When you are implementing ISO 15926, one of the more significant tasks is representing your information in the standard form of ISO 15926 so that the software on each end of the exchange can understand what it means. In public presentations we are sometimes told that this task involves something called “Information Modeling” but few presentations really describe what that is. We are left with a vague impression of impenetrable complexity. In the early days of ISO 15926, in the mid 1990′s, information modeling required a fair expertise. However, as we have worked with the standard over the years we have seen patterns emerge that can be applied successfully without an in-depth knowledge. We call this Template Pattern Mapping and it will make information modeling accessible a greater audience.
Now, in truth, information modeling is not “simple” in the absolute sense of the word, but then neither is any other engineering discipline. (After all, if engineering were truly simple we wouldn’t need engineers, would we!) So although the jargon of information modeling is specialized and the diagramming systems evoke images of strange rituals at midnight, in reality it is no more difficult that any of the other work processes engineers are involved in every day. And when Template Pattern Mapping becomes mainstream in the industry it will enable a division of information modeling responsibilities that is very similar to other engineering disciplines, where most of the work requires only relatively simple tools and rules of thumb.
Stress Analysis Metaphor
For instance, during the design of a modern process plant, every piping system has to pass an analysis of the stress it will encounter in service. Plant engineering teams have a wide range of tools to handle this, falling roughly into three tiers.
In the top tier are specialized mechanical engineers. These folk use advanced techniques such as finite element analysis to handle the most complex problems. At this level there is plenty of strange vocabulary and arcane diagrams. Many of the finite element engineers will have advanced degrees in mathematics. Some will actually be able to get into the code of specialized stress analysis software, used by the next teir, and validate it. But if every length of pipe in a process plant had to be analyzed at this level of detail, plant engineering would take much longer and cost a great deal more. Probably less than one or two percent of the piping is analyzed at this level.
Most of the stress analysis is done by stress engineers; mechanical engineers whose primary tool is stress analysis software with a much coarser focus. While they will all understand the underlying mathematics conceptually, few would consider doing the calculations manually (except, perhaps, as a bar bet with Sheldon Cooper.) Very few will have an advanced degree in mathematics even though they all use the tools with confidence.
But even with simpler tools, stress engineers do not want to be involved with the minutiae of laying out every component of every piping system. On a typical process plant project, 80% of the initial stress analysis is done by piping layout designers. Most are not engineers, but have learned to use tools like nomograms and rules of thumb for laying out pipe. All of the piping systems in a process plant must eventually be checked by a mechanical engineer, but the expectation is that most will pass the first analysis without requiring significant change. The reason this is possible is that the nomograms and rules of thumb have been validated by stress experts.
So while it is not necessary that everyone on the team be a stress specialist, all members want the stress analysis tools, from software, to nomograms, to rules of thumb, to be validated by a stress specialist.
Template Pattern Mapping in an Information Modeling Team
Similarly, information modeling can be divided into three tiers.
In the top tier, analogous to the finite element expert, are the Part 2 gurus that we go to for the really thorny problems. These people do true information modeling and create processes for validating patterns of usage. Like the top specialists in finite element analysis, these are the folks who meet at midnight to chant in other tongues and draw strange diagrams.
In the middle tier, analogous to the piping stress engineer, are the ISO 15926 modeling experts. These people have learned ISO 15926 modelling, but while they can read and understand Part 2, Part 4, and Part 7, are not really gurus. They all have a background in capital project engineering of some sort but might not be assigned full time to any particular project. These people will propose and create new patterns and invoke validation processes.
The third tier is analogous to the piping layout designer. To rework an old joke, these people have been given the job of draining a swamp, and, being up to their behinds in alligators don’t have time for philosophizing. Arguing about the intrinsic difference between PropertyRangeRestrictionOfClass and PropertyRealValueRestrictionOfClass is, perhaps, an interesting thing to do in the evening over a beer (after running out of football teams to talk about), but in their day jobs they have a schedule to meet.
These folks understand the relevant engineering work processes and the relevant construction work processes. They understand how all the physical objects on the project function (from foundations, to structure, to equipment) and at least a conceptual idea of their design parameters. In short, they are Subject Matter Experts; they know the ”meaning” of all the data objects they are dealing with. Using the methodology of Template Pattern Mapping and their own knowledge they will be able to map most of a project’s data to ISO 15926 without needing any in depth knowledge of ISO 15926. This is possible because the templates and classes that make up the pattern, and the patterns themselves, have been developed and validated by information modeling experts.
A Career in ISO 15926 Information Modeling
All of these levels of expertise are worthy goals for people with an interest in managing information reliably and efficiently. And, just as in piping stress analysis, there is no sharp dividing line between these three tiers. Certainly, there is a difference in expertise between the very top and the very bottom, but in between is a continuum, not sharply defined layers. They are accessible in the same way as are the different levels of other engineering disciplines; by educating one’s self and lobbying with one’s boss for opportunities. (In fact, most of the current crop of what might be described as “ISO 15926 experts” have never received formal education on the subject, and many did not start with a university degree in engineering.)
So the basic requirements for a career in ISO 15926 Information Modeling are a strong interest in managing information reliably and efficiently, and appropriate experience in some field of capital projects. Armed with only that and Template Pattern Mapping methodology one can be productive from the beginning, and information mapping projects can start without waiting for one of the top gurus.
Template Pattern Mapping
The Template Pattern Mapping methodology has been developed by the Joint Operational Reference Data (JORD) project and has been published for use by engineering and business domain specialists. An update is in development right now that will expand both the target audience and the business range it can be used on.
If you would like to review the methodology, follow this link:
Look for this entry:
- 2nd Oct 2012 – JORD Mapping Methodology v2 (Phase 1 Final Update) published.
More Information about ISO 15926
If you wish to know more about how Part 2 and Part 7 work, the recently released ”An Introduction to ISO 15926” contains more material. You can download a copy from the sidebar.
- See Chapter 3, “How ISO 15926 Works”.