Introduction to An Introduction to ISO 15926


If you are new to the concept of information interoperability, you will be forgiven for thinking that ISO 15926 is a new phenomenon. In fact, the search for easy ways to exchange and reuse engineering information stretches back to the mid 1970s--led by increasingly frustrated end users who resented the inability to transfer their information from one computer-aided design (CAD) system to another.

This bit of history is especially poignant for your humble author, who at that time was just starting his career as a piping designer. Whereas large users--heavily represented by the U.S. military and aerospace organizations--were just starting to confront compatibility issues among competing CAD systems, your author had just enrolled in technical school to learn how to draft with a pencil. A few years later-while the U.S. Air Force was hosting a conference that led to the CAD drawing exchange standard known as IGES (which we introduce in Chapter 2)-the author's idea of high technology was drafting on Mylar with (gasp!) plastic lead!

In this introduction to ISO 15926, we will look at the need for information interoperability, some of the things that have been done to address interoperability issues, and some of the things we should be doing instead. We will take a brief historical look at the forebears of ISO 15926, look at the different parts that make up the standard today, and end with some of the things you can do to get started implementing the standard.

The obvious question is: Why do we need ISO 15926? The short answer is: So that we can exchange and reuse complex plant and project information more easily and more cheaply. A slightly longer answer is: To mitigate the current high costs of rekeying and reformatting information to move it from one proprietary system to another. For example, take the task of designing, specifying, and purchasing a process instrument for a plant modification. Imagine how many times information has to be rekeyed after the instrument is basically designed, until it is installed and commissioned in the target plant.

  • After design, enter the information into the project's engineering design system (which may be a database or spreadsheet).
  • For quotation, a procurement officer assembles several sets of data sheets and sends a set to each bidder.
  • Each bidder will have a sales engineer read the data sheets and enter some of the data values into proprietary software to make a selection, and then compose a quotation and return it to the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor.
  • During the design of an instrument, the engineer will usually specify only those properties necessary for operation under process conditions. However, there are many other properties that must be known-which are dependent on the manufacturer. After the vendor has been chosen, the design engineer has to enter this information manually into the engineering design system from the vendor's quotation.
  • Data sheet turnover to the client will likely be something like an Excel file for each data sheet.
  • After receiving a load of boxes filled with CDs from the EPC contractor, the owner will review each data sheet. Critical data values will be rekeyed into an asset management system. This can take months.

The situation is improving. A few years ago engineers would have faxed the data sheets to the vendors, who would manually add their information and fax them back. Now they E-mail editable electronic files back and forth. And more recently, some owner-operators are trying to streamline the final handover from an EPC contractor by specifying data requirements. However, configuration costs and the lead time required speak to the complexity of the issue.

What we need is a way for each participant's software to be able to communicate complex information to the other participants without having to know in advance things such as database structure or format. If you have ever read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, you will know exactly what we need—we need a Babel fish! In the book, if you wanted to listen to Vogon poetry spoken in the original dialect you would use a Babel fish.

ISO 15926 is like a Babel Fish

The Babel fish would listen to the Vogon speaking, and then rearrange the syntax and translate all of the words on the fly. ISO 15926 acts like a Babel fish by acting as an interpreter between two otherwise incompatible systems. Let's compare the process of specifying and purchasing an instrument in the previous example to doing the same thing with tools that support ISO 15926 protocols. The initial data entry is the same.

  • After design, enter the information into the project's engineering design system (which may be a database or spreadsheet).

However, thereafter tools written to support the ISO 15926 standard extract the relevant information automatically.

  • For quotation, a procurement officer will expose the Request for Quotation on his company's public (or secured) ISO 15926 interface and then send a link to the bidders.
  • By connecting to the EPC contractor's ISO 15926 interface, each vendor will pull in the relevant information for each instrument. At this point, the vendor has a choice. He can have a human sales engineer read the information and manually make decisions in the same manner we use today. However, because it is in ISO 15926 format the instrument information will be rich enough that analysis, decisions, and composition of a preliminary quotation will be able to be done by a computer program. In this case, the sales engineer will only have to review the quotation before submitting the bid to the EPC contractor.
  • After selecting the winning bidder, the engineer will point his engineering design system to the vendor's ISO 15926 interface and pull in vendor-supplied information.
  • Data turnover to the client will simply require exposing the plant information database on the EPC contractor's ISO 15926 interface.
  • The owner will open the link to the engineer's interface and import the information.

You can see that if we use tools that support ISO 15926 protocols we are removing many opportunities for human error. Thus, in addition to being able to transfer information faster by removing the labor-intensive tasks the entire process will be more reliable. (At the same time, the routine parts of the sales engineer's job are removed leaving more time for more innovative tasks and talking to customers.)

One of the reasons ISO 15926 will make it easier to share information is that it is worldwide. If everyone uses a common standard, a number of things happen.

