An Industry Perspective

If you’re involved in designing, building, and operating capital assets – such as process or power plants  – it’s important that you understand how iRING and the ISO 15926 standard for data and information exchange is changing project economics.  Now being adopted by owners and operators, EPCs, equipment suppliers, and software vendors, iRING is enabling businesses to easily exchange and access trusted asset information between all parties involved in a complex capital equipment project.

Why is this so important? And why should you care?

Because today, from a data exchange perspective, no one speaks the same language – and this results in a chaotic, costly mess for everyone involved in the supply chain from asset design to construction and operations and maintenance.  The time and effort required to manually “translate” the critical information we receive from one another into the “language” that our particular IT systems understand impairs collaboration, wastes time and money, increases risk, and hinders operational continuity for owners and operators of these assets.

Let’s understand the root of the problem first.

Today’s engineers engaged in plant design and plant operations spend too much of their time trying to solve this data problem. To understand it more fully, let’s consider a micro-example. After an engineer chooses, say, a pump from a supplier’s catalog, he or she needs to interpret the information provided by the vendor about that item and determine which data values to translate and enter into the engineering design system. In many cases, this is a simple data entry process, but in other cases, it involves calculations, such as changing from one unit of measurement to another or even interpretation of data. Engineers may also need to exercise their judgment about other aspects of the pump. All of this involves manual work that slows processes, creates opportunity for human error, and consumes valuable time and resources.

Now let’s consider the implications of this kind of data exchange from a large-scale project perspective. The volumes of data associated with building a billion-dollar process plant or power plant are akin to grains of sand on a beach. This data is coming from a broad network of equipment suppliers – each with different ways of describing and storing data. Much of the data has to be translated (or standardized), aggregated, and shared by EPCs as they design, procure, and construct facilities leveraging a broad network of partners – each with their own data standards and proprietary software systems.  And ultimately, this data needs to be transferred to owners and operators so they can operate and maintain the facilities over its entire lifecycle.

Without a universal “standard,” data and information exchange between parties and systems falls apart. That’s why, in the 2004 NIST report titled, “Cost Analysis of Inadequate Interoperability in the U.S. Capital Facilities Industry,” it was determined that the lack of interoperability among computer-aided design (CAD), engineering, and other software systems costs the American capital projects industry more than $15 billion every year.

A universal data standard solves the problem for everyone.

The ISO 15926 data standard and reference data libraries solve these challenges by normalizing the descriptions of plant objects from one company’s database to that of another – regardless of the IT systems used by either party. It’s essentially a universal language that systems can use to exchange information.

When information exchanges go beyond manually rekeying data or using point-to-point custom mapping, the standard acts as a mutually-agreed upon data dictionary with the definitions of all objects in a facility – along with their attributes – defined in it. Because the ISO 15926 dictionary has been developed by a great number of people from many industries in many parts of the world, there is a high probability that the definitions you need are already contained in it, particularly in the oil and gas industry where ISO 15926 was first conceived.

To learn more about ISO 15926, including its history and current status, we recommend reading the “An Introduction to ISO 15926” published by Fiatech.

When we agree on – and consistently use – a data standard, we all benefit.

Looking ahead, just as most people using the Internet today don’t know about HTML, most users of iRING will not have to know about it, or the ISO 15926 standard it’s based upon, to exchange information. When iRING is fully matured and broadly adopted, it will simply be built into the software we all use. Everyone involved in the capital projects supply chain will be able to exchange information much more easily than they do now, at much lower cost and with high fidelity. Few people will need to know that the standard even exists.

It is difficult to overestimate the value of being able to exchange information about multi-million dollar assets with anyone accurately, reliably, and effortlessly. When massive volumes of information about every aspect of an asset are transferred correctly into a partner or customer’s systems, all industry participants will benefit from:

  • More predicable projects with lower risk
  • More efficient, higher yield facilities
  • Lower project and operational costs
  • Improved worker safety and fewer human errors
  • A higher return on assets (ROA)