AVEVA lets the good times roll

Oct 31, 2016 | Hot Topics

New Orleans, the Big Easy. Mardi Gras floats and beads, a “laissez les bonne temps roulez” readiness for anything. The French Quarter. Great food. Hurricane Katrina and its aftereffects, still felt 11 years on. And, for a few days recently, home to an AVEVA World Summit that brought together thought leaders from across oil and gas, power and process, building and construction. I came away with a feather boa and some beads (don’t ask) and a lot of really great ideas about how big project AEC is anything but same-old, same-old.

For the first time, AVEVA World 2016 included a BIM track, so let’s start there. We probably don’t think of AVEVA as a “BIM” company, but when you consider that BIM (building information modeling) is a set of processes and technologies created to lower the total cost of ownership for asset, consistent methods within each project as well as across projects, it makes a lot of sense. AVEVA has been helping clients deliver projects that adhere to BIM guidelines for decades, by building PDMS and other products to model both the 3D representation of an object as well as its associated data. For BIM, specifically, AVEVA highlighted its laser scanning, structural detailing and fabrication, and interoperability and multidisciplinary data management solutions. No one said this explicitly but it doesn’t seem like AVEVA is planning to build a PDMS-for-architects any time soon.

One of the highlights of the track was a presentation by Peter Timler of West-Cascadia Consultants. West-Cascadia is a steel sub-contractor that is typically brought in when the structure is ready to be built, with little to no influence on the design itself — and therefore unable to offer its expertise on constructability and other factors that could affect the projects total cost, schedule and fit-for-purpose. Mr. Timler said earlier involvement lets him propose advanced construction methods and, perhaps, customized solutions for the project, owner, and design team. I hope AVEVA writes this up as a case study because I couldn’t capture all of his proof points, but on one project, involving the fabricator early had a major impact on the end result: The EIA Renaissance Hotel now has an eighth floor, has less concrete and steel-braced elevator and stair well cores — all while delivering the building 8 months sooner (trimming 2 months in design and 6 months in construction). In all, a savings of15% in the capital cost of the structure.

But AVEVA’s base is, mostly, still process and power and I spent the majority of my time in that track. Speaker after speaker, rather than lamenting the low price of oil, just got on with it: Making their companies better and more efficient. Implementing new technologies that take document-centric processes (and people) to data-centric. The historically high price of oil created an industry that was fat and happy, as one speaker put it. The size of capital projects grew tremendously and with it, the risk of some sort of failure — financial, schedule, environmental; the list is long. Project productivity didn’t improve, resulting in untamed cost overruns and missed schedules. The breather forced on the industry by the low prices and stalled investment is having at least two positive effects: a re-evaluation of what “success” means, and implementation of many of the things that before seemed unnecessary. Huge profits can mask a lot of underlying problems …

We heard about companies being more selective in the projects they greenlight to screen out those that are unrealistic or likely to be unprofitable. Also looking at flexible and more modular designs — perhaps phasing a project so that it can be expanded only if price/demand holds up. Several speakers pointed out that contracts in the industry can be ridiculously complex, leading to gaming of the terms rather than good-faith execution to the terms. Simpler contracts, more standardized administration and the adoption of professional planning and management tools were all put forth as solutions. (This ties into AVEVA’s 8over8 acquisition, whose Procon is a strategic contracts administration and tracking solution,)

This was a different event for AVEVA. Technology showcases happened off the main stage and there were no ooh and aah moments during the very few times the company took the stage. This was a strategic event, aimed at exploring the problems facing AVEVA’s customers. The only product announcement was AVEVA NET Connect; the AVEVA NET data backbone delivered via Amazon Web Services, and the first of the Connect Platform of products. Capgemini Technology Services will be the implementation partner.

AVEVA and Capgemini see this as driving down IT costs, improving flexibility to scale software usage to meet project demand. CEO Richard Longdon said that this was the perfect foray into cloud technology: “AVEVA has closely monitored the evolution of cloud computing over the last few years. We are committed [in time[ to delivering a complete portfolio of solutions in the cloud which will allow our clients to access all our solutions flexibly and cost-effectively, protecting investments in intellectual property, people and relationships with contractors.” Starting with data is smart — it removes all of the questions that pop up around CAD in the cloud and lets buyers get comfortable with the idea.

Speaking of Mr. Longdon, this was likely his last AVEVA World Summit. James Kidd takes over in January as CEO and, fittingly, Mr. Longdon opened the New Orleans event while Mr. Kidd closed it. It’s never easy to say goodbye to a CEO who has led a company as long as Mr. Longdon has, and has grown it so successfully over that time. Mr. Kidd  told attendees that he plans to continue AVEVA’s focus on technology leadership, innovation and customer focus. It was a bittersweet end to a bon temps — and let’s roulez nex year, when we celebrate AVEVA’s 50th birthday.

I did go to several Marine track sessions and need to write about the amazing ITER E3D presentation — but need to post this now, or it’ll never happen. Check back soon for more.

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