  • For quotation, a procurement officer will expose the Request for Quotation on his company's public (or secured) ISO 15926 interface and then send a link to the bidders.
  • By connecting to the EPC contractor's ISO 15926 interface, each vendor will pull in the relevant information for each instrument. At this point, the vendor has a choice. He can have a human sales engineer read the information and manually make decisions in the same manner we use today. However, because it is in ISO 15926 format the instrument information will be rich enough that analysis, decisions, and composition of a preliminary quotation will be able to be done by a computer program. In this case, the sales engineer will only have to review the quotation before submitting the bid to the EPC contractor.
  • After selecting the winning bidder, the engineer will point his engineering design system to the vendor's ISO 15926 interface and pull in vendor-supplied information.
  • Data turnover to the client will simply require exposing the plant information database on the EPC contractor's ISO 15926 interface.
  • The owner will open the link to the engineer's interface and import the information.

You can see that if we use tools that support ISO 15926 protocols we are removing many opportunities for human error. Thus, in addition to being able to transfer information faster by removing the labor-intensive tasks the entire process will be more reliable. (At the same time, the routine parts of the sales engineer's job are removed leaving more time for more innovative tasks and talking to customers.)

One of the reasons ISO 15926 will make it easier to share information is that it is worldwide. If everyone uses a common standard, a number of things happen.

  • We can exchange information without having to know anything about one another's data storage configuration.
  • Information can be transferred directly from machine to machine without having to be rekeyed.
  • The information can be transferred with high fidelity. We will not need human beings to review every data value to make sure nothing is lost or added.

Everyone will still have their own data stores (perhaps in a proprietary format, perhaps not) but will employ a "Babel fish" (an ISO 15926 interface) when we exchange information with others. This will enable a number of interesting scenarios.

  • A consortium of EPC contractors will be able to collaborate on designing a plant, each using its chosen engineering design system with proprietary work processes. They will be able to share information without having to know anything about one another's data storage format beforehand.
  • During design, vendor and EPC contractor software will be able to connect to each other-and thus passing information back and forth will be much easier.
  • Information turnover from EPC contractor to owner will be a non-issue. Owners will be able to receive the plant data by connecting to the EPC contractor's "Babel fish" (the ISO 15926 interface) and then store it in their own format.
  • After information turnover, any of the owner's computer systems will be able to use the information. For instance, a plant operations system will be able to access the pieces of information it needed. A plant maintenance system will be able to access just the pieces it needs. Each application will take the pieces it needs and ignore the rest.

To help you imagine what it will be like when ISO 15926 is mature, let's look at three metaphors.

Useful Metaphors


Overview of An Introduction to ISO 15926

An Introduction to ISO 15926 is intended for those who know a great deal about capital project work but not a lot about the software by which projects get done, those who know a lot about the software but not a lot about capital project work, and the poor folks in the middle who are just trying to make a living using software. This book is intended to be the first book you read after hearing about ISO 15926.

Although it describes some complex technology and includes many three- and four-letter acronyms, the explanations are functional ("How does this help data exchange?") rather than procedural ("First press this button, then that one...") If you have a background in any part of engineering projects, you will have a knowing, wry smile when we talk about our past and existing ways of dealing with data exchange. But even if you do not have such a background you will still be able to follow the discussion.

Managers

Managers; engineering managers, construction managers, and plant managers generally know a great deal about engineering, construction, and plant operations; but typically not a great deal about the computer systems that make their operations run. As such, they may view the claims of ardent proponents of ISO 15926 with a certain amount of suspicion. This introduction to ISO 15926 reviews the practical issues with information exchange today (to show where money is being wasted), describes the theoretical and practical work that has been devoted to the development of ISO 15926 (to show that it is viable), and shows how ISO 15926 will make everyday tasks easier (to show where the opportunities lie).

Computer Professionals

Depending on their area of expertise, computer professionals may already have heard about information exchange and the Semantic Web. What they may not be aware of, however, is the business context of the capital projects industry where their computer systems are used. This book describes several situations project personnel encounter in real-world scenarios, shows traditional solutions, and contrasts them with the way ISO 15926 would be used to make their life easier.

Casual Users

Because of the way it can be implemented in software, when ISO 15926 is mature many users may not know it exists. But in the transition there might be something like an "ISO 15926" button to push. This book will show what happens under the hood when it is pushed. As well, users will see the growing opportunity for discipline professionals to get involved and will encounter a few ideas for doing so.

How This Book Is Organized

This book is divided into five main chapters and several appendices.

  • Why We Need ISO 15926
  • The History of ISO 15926
  • How Does ISO 15926 Work?
  • Current Events in the World of ISO 15926?
  • Getting Started with ISO 15926
  • Appendices
    • A - The Parts of ISO 15926
    • B - Compliance with ISO 15926
    • C - Examples of Database Mapping
    • D - Other Resources
  • Glossary of Concepts containing extended explanations of key concepts, including key terminology

Download your Free Copy

For your free copy, follow the link below and look under the heading "Workforce & Training"

http://fiatech.org/projects/project-deliverables

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