Process-industry engineering and construction firms can save significant amounts of time and money, optimize process designs, gain access to thousands of analyses of global production and property databases and achieve significant competitive advantage through the use of model-based software applications for modular process design.

E&Cs and their clients are always under pressure to get to the construction phase quickly. Using model-based software applications, engineers can create process designs for re-use in a modular fashion on similar projects, in varying locations, applications and scales, increasing overall project-management efficiency.

Reduce Design, Schedule, Cost Uncertainties

Onsite build can be time-consuming and costly where there are logistics constraints and unpredictable local labor conditions. Excel spreadsheets historically have been the design engineer’s tool to model and calculate project schedules, costs, risks and scope. However, with the help integrated engineering software, standardized modularization offers a different approach. It involves dividing a plant into modules that are then re-used multiple times, helping E&Cs to reduce direct project costs—product equipment units, logistics and installation—by 10% or more, significantly speeding up project engineering, procurement and construction delivery.

Off-site modular assembly—from small to large-scale projects—is becoming the preferred method in plant engineering and construction. It solves many of the challenges of tight project schedules, changing site conditions and the lack of skilled field labor availability. Assembly in a factory also results in improved quality control. Units derived from fabrication workshops can be pre-assembled for shipping anywhere around the world and modular construction can be more easily handled by available on-site skills.

Increase Speed, Reduce Cost

As the value of modular design and construction projects continues to increase, many E&Cs have standardized on a single, unified platform of engineering solutions containing integrated process-modeling analysis and design tools accessible through process simulators. Engineers can optimize process designs for energy use, capital and operating costs and product yield through the use of activated energy, economics and equipment design during the modeling process.

Additionally, the best advanced process simulation tools available today offer access to thousands of analyses representing global production, as well as extensive property databases. Process units that have already been developed can be used as templates and quickly accessed from within the process model when the next project is in design. These templates help deliver faster project execution, meeting increasing demands and minimizing performance issues, while complying with strict environmental and product quality standards.

With a scalable process engineering platform, global organizations can seamlessly and accurately bring together all aspects of front-end engineering design (FEED) and basic engineering. This provides companies with a huge competitive advantage by delivering process data packages for licensed technologies and other repeatable designs in half the time currently required. In addition, model-based estimating systems are powerful tools providing estimators with an early look at resource constraints, such as craft labor and fabrication equipment. With this approach, the efficacy of modules for projects can be easily evaluated, and firms can quickly adapt to client requirements and market fluctuations.

Competitive Advantage

With capital-project investments today under scrutiny, modularization increases project-management efficiency and presents opportunities for trade-offs between onsite and off-site fabrication. Off-site modular assembly is an effective method of construction to help oil, gas and petrochemical companies manage projects more profitably. With modular construction, production time can be minimized as the shop fabricator can efficiently and accurately fabricate items before shipping.

Furthermore, with standardized modular design, E&Cs have the opportunity to gain a competitive edge by taking advantage of the unique characteristics of integrated engineering modeling and analysis software tools. Repeatable designs allow companies to save time re-entering data and enables optimization of a design across the feasibility study, conceptual engineering and FEED workflow. The software tools also help knowledge-sharing across the organization. Modularization expedites project execution by compressing project schedules and integrating global design teams for faster on-time delivery, while reducing costs with technology innovations.

Ron Beck is director of industry marketing, engineering & construction for AspenTech.