Screen Shot 2013-11-10 at 12.01.39 PMAt last year’s World Summit, AVEVA unveiled its vision for the future of plant design, Everything 3D, aka E3D. This year’s event didn’t have that big a moment, but had a series of smaller moments all centered around the visual impact of information. Whether for brainstorming, collaborating during design, getting approvals from the field, training operations personnel or showcasing design alternatives, visualization was the topic of this event.

The first big reveal this time was AVEVA E3D Insight, a Labs concept teased last year, when CEO Richard Longdon and CTO Dave Wheeldon and the AVEVA team coyly showed how an E3D model could be traversed and interrogated for collaboration and remote work on a huge, 65 inch Microsoft tablet. In a very entertaining bit of theater, AVEVA’s Thierry Vermeersch and Simon Bennett pretended to get Simon up to speed on the released Windows 8.1 app –the schtick being that if Simon could do it, anyone could– so that the pair to collaborate on a design. Thierry installed E3D Insight on a 65 inch tablet while Simon used a hand-held one; they authorized it and were working in the same E3D model within minutes.

Visualise object status

Pretty images and entertainment value aside, E3D Insight has real benefits for design collaboration and for construction and operations, which rarely happen in proximity to the office desktop. Users can manipulate the model, measure and inspect as needed, access status (shown above) and other non-graphical information, and then take part in a conversation whose content is stored with the model.

Too, the tablet interface gives access to the E3D model to people who aren’t CAD-natives, and allows them to interact with it via a touch interface. Authorized users have direct access to the live AVEVA E3D design model, the latest state of all information about it. If they lose Internet connectivity while using Insight, edits and approvals are saved until reconnected. If the user knows there’s no connectivity on the site (or the plane or the …), he can pre-load the app, edit offline and then upload changes when the connection is reestablished. E3D Insight runs on top of E3D and PDMS 12.1 models and is available today. You can view a nifty video about E3D Insight here, though I do hope they post Thierry and Simon’s session, too.

The second unveiling was AVEVA Activity Visualisation Platform (AVEVA AVP), based on technology acquired last year with Global Majik. AVP creates a multi-user virtual world, where users can interact in “real world” environments to carry out pre-defined tasks such as construction planning to operations to what-if disaster scenarios. This is a screen shot showing a training scenario:

AVEVA’s Dave Coppin said that this type of “storytelling” improves comprehension, communication, speed and skill. Younger workers, the main gaming demographic, are already familiar with this visual style and so should readily embrace this style of learning.

This year’s In the Labs entry was stunning and in keeping with the visualization theme. Starting from the screen capture below, imagine you’re looking at the Shell Perdido platform on a huge tablet:

Screen Shot 2013-11-09 at 5.04.35 PM

You use your fingers to pinch and point so that you zoom around the model –an entire oil rig, mind you, from the whole thing to the smallest fitting– to look into openings, peel back structures and climb up ladders to get a very real feel of the structure. You can add the sun, which creates realistic shading and the sea, to get a feel for where the horizon is. As you fly around the structure, you can poke at a component and interrogate it, then perhaps highlight everything on the rig from the same manufacturer. Amazingly fast, visual, intuitive interface.

The conference covered a lot more ground than I can write about now, but I would be remiss not to share what I learned from E3D early adopters. Siemens Energy has been looking at E3D since early 2013; Guido Kribs told us that, since PDMS 12.1 and E3D use the same database model, his team was able to set up parallel installations of both products for the trial. The team has seen no major change in project setup (catalogues, add-ons and access rules), an important qualifier for moving forward. Their evaluation showed productivity gains in drawing creation, including better performance because of the way caching is done in E3D; an AutoCAD-like, user friendly environment for newcomers; and improvements in revision handling and creating clouds to highlight changes. So far, Siemens Energy has evaluated the structural steel and drawing generation capabilities of E3D and Mr. Krebs said that they plan to make a go-live decision for the stair/handrail app in Q1 of 2014. Also in 2014, they’ll be testing piping and MDS (Multi-Discipline Supports for pipes, ducts and cable trays) on the way to the E3D 2.1 release in Q3 of 2014. If all goes to well, Siemens Energy plans to go live with E3D on all projects in early 2015.

Other customers at the event told me that they can’t move that quickly, even though they might want to. They need to train users, prove to themselves that PDMS 12.1 projects and all of their cats and specs can easily move forward to E3D, and understand what can’t move backwards from E3D to PDMS 12.1. Project complexity and time tables mean that it may take them longer — but they’re interested in seeing how quick movers like Siemens Energy do it, since that will create blueprints for followers.

There’s lots happening at AVEVA, that’s new and forward-looking: E3D, cool visualization techniques and technologies, devices and apps geared towards new users and applications, Bocad and more. But AVEVA doesn’t forget its legacy, as the event also showcased some 20 customers using its current offerings for projects in shipbuilding, mining, offshore and onshore and AVEVA presentations on what coming in PDMS, AVEVA Marine, AVEVA Net and other offerings. The relationship between AVEVA and its customers is unusually tight and honest; no one glossed over product shortcomings or made exorbitant promises. In its usual low-key way, AVEVA presented its responses to customer needs — and the customers were happy with what they heard. Very.

Note: AVEVA graciously covered some of the expenses associated with my participation at the event but did not in any way influence the content of this post.

Images courtesy of AVEVA and Monica Schnitger (bottom).