Daratech Study: 3-D plant designs important, but implementation is an issue

3-D plant design software has become more pervasive and easier to use, a new study has found, and using 3-D plant design will help smaller companies remain competitive.
By Plant Engineering Staff June 15, 2008

3-D plant design software has become more pervasive and easier to use, a new study has found, and using 3-D plant design will help smaller companies remain competitive. Yet there are barriers to the switch to 3-D design, including the time needed to learn the software.

The study was commissioned by Bentley Systems and released by Daratech last month, found almost two-thirds of the study participants whose companies do not use 3-D plant design software believe their companies will not be competitive three years from now unless they become 3-D enabled.

Unlike other much-heralded software, 3-D plant design systems largely fulfill or exceed user expectations, say 83% of participants. Project productivity is up 30% or more for 45% of participants and has increased by at least 15% for more than 70% of participants. In addition, personal productivity has increased at least 50% for more than half of participants and is up more than 25% for almost 80% of participants.

However, transitioning from 2-D to 3-D software will be within reach of all but a few: 74% of study participants believe half or more of their 2-D users will be able to do so, while only 5% feel that very few will be able to do so. The study found that the average time to become a proficient 3-D system user was between 140 and 240 days.

The fastest average learning time was for Bentley’s AutoPLANT software, which participants indicate has an average learning time of 140 days. The most common reasons for not using 3-D plant design systems were overall cost, lack of experience and “no time to learn.”

According to Daratech, cost factors have mainly to do with the loss of productivity experienced while transitioning to 3-D and the higher cost of 3-D-proficient personnel. However, these costs appear to be minor considering the benefits of 3-D systems that the study revealed.