This is WAY overdue — but don’t read into the tardiness that AVEVA World Summit Europe 2011 was anything other than a world-class event. AVEVA is hosting three such sessions around the world (in Copenhagen, Rio de Janeiro and Singapore) to bring the summits closer to their customers and, judging by the attendees in Copenhagen, the strategy is working — quite a few told me that this was their first AVEVA user conference.

Ten take-aways from the event:

  1. The theme of AVEVA’s user conferences this year is “joined up thinking”. It’s a new term for me, but it broadly means both better integrating and leveraging all of the information created during the life of a project as well as thinking differently about how that information (and the processes and people that created it) are connected. It was great to see how many attendees wound up comparing their processes with their peers’ and trying to figure out how one might do things differently.
  2. Speaking of learning, this event had a large contingent from Russia. For many of these companies, the concepts of 3D CAD are relatively new; they are jumping into an area of technology that has, to a large extent, already “arrived” in other parts of the world. Unlike many American companies who have been using 3D CAD for many years and have built good and bad practices around these tools, these companies had the chance to start at a more advanced point. Did they? Not so much — it appears they are struggling with many of the same issues we’ve been discussing for decades. A bit discouraging.
  3. Also a bit discouraging was learning how much Statoil spends on data migration. Asbjorn Mangerud, Leading Advisor Operations & Maintenance, Technical Information, Statoil ASA, talked about how, over the last ten years, Statoil has tried remodeling, laser scanning plus remodeling, and a variety of translators to get CAD models into its format of choice (PDMS): remodeling cost 6 million NOK, scan + remodel cost 20 million NOK and translators range from under a million NOK to 11 million NOK. It’s hard to compare all of these data points since some may represent smaller projects, different levels of detail and so on, but if I add it all up, Statoil has spent 52 million NOK converting 3D parts from one format to another. Not adding anything, just moving data around. Appalling.
  4. To try to remedy this, Statoil and AVEVA are working on a direct translation mechanism between Intergraph’s PDS and AVEVA’s PDMS. The project started in December 2010, with the goal of reducing the time to do a conversion from months to days/weeks and improving the quality of the conversion over what was then possible using XmPlant. A team of people from Statoil and AVEVA have been working on this ever since, bringing together knowledge of PDMS and its data structures with Statoil expertise about PDS and its own catalog and specification requirements. I missed it, but I heard from attendees that the demo Mr. Mangerud’s team gave of a conversion was very impressive — clearly this project is working and could lead to other, similar efforts.
  5. Statoil is very clear: EPC firms can use whatever tool makes them most productive but when there is existing PDMS data for a project, it must be used and modified. Ultimately, everything needs to wind up in PDMS. Interfacing to PDMS should be done via ISO 15926 — unless a direct interface produces better results, which this project has shown to be the case right now. I’m hearing this same approach from other asset owners, too: EPCs should use the tools that get the project done as quickly and cost-effectively as possible but then deliver data in the form the owner specifies. Where this often falls apart, EPCs tell me, is in the owner’s unclear specification of what, exactly, that is.
  6. The other point that this brings home, again, is that there is no one set of solutions in the plant design world that is perfect for every job. Contractors will likely have to continue to maintain capability (trained users and software licenses) in many tools for the foreseeable future. The software vendors that help users navigate the pitfalls of such heterogeneity will ultimately be more successful than those who prefer a more closed model.
  7. In keeping with the “joined up thinking” theme, AVEVA showcased its project execution, marine and plant design offerings. The company says that they are built around its concept of a digital information hub, which captures the associations between information sources across an enterprise, centrally controls the data, defines workflows and manages change processes. Basically, AVEVA’s authoring tools allow the user to publish to AVEVA NET; approved information from 3rd parties can be checked for compliance to standards and added to AVEVA NET and then both types of data can be viewed and consumed by all authoring applications. This integration between engineering, design and other functional areas will improve efficiency, up to 30% according to AVEVA’s research, and reduce errors.
  8. I spent one morning in the marine track, learning about all of the new features coming in AVEVA Marine. A lot of what’s coming is very useful (space management and pipe supports, for example) and some is just cool: AVEVA Design Reuse, which allows a designer to start a new design with parts of an existing one and the ability to overlay 2D and 3D information, CAD and point clouds.
  9. In the marine track, I learned how to rescue a distressed submarine — vessel and submariners. Very complicated engineering.
  10. AVEVA CEO Richard Longdon began the conference by talking about how important the customer relationship is to AVEVA, saying that “everything begins and ends with our customers”. Most companies say something like this at a customer-focused event, but AVEVA’s customers felt that AVEVA actually means it. Several told me that they see user conferences as a vendor’s way to intensely marketing to them; they like how AVEVA was actually listening and interacting to better understand what customers were trying to say. I saw that over and over again during my time at AVEVA World Summit.

AVEVA announces results for the first half of fiscal 2012 in about 10 days. More then.

Note: AVEVA graciously covered expenses and registration for the event but did not in any way influence the content of this post.