August 2016

Digital engineering and Industry 4.0

At Tata Consulting Engineers, creativity, design, engineering and project management skills are applied in unique ways, combining digital engineering suites and 3D-4D systems. It is in this space of integrated digital engineering solutions that new process and asset lifecycle innovations are waiting to happen, says Amit Sharma, MD, Tata Consulting Engineers

When every aspect of life is being driven by digital technology, inventing innovative ways of going digital is the key to business success. This is the era of Industry 4.0 and engineering consultants such as Tata Consulting Engineers (TCE) are leading the way in combining core engineering with integrated digital engineering tools.

With the advent of Industry 4.0 driving innovation and digitisation across our industry, the engineering consultancy industry is at an inflexion point where a business transformation is unfolding. This has changed the way engineering solutions consultants work today and service models are being recreated with the adoption of digital tools.

The concept of modularisation has enabled segregation of standard processes and customised elements which result in quicker turnaround time. For instance, standard plant engineering processes and key elements of a plant asset can be pre-designed and virtually simulated. Design engineering inputs can be relegated solely to customised elements and then integrated into the main plant design. Using various levels of digital tools, construction and project planning can be done virtually and concurrently before the physical execution stage. Detailed engineering and simulated plans of assets in digital forms can be used across the asset life cycle and also for related aspects such as future expansion, asset maintenance, operator training and even for more effective operations and maintenance.

Digital engineering and the cost equation
Digital engineering is all about proven depth, competencies, multi-disciplinary dimensions and knowledge management. Various dimensional applications are used for integrated plant design, building facilities, urban planning and complex infrastructure projects, such as nuclear plants, power plants, chemical plants, to water distribution systems, waste management systems, towns, hospitals, buildings and smart cities.

Digital engineering using 3D to 5D systems typically involve conceptualisation, modelling, designing, detail engineering, integrated clash and interference validation, coupled with time and resource simulations. Digital solutions help move the mountain of costs and effort of project management to design and planning, such that construction cost escalation due to design clashes and iterations at later stages can be avoided. There is a great deal of predictability in engineering project management in terms of time, cost and resources deployment. Most importantly, sustainability parameters and safety issues can be benchmarked, identified and mitigated right at the conception stage through walkthroughs and scenario planning.

Bringing value to customers with digital engineering
When it comes to capital projects, reduction in commissioning time and time-to-market makes a huge difference to the overall investment plans. Plants engineered using digital tools serve as a blueprint which can be leveraged at a later stage when the plant has to be modernised or in ‘retiring asset’ management.

Digitally simulated power plants and power transmission and distribution systems offer efficient solutions towards opex rationalisation, outage management, training, operations and maintenance needs. Modularisation of required plant elements can dramatically reduce project commissioning time, enhance predictability and increase quality. Today visionary companies -- both OEMs and owners -- are streamlining product, project and plant related processes for design, engineering, commissioning and operational readiness.

Delivering value to customers
Oil and gas plant engineering comprises several processes. Digital engineering using simulation, 4D and 5D tools helps manage processes efficiently through simulations and scenario planning. Digital engineering tools provide high level of predictability as possible scenarios can be simulated, and alarms and signals can be planned to avoid disasters.

In the project management of such a complex manufacturing facility, digital engineering systems are a critical decision making, consensus and planning tool. TCE has resolved client-centric problems such that engineering solutions were presented digitally and simulations were presented virtually to various stakeholders in order to address constructability issues. This reduced decision-making by all stakeholders to just one day from the earlier standard time of at least three months.

When it comes to brownfield facilities, structured technical data critical for working with progressive dimensions such as 3D – 5D may not always be available. Several digital tools, such as laser scanning, drone-based mapping, and spatial digitisation tools can be applied to capture and recreate legacy plant data in order to integrate with 3D applications. Using 4D simulation and virtual construction, clashes among various parties in project predictability can be foreseen and tackled. This enables brownfield facility upgrades in a clash-free environment and with minimum downtime.

A smart city corridor project with master planning by TCE comprised 22 villages and envisaged installing  base infrastruc­ture, including water supply, sewerage, roads, highways, power and rail, and performing extensive flood-control and drainage measures to protect the future city. Here, digital engineering tools help with identifying and managing clash detection, constructability issues, coordination with multiple disciplines, mapping and leveraging existing infrastructure and reusing them where possible. TCE uses GIS data mapping systems and applied engineering knowledge to create big data analysis for multiple townships. This helps to optimise and efficiently plan utilities and infrastructure management in remote towns.

TCE plans to use satellite imagery to collect GIS data in a vast number of towns to help plan water distribution, waste management and management of other infrastructure-specific utilities in urban townships. Engineering combined with town planning data analysis is the future for planned upgrades of townships.

Mega projects such as steel and mining units comprise a wide range of aspects – storage, raw material handling systems, iron and steelmaking, continuous casting and supporting facilities such as power, water treatment facilities, and more. The 3D Building Information Model (BIM) used by TCE provides a reliable representation of the actual asset, which can be used to check the feasibility of the design rationale, ensure adoption of sustainability paradigms such as zero liquid, solid and gas discharge and also to enhance the predictability of project site works and construction planning.

For the mining industry, mine planning applications and geo-modelling systems are used to determine mine planning techniques relevant to the terrain. Combined with mineral beneficiation techniques, the mining industry can benefit from cost-effective mine planning that is safe, efficient, profitable and sustainable.

Integrated engineering is the integration of multi-disciplinary 3D models and walkthroughs developed during engineering design in different software platforms, and extraction of basic data and 2D engineering drawings, correct bill of quantities, and predictable and integrated asset creation plans.

Through digital engineering, the value that engineering design and project management consultants can provide customers is a direct impact on cost, time and operational efficiencies. While the IT industry is moving to cloud and big data technologies, engineering design firms are embracing integrated digital engineering solutions, big data analytics, cloud-based engineering and project management, and rule based predictive and conditional monitoring approaches, thus enabling a true integrated asset life cycle management solution to suit client needs. At TCE, core engineering skills are applied in unique ways that combine digital design, engineering and simulation suites and systems. For enquiries, contact: or