Construction Week Online, February 01, 2021
Managing turnkey engineering projects and delivering complex production plants is a complex task bringing together high order of engineering skills with intricate stages of supply chain and capital management. The clients expect absolute adherence to quality standards and timelines irrespective of any backend constraints. The journey from idea to turnkey production success though arduous has gained from advancements in capabilities and processes over the years.
In the next half-decade, Nuberg EPC with execution excellence of over 60 Greenfield industrial plants in more than 30 countries around the globe expects major shifts in the industry. These will include, but not be limited to, skid-mounted plants/technology, a higher degree of automation, digitalization & AI, remote management & running of plants, and development of environment-friendly, cost-effective, safer, and more efficient process technologies/products.
Skid-mounted plant / technology
Skid-mounted plants when used in place of the traditional stick-built methodology of the on-site assembly will drastically compress the time required to build plants and reduce disruptions in operation in case of expansion or up-gradation.
EPC industry will be able to provide clients with dramatic cost, timeline, mobility, protection, and modularity advantages in the plants as the machinery will be mounted on rails, pallets, or a frame at the point of manufacturing itself. Skid mounting also enables flexibility in the architectural planning of equipment location and the ability to adjust manufacturing facility size mid-project.
EPC players will be able to assemble the sub-plants including complex piping, delicate valves, and other valuable components, and ship them protected by the frame.
Testing is one of the most important phases in constructing a plant and the skid-mounted process allows for pre-testing of small and medium size plant sub-systems before shipping them nearly as it is to the final location.
Automation in the EPC industry requires unique skill sets and technical capabilities. Seamless integration of design services and construction services results in an operation automation experience. For an EPC company to be successful they have to be ahead of the field in cost estimation of projects to win the bids and generate maximum margins. Automation in developing a detailed initial design that is more than 95% fit as the final design can enable real-world estimation of the requirement of engineering resources, material, and labours. Such automation also helps the EPC Company to focus on construction execution and related supply chain at an earlier stage thus compressing timelines and costs. Reduction of manual iterations and inter-department workflow also reduces the chances of errors.
Automation will include Open API for integration of in-house document management and configuration systems etc., close, bi-directional integration of leading 3-D systems for mechanical design and integration of the design systems of different control engineering suppliers.
According to ISG, "Robotic process automation (RPA) has the potential to streamline business operations for EPC organizations in a big way. The potential to improve business processes with RPA is dramatic given the complex engineering design work, large-scale planning for procurement and micro-management, and scheduling for on-site activities for EPC organizations. RPA software bots can perform high-volume, repeatable tasks previously done by a human offering a significant opportunity to streamline and improve the efficiency of EPC work tasks."
EPC companies are fast transitioning from manual and legacy systems to agile, data and AI-driven ones. These will include IoT-enabled monitoring and maintenance, Big Data for smarter design and inspections, AI-driven intelligent automation, AR and VR for superior safety, communication, and training and 3D software for accuracy in delivery.
According to consulting firm Deloitte, more investments will be made in digital technology for better collaboration and more data-driven decision-making. Automated parametric design and object libraries are improving the design process. The machine learning and cognitive computing will help streamline the procurement process with better matching of demand and supply of construction material and plant equipment. To streamline construction, technologies like digital twins, autonomous rovers, and drones will have even wider adoption.
Remote management and running of plants
Industrial projects will look at increased operational automation and will require extensive embedding of digital technology along with digital safeguard technologies. There is a growing need for plants to be operated remotely with the minimal necessary workforce at the site or in the control centre. Safety measures that ensure instantaneous partial or complete lockdown is becoming critical as the world is taking a close look at industrial adverse events.
Sustainability and environment
The world has a definite momentum towards a cleaner and sustainable living and business. Clients will demand the highest level of environmental safety with the flexibility to follow future more stringent mandates. EPC R&D will thus become important for the development of environment-friendly, cost-effective, safer, and more efficient process technologies and products. Existing plants will also need to be upgraded to the environment-friendly standards. The remote monitoring is also possible with the help of IT. The innovative software's can used to get updates of the site. Also, help with the performance management and construction process monitoring. Drones can also be used for the live- monitoring of the EPC projects. The involvement of technologies in team management and problem solving remotely has also proven to a big achievement in the field.
All these developments will require extensive up-gradation of processes and people in the EPC industry. Extensive retraining and re-skilling initiatives will need to be adopted to retain and keep viable the existing experienced engineering talent because people are the real brain and backbone of the industry.
© This article was first published in Construction Week Online, February 01, 2021.
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