Big news in plant design: AVEVA today announced that it is working on a new product that will “deliver a new level of performance for plant design”. Details are sketchy, but here’s what the company said in a press release:

“The need to orchestrate engineering skills and management processes to respond faster to changing market conditions has never been greater. With more stringent control over compliance and requirements emerging from the new generation of engineers, AVEVA is planning for the future … As we look to the future, we believe that plant design software will play a vital role in delivering new levels of design efficiency, collaboration and compliance management to drive competitiveness and sustainability.”

As I understand it, AVEVA’s new (unnamed) product will include 3D modeling capabilities that “combine the best 3D graphics and laser scanning point clouds” and an automated 2D drawing capability that is integrated with the 3D model. AVEVA is sticking to its long-held core tenets for the rest of the vision: interoperability with other design systems, an architecture that supports project re-use and modular design, and integration with laser scanning point clouds for construction and operations. A quick click over to the website AVEVA has created for the new product, futureofplantdesign.aveva.com/, reveals a bit more: the new product will be “set up in days, not months” with rapid global deployment and improve design efficiency by up to 20%, among other target benefits.

This new product will be previewed in October, with a first release December, 2012.

Why does this matter? AVEVA’s PDMS brand is one of the oldest in engineering software. Over the years, as it ported PDMS from UNIX to Windows and from one database architecture to another, AVEVA probably replaced the innards of PDMS numerous times but always kept the brand. Announcing a new product is quite a radical departure for this conservative company, yet AVEVA clearly felt it had to do this to make a point to the marketplace. Looking at the intentions behind the new product, it appears to be targeted at a much wider user base than PDMS currently addresses. Quicker installs and start-up times will be useful for all, but especially attractive to smaller project teams with less IT infrastructure support. Too, AVEVA has been adding a lot of new technologies to its portfolio lately, and needs a way to more elegantly add them to the core offering. bocad, LFM and probably others are more easily integrated into something new.

I haven’t seen the new product but am anxious to do so — and to talk to early adopters. So far, it’s all talk and PowerPoint, but AVEVA typically delivers what it promises to. Plant design software is incredibly “sticky” because projects have long time-lines, cats and specs don’t translate cleanly from one set of software to another, and users often can’t move easily between packages. But that doesn’t mean that design teams don’t look at alternatives to the tools they’re currently using — and if AVEVA’s new entry is truly “new”, a lot of people will take a look.

PS: AVEVA took a not-so-subtle dig at Intergraph when it announced that “unlike other vendors … we will be doing this in such way that is interoperable with our existing PDMS product.” You just know Intergraph will be firing back momentarily.

PPS: I believe AVEVA has also said that there are NO plans to sunset PDMS. Someday, of course, but nothing is planned.