team with more and more of these smart, young engineers.

BK:  That’s good, and it is a good business model. It can be challenging at times as you’ve mentioned, but there’s something to be said about collaborating with others and like you said, getting into business partners; working together to better everyone. That’s a really good thing. You’re not just doing your own thing which is nice.

EM : No one of us is as smart as all of us.

BK: I like that. That is wonderful. Anything else you’d like to share as we wrap up?

EM:  I think that’s just about it, and I want to thank you, and I want to thank Hexagon for inviting me in and letting me have this moment with them.

BK:  Absolutely, thank you so much for your time and for sharing all this. Really appreciate it.

EM: You bet.

BK: All right, you can learn more about VisualAIM and Smart Drawings at Go check it out and be sure to tune in to more episodes on or iTunes SoundCloud or Stitcher Radio. Thanks for listening. Have a great day.