NLMK Engineering: “digital doubles” is the thing of the future
The creation of effective facility involves a number of risks that can arise both in its development and design, and at various stages of its operation. With the development of information technologies, such as BIM (Building Information Modeling), engineering companies have an opportunity to minimize the impact of such risks on their projects. In addition, as noted by Valery Khaibullin, General Director of NLMK Engineering, the technology allows to increase the quality of design services and at the same time to shorten the lead times. The company has already achieved significant gains from the development and use of this IT solution. The goal for the future is to introduce software that allows creating "digital doubles" of existing production facilities and production lines. Similar systems are already used in the nuclear and oil and gas industries. Now NLMK Group is also getting into these practices aiming to elaborate the concept of their implementation.
Valery Gaptullovich, what interests you in BIM-technology, why did you decide to master it?
NLMK Engineering is part of NLMK Group. Since 2014, the Group has been implementing its Strategy 2017. One of the goals of this strategy is achieving leadership in operational efficiency, and all the companies of the Group place high importance on this goal. We are no exception. One of the main areas of our Efficiency Improvement and Development Programme is introduction of modern design technologies. Having analysed the best practices of engineering, we chose the most modern approach - BIM (short for Building Information Modeling) powered by AUTODESK products. BIM used to be perceived as a 3D model software for visualizing and creating project documentation. But there is much more to it. BIM integrates information about the facility received from investors, customers, designers, builders and, finally, operating organizations. These are the processes that form the basis for all solutions throughout the life cycle of the facility, from design and construction to operation and dismantling.
Your goal was to increase the efficiency of the company, how does BIM technology support it?
For NLMK Engineering, one of the main advantages is its fool-proof nature. It's no secret that even a small mistake "on paper" can lead to an increase in construction time up to weeks and even months. This significantly increases the cost of the project and reduces its effectiveness. Digital model minimizes such risks. The technology allows to increase the quality of design services and at the same time to shorten the lead times. Thanks to BIM technology, we plan to increase the efficiency of our designers by 30%, and reduce the number of errors and changes in the project by 50%. The technology of building information modeling will also give our customers more accurate cost of construction and installation works and reduce the average duration of the "design - procurement - construction” cycle by 20%.
What is the expected payback period of BIM technology?
Depending on the configuration of the implemented systems, BIM technology pays off in 2-3 years.
Are there any examples of successful application of BIM technologies in the implementation of projects?
The test cases for us were the projects at NLMK Group's Lipetsk site. In one of them we participated in the replacement of CGP equipment, we used Revit automated 3D-design system. In another case, we designed the replacement of the air ducts of the blast furnace foundry using 3D Inventor CAD software. Timely identification and correction of design errors, coordination of actions of designers on these projects confirmed that BIM technology is applicable in metals & mining, and we started a large-scale roll out of the technology. To date we have completed a major complex project for turbine generator reconstruction. It involved 25 designers who developed 120 sets of drawings. A mechanism was developed for obtaining drawings for all design sections from the information model. Design visualization and technical decision-making procedure in the model, interdisciplinary check of the model for collisions, ensured a five-fold shortening of the time needed to coordinate technical solutions in the project.
What other modern design techniques are used now in your company?
Today customers need to be more competitive, so they have stricter requirements for quality and transparency of design work planning, clarity of pricing; they want to integrate design and construction and assembly schedules in order to have operative and reliable information on the investment project. This is why modern technologies of project management are in the focus of designers’ attention.
Now we are implementing a unique system of time and cost management that is unparalleled in other design organizations. This system is a single information space that enables monitoring of the entire design process. The system consists of two subsystems: System of Design Performance Standards (Performance System) and the Project Management Information System (PMIS). We have done a great job of classifying design objects. Picked out "benchmarks", conditionally standard objects and established standards for their design. In addition, the design process itself was broken down into functions and elementary actions in order to obtain a model of a unified design process. For each activity we established time limits, expressed in man-hours. The resulting specific labour intensity makes it possible to compare the planned and actual time spent on the development of design solutions with the best world practices and to adjust the work.
What are the development prospects for your industry? What can be innovative in metals and mining in the next decade?
In my opinion, the most promising development is "digital doubles" of existing production facilities and production lines. Imagine an exact copy of a blast furnace where, by selecting each piece of equipment, you can see its characteristics, service schedule, etc. Every change that occurs in real life is duplicated in its digital version. Such models will be used in operation, reconstruction and even demolition of the facility. In the future the digital model will be used to put up technological processes that will allow us to check the efficiency of upgrades before replacing equipment, "virtually" reconfigure equipment and monitor how this affects the process itself. Maintaining the history of the facility will create a database for predictive repairs. Similar systems are already used in the nuclear and oil and gas industries. Now NLMK Group is also getting into these practices aiming to elaborate the concept of their implementation.