Earlier today, at the Hannover Fair, Bentley Systems and Siemens Industry Automation Division announced an extension of their collaboration — this time for the process industries. Last November, the two companies signed a memorandum of understanding to integrate “digital product design and manufacturing process design with information modeling for facilities lifecycle design” — in other words, to tie together the design of a part with its manufacturing process with the way the factory itself is designed. That MOU targeted the data and process needs of the automotive and other discrete manufacturing industries.

Today’s agreement is still about interoperability and connecting Siemens’ products with Bentley’s but is aimed squarely at the process industries. The project, already underway, will connect Siemens’ Comos plant engineering and operations software with Bentley’s 2D/3D OpenPlant design and construction solution.

This is a big deal since the holy grail of plant design has always been to create a data set that is used for design and construction and then repurposed for operations and maintenance. Too often, the fragmented nature of the industry (where one firm may do initial design, another detail design, another the construction and then yet another operate the plant for an owner) means that the data isn’t reused — it may even be discarded as having no value or being too difficult to access. A total waste.

Comos is often used during design to populate databases and create data control mechanisms that ensure that everyone involved in a project, from design through maintenance, has access to current, accurate information. While Comos has 2D tools for conceptual design like process and instrumentation layouts, it lacked a 3D design engine so detail designers used AVEVA’s PDMS, Intergraph’s PDS and SmartPlant, Bentley’s plant design products and so on for 3D.

Today’s announcement gives Comos users a 3D plant option that will, ultimately, allow them to design in 2D or 3D and check designs in either, ensuring consistency between the two. Depending on the project, they may also want to use Bentley’s other design and collaboration applications, since a process plant project typically also involves site work, buildings, and roads. OpenPlant users benefit, too, as they will be able to populate the Comos database, integrate their designs with Comos for electrical and instrumentation and tie into Siemens’ SIMATIC factory automation offerings.

Too often, press releases and MOUs are promises that never amount to much. Not this one. I’ve talked with Bentley and Siemens people and am impressed at how much emphasis both teams are putting on this project. Work is already underway to create Comos i-models that can be read into the OpenPlant (3D) Modeler. The first phase of the project will create the ability to move Comos schematics and data into a 3D model and manage changes between the Comos and OpenPlant environments. Later phases will tighten the integration between the two products. It should be said that everyone sees Comos and OpenPlant as two complimentary platforms and neither side envisions replacing/retiring anything as a result of this agreement; both Comos P&ID and OpenPlant PowerPID will continue to be developed in their own streams.


Note: Bentley Systems asked Schnitger Corp. to write an Opinion Brief about this agreement that you can read here. While we were compensated for the Opinion Brief, the opinions in it and above are our own. We were not compensated for the creation of this blog post.

Photo courtesy flickr user Joe Branco.