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Shane Kling
Shane Kling
Shane E. Kling is a Chemical Engineer and Founder of Ei Holdings, a conglomeration of CAD + compliance companies serving the oil and gas, chemical and other industries. In his work with Environmental intellect (Ei), EiCAD and other firms, he has supported more than 150 owner-operators with CAD + … More »

Is it Dumb to Have Smart P&IDs?

September 9th, 2017 by Shane Kling

The most valuable source of engineering data for a facility is arguably the piping and instrumentation diagram. From its inception and well into daily operational use, P&IDs are the lifeblood of a manufacturing facility. (for the full version of this blog, go to

But while the possibilities associated with maintaining “smart,” or data-driven P&IDs versus standard AutoCAD/Microstation equivalents, there are endless barriers to progress that remain. Take, for example, the meeting I had with one of the largest U.S. integrated petroleum refining / petrochemical facilities. Here’s a brief synopsis of the meeting and opportunity:

  • Facility has ~2,000 P&IDs
  • Environmental Department has paid to have 80% of its P&IDs converted into “smart” P&IDs within AutoCAD Plant-3D
  • CAD Department can replace non-intelligent AutoCAD-based (DWG format) P&IDs at minimal up-front cost (< 20% of standard) with equivalent smart AutoCAD P&ID drawings and database
  • CAD Department can leverage Autodesk Plant-3D for improved P&ID management and validation, as well as to import its existing 3D models to auto-generate isometrics
  • Engineering, Operations, Maintenance, Reliability, and Inspections Departments (the list goes on) can utilize P&ID data exports and data embedded within P&ID to report, search, and manage data associated with plant equipment

Now, I went into this meeting sufficiently prepared with value propositions, cost-benefit analyses, and the like. I even had an Autodesk Plant Technical Specialist join me to showcase the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and power Autodesk Plant-3D offers to an owner-operator who integrates its 3D model, isometrics and P&IDs. Slam dunk, right? (especially when Environmental, not Engineering nor CAD is footing 80% of the P&ID bill). Nope – I shot an “air-ball” this time.

So, I asked myself (despite all evidence to the contrary): is it dumb to have smart P&IDs?

And should a client forgo the P&ID conversion process if they can’t get all departments on the same page? The answer to both is no, of course. Even if every department doesn’t get behind smart P&IDs, there are numerous reasons for a facility to make the leap.

Because initial work is required to digitize a P&ID, I refer to a phenomenon called the “P&ID Wall,” i.e., the point beneath which our costs need to fall in order for facilities to be most inclined to make the switch (regardless if they knew it would save them hundreds of thousands in the future). When we first started converting P&IDs in 2008, the cost ran as high as $500 per P&ID! Now, we are pushing the envelope below $100 for P&ID Conversion (an 80% / 5X reduction from then to now).

Now, we are pushing the envelope below $100 for P&ID Conversion (an 80% / 5X reduction from then to now). Further, we are poised to deliver comprehensive engineering asset dataset generated from smart P&IDs at $50 per P&ID. And nothing about that is dumb.

A wise man and colleague once shared with me the principle of the “Early Adopter Curve” that Silicon Valley accepts in which new products become industry standard after 13.5% adoption.

In other words, all it takes is for 13.5% of a market adopting a product for it to escalate quickly to a market standard.

Not everyone is into change however. According to a 2016 Pew Research Center poll, 28% of Americans are strong early adopters of new technologies. I have no idea how many have ended up in decision-making positions in facilities, but I know that these are our kind of people, and they appreciate all we’ve accomplished and the direction we’re headed in. Four thoughts that assure me we’re on-track:

  1. We already support early adopters who swear by smart P&IDs and Ei’s approach to asset inventory and compliance assurance;
  2. We rolled out “Compliance P&ID Subscriptions” for as low as $10 per P&ID to our early adopters who utilize Ei’s electronically-highlighted smart P&IDs for LDARBWON, Flares, Car-Seal Inspections, and other compliance and operational purposes;
  3. We continue to get requests for “P&ID Data Exports” from major oil, gas, and chemical companies (that can only be generated from a smart P&ID); and
  4. We believe that smart P&IDs are the foundation for the plant of the future – operating facilities that leverage big data to drive efficiency, reduce operational expenditures, and mitigate documentation gaps that lead to unnecessary risk.

All it takes is 13.5% of the market for innovation to escalate quickly and become market standard. I suppose if that happens, then “smart” P&IDs will be known simply as P&IDs once again. Perhaps then we’ll all ever wonder how we did without them.

Still think smart P&IDs are dumb? Feel free to call or email me after checking out this blog that I wrote almost 3 years ago for those of you who are still “non-believers” in smart P&IDs: P&ID DATA (not Diagrams).

Otherwise, if you have comments, questions, or contentions – please share!

P.S. This blog is dedicated to our early adopters at Ei and EiCAD who, over the last 9 years, have believed, trusted and had faith in us to deliver better work products with intelligent P&IDs, point clouds and 3D models (you know who you are: M,L,P,S,A,W,E,R,B,D,Q,F,T,O,G,H,K,C…and the list goes on!)

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