Use of virtual 3D models and simulation software generates real value

For years, software vendors have waged a war of words over which class of applications should be deemed the "backbone" system for manufacturing enterprises. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendors were the first to lay claim to this title, and for good reason. They were the first to bring any real level of software-based automation to the manufacturing realm.


For years, software vendors have waged a war of words over which class of applications should be deemed the "backbone" system for manufacturing enterprises.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendors were the first to lay claim to this title, and for good reason. They were the first to bring any real level of software-based automation to the manufacturing realm.

Before long, however, supply chain management vendors—with their fancy algorithms for creating the "optimal" schedules for building and delivering parts—declared ERP obsolete. During the height of the Internet boom, one supply chain vendor boasted that its system would not only become the backbone of the manufacturing enterprise; it also would be the engine behind Web sites on which consumers could place orders for custom-configured products and thereby trigger the chain of events required to have those products built and delivered on the exact dates customers requested.

That hasn't happened yet, and supply chain management systems, for the most part, have been absorbed into ERP platforms. Still, the fight for the title of enterprise backbone continues, with product lifecycle management (PLM) software vendors now laying claim to the designation.

Past experience has caused me to avoid discussions about enterprise backbones. But I do know that recent developments in the PLM space—specifically the emergence of geometrically accurate 3D models and simulation applications—have greatly enhanced the value of this class of software.

I got a sense of just how valuable these tools can be when I chatted with John Mahoney, leader of the Innovation Group, at Entergy Nuclear, at the recent Dassault Systemes user conference.

Entergy is modernizing the 11 nuclear power plants it operates across the U.S. In the process of replacing a reactor cooling pump, Entergy engineers discovered they didn't have complete drawings of the pump and the containment area in which it was located. That meant they weren't quite sure of the best way of removing the pump.

To resolve that problem, Entergy employed laser scanning equipment to take a picture of the pump and its surroundings.

Data from the scan was loaded into Dassault's CATIA CAD program, where a 3D model was generated. The model revealed that two pieces of equipment—which didn't show up Entergry's paper drawings—would not allow for removing the pump in the way the engineers originally had planned.

Using Dassault's DELMIA manufacturing process management software to simulate removing the pump, Entergy engineers discovered that if they rotated it in a certain fashion they could pull it out of the containment area without hitting any obstructions.

Without that simulation, Mahoney said, Entergy would have sent engineers into the area to figure out a removal method, and they might not have come up with what proved to be a fairly simple solution.

"Most likely we would have had to shut down the plant to remove the pump, which would have cost $1 million a day, and we would have had to subject some of our people to a radiation dose," he said.

Removing nuclear reactor cooling pumps is not the same as making products, but uncovering potential obstacles—and figuring out the most cost-effective way of avoiding them—is a good idea in any line of business.

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.