New Plant Design Suites Address Common Challenges

  • Ribbon style interface
  • Powerful direct-manipulation sectioning tools for exploration of 3D geometry
  • Improved interoperability with AutoCAD Plant 3D

Autodesk Navisworks Manage 2011 includes all the features of Autodesk Navisworks Simulate plus clash detection and problem tracking.

Bentley's OpenPlant suite utilizes the latest technologies in Bentley ProjectWise and MicroStation V8i, so that like Autodesk, Bentley customers are using products that have a deep familiarity to them with a robust foundation. The suite offers the latest technology in MicroStation V8i with the managing, tracking, validating and connecting capabilities of ProjectWise.

With ProjectWise and the server products, the engineer can work as if he is using a central design environment because he is connected to the other engineers working with him. At a desktop level, the central environment is controlled by the server technology on the back end.

According to Walters, what they have found is that owner-operators don't want to dictate to anybody what system to use. They want their engineering contract to deliver them high quality information and they want them to populate these intelligent deliverables so that they've got the information to manage across multiple contractors.

“There has been great frustration in the plant design world that you have gotten locked into some proprietary environment and it costs a lot if you want information in a different format,” said Walters. “Analysts say end users have wanted real time collaborative work, working with the data passing back and forth all the time, and having open access to the information when you need it during the project, not just at the end.”

In February, Bentley announced the acquisition of Enterprise Informatics, Incorporated and Exor Corporation. From Enterprise Informatics comes their eB Insight software that provides configuration and change management capabilities for mission-critical infrastructure asset operations for the energy, nuclear, rail, and government sectors. Exor information modeling software provides for the management and operations of linear networks for infrastructure, including roads and railways.

Bentley planned to use these acquisitions as part of its “AssetWise” platform, which will combine multiple information modeling services to improve the lifecycle management and operational performance, safety, compliance, and governance of infrastructure assets while increasing the return on investment for owner-operators.

This initiative was launched in response to the frustration from owner operators who would see there was great information accumulated over the course of a project while everyone is working together, but when it got to the owner it was put in PDF files or in dumb CAD files with no intelligence. If the owner wanted to populate his maintenance management systems or control systems, he had to reassemble it, read or retype it all.

“Operations and maintenance have their own kind of systems, so we acquired two organizations who deliver operations and maintenance systems: Exor Corporation that manages technical information for operations and maintenance in highways, and Enterprise Informatics, Incorporated whose software provides the management of engineering and technical information during operations and maintenance for all nuclear power plants in America,” said Walters. “This highly regulated industry couldn't operate without this system. Content management you need for operations and maintenance has a different time scale about it, it has different information and has to manage information across different sources, operations systems and maintenance systems. Whenever there's a change you have to manage that change and propagate that change across different systems in the project world, so you manage change in a different way. We need two different platform requirements to manage the fast changing project environment and what shouldn't change in the operations environment.”

Ease of Use

AutoCAD P&ID was designed to help people get started in a project, particularly aimed at those AutoCAD users in the plant market. Those who are already well versed in AutoCAD should be able to transition over to a plant design product without a long learning curve.

Autodesk continues to work on ease-of-use with P&ID with improved multi-user support and ways to allow large teams to work more effectively. AutoCAD Plant 3D is built on the same code base and is said to be “easy to manage and easier to install,” according to Shear, and Plant 3D will enable users to bring information of P&ID into the 3D world of modeling.

“In this market, specs, catalogs, and libraries are the foundation of the entire workflow, “ said Shear. “You don't make up a pipe size, you use it from the catalog and you use the prescribed fitting to go with that. The more catalogs and libraries that are available the more projects you can do. Content packs will be released regularly, enabling more industries.”

Often users don't bring the whole model over, they bring specs and catalogs, said Shear. “They want to bring the tool chest that they built the model in. They are industry standards - specs on how certain things are put together per project. We have actually put some features in our Plant 3D 2011 product that allows you to import specs from any applications, mainly those based on AutoCAD.”

Bentley's PlantSpace and AutoPlant design products demonstrated what piping designers really want to have in a plant design product. OpenPlant Modeler includes the latest in graphics technologies for intuitive drawing, which users say is much easier to use. Users can use either a data or drawing approach, and data are filled in automatically. “Users of SmartPlant said that this was easier to use and more productive than SmartPlant,” said Adamson.

One other approach to usability, according to Ken Adamson, is to put only things on the desktop that make sense for that practitioner at that point in time, “so we focus on things that that particular user is most likely to do, and we don't have to put a menu or interface up for the user at all. It just becomes an intuitive, natural extension, for example, sliding about a line. You cut down a considerable amount on those user interface issues.”

With the user interface, Adamson said they make applications specific to the practitioner, and segment applications for different uses. There are many who want to do reporting, so there is a general reporting module that anyone can run including project managers and those at the periphery of a project.

“The communication between application and the server is all based on ISO 15926 protocol, so that means you could write your own app, and it could be an extension on something you already use, it could be from an authority,” said Adamson. “Using that same language you can extract information at run time interactively out of our model, manipulate it and check stuff back into that model. You can write an app yourself that uses the entire iRing protocol to interact with the query out of your repository, manipulate the information, and check it back it in.”

Adamson said Bentley’s goal is to make the product simpler so that the majority of users don’t need training. Currently, the user who understands piping design can rely on his traditional understanding without requiring training on how to use the product. By providing simple, intuitive interfaces, by putting relevant information up front and cutting down on interactions with the interface, the company hopes to have a product that will allow users to model using drag and drop, click and extend algorithms.


The following are prices for the Autodesk Plant Design Suite:

  • AutoCAD Plant 3D 2011 -- $8,995 USD
  • Autodesk Plant Design Suite Premium 2011 - includes AutoCAD 2011, AutoCAD P&ID 2011, AutoCAD Plant 3D 2011, and Autodesk Navisworks Simulate 2011-- $9,500 USD
  • Autodesk Plant Design Suite Advanced 2011 - includes AutoCAD 2011, AutoCAD P&ID 2011, AutoCAD Plant 3D 2011, and Autodesk Navisworks Manage 2011 - $11,500 USD

Bentley's OpenPlant software pricing is as follows:

  • With Bentley's Designer for Piping Passport Subscription (OpenPlant), individual piping designers gain access to Bentley OpenPlant Modeler, Bentley OpenPlant Isometrics Manager, ProSteel Modeler, ProjectWise Passport, and ProjectWise Clash Resolution Visa - plus complete virtual training - for the single annual fee of $5,995.

  • Value-creative pricing is also available to those acquiring Bentley OpenPlant products through perpetual licenses, which cost $7,295 for OpenPlant Modeler V8i, $25,000 for OpenPlant ModelServer V8i, and $6,500 for OpenPlant Isometrics Manager V8i.

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