The process of digitizing a pressure vessel design and welding fabrication shop typically has four stages. From an initial stage “Zero” with no digital help most companies find themselves progressing through 4 stages of digitization to become more efficient and reduce the risks associated with passing along fabrication details from design and procedures to the project management team to the fabrication shop. Think about the “Pass-it-On” game and how details get missed when you are not getting the most updated information directly from the source.
Stage Zero – No Digital Help
There is an initial Stage "Zero" in some cases that precedes these 4 stages and can involve Excel spreadsheets or maybe even paper calculations and the odd slide rule for design calculations. Companies may also use Word documents or Excel spreadsheets for tracking welding procedures, welder qualifications, and qualification expiration dates.
While these methods can help with basic documentation, they can be cumbersome for organizing, storing, or searching documents. Most of the time this method is totally reliant on the creator to understand their own naming conventions or shorthand used when identifying essential calculations and welding variables. The better way is to use software that standardizes the output of the reports, documents, and fields.
Stage One – Software Solutions
Stage One is where you start digitizing your work. Typically, this happens in two separate channels, one for your equipment design processes using a product like DesignCalcs or Finglow to help you calculate MAWP, MDMT, the various thicknesses and reinforcements needed to meet the need. These products for meeting regulatory and customer specification requirements go hand in hand with general arrangement drawings and solid models.
Two, software like ProWrite ASME Section IX and ProWrite AWS D1.1 and their supplementary codes allow you to design the procedures for fabricating pressure equipment pressure boundary components (heads, shells, nozzles, flanges, etc.) and structural elements like legs, skirts and saddles, along with other construction codes. These products also allow you to track and qualify craft-workers like welders.
Using software solutions like these can provide code-assistance to help you design with-in the current applicable codes and standardize the procedure outputs to help you maximize your procedure ranges with-in codes.
Stage Two – Providing Documentation
At Stage Two you begin to provide electronic documentation directly to your staff on the shop floor and in the field without you sending them paper copies or emails every time they need it. This means you have a central repository or what we call a "single source of truth". This is typically stored as PDFs even for shop drawings and general arrangement drawings given their high compression and ubiquity. In this stage it is important to have software solutions, like ProWrite and DesignCalcs, that can automatically create, export and integrate with your current document/drawing management solution or you can use a specific weld production documentation system, like our WeldPDS software.
Another important factor when providing electronic documentation is for your craft workers to know they are using the most recent versions of the designs and procedures available. Integration between your software solutions should also assign versioning to PDFs created automatically so there is never a question of which document to use on which job when changes or corrections are issued. Using a customized approval process with links back to all to your creation content stored in your document database systems modifications are easy and require no re-training on PDF markup stop gap solutions.
When using a production document system like WeldPDS, you have the option for your end users to have direct access to your designs, procedures, and even welder qualifications and expirations via web or mobile applications.
A commonly used system for documentation management is Microsoft SharePoint but look for flexible solutions that can create integrations with any system that you use.
Stage Three – Automated Processes
Stage Three begins to combine the data between these streams of design, fabrication documentation and Craft Worker tracking. How about extracting joint and task requirements embedded in your design? And automatically aligning components/joints and fabrication procedures to provide specific guidance that meet regulatory requirements and customer guidelines? Or creating the joints and welds per the settings that meet your business? And be customized to further provide exactly the steps that your work processes demand?
Once all the steps are defined a fabrication logistics system, like our WeldLogistics applications heuristic algorithm, will automatically align staff to these joints/welds/procedures making sure the welders are qualified to the process defined and the welding procedure assigned for each weld giving you much needed assistance while streamlining your project management process.
Stage Four – Using Artificial Intelligence
In Stage Four, you can align this work to a schedule, estimating the time and skill required for each weld and assigning them to a schedule, preventing the "double booking" of any staff, equipment or workspaces. The benefits are further extended as we view this work plan not from a singular "point in time", but in relation to your other projects and over the estimated project completion timeline, to ensure welders will not expire before being assigned. Optimally, skilled welders will be utilized where needed and in a timeline that prevents welder process expiration without sacrificing productivity.
Our WeldAI application can monitor how you use the system and improve the selections over time. While a great deal of work is automated day one, the system just gets better as it learns your specific business needs. Changes in procedure, worker assignments even errors entered in the system and the time required by each worker to complete their tasks will be used to help you grade the procedures and welders automatically to improve assignments immediately and continuously.
This continuous Quality Improvement is where our WeldBlockchain capabilities come into play. These can be used to monitor project progress and deviation from requirements internally. Keeping the correct staff aware of when your production floor may be going astray, or it can allow smaller shops to "punch above their weight" and provide vendors with secure encrypted real time data logging so large EPCs and other entities have confidence in your work.
A design & fabrication shop at Stage Four can easily accommodate changes in the system such as new requirements, lack of specified materials, loss of qualified welders, or reductions in staff, allowing fewer to do more. Such a system provides the ability to resubmit changes such as different material thicknesses, different materials altogether, or different welding procedures back thru itself to your key staff such as your weld and professional engineers. There they can sign off on those changes and they will ripple back through the system with WeldLogistics once again reassigning welders, procedures, materials, etc. via the WeldAI CQI logic.
Best of all this system is module, so if you already have an ERP, PM, or MES system in place today you do not have to scrap it to get these benefits. Our development team can meld these systems together to make a holistic integrated production system that optimizes the work steps and assignments with minimal retraining.
Watch this short video and contact CEI to learn more about how we can help you through these stages.