Key Benefits of Harnessing Digital Fabrication

Fabrication

Fabrication is an important and often overlooked step in the design and build process. In all industries, we have seen that engineering companies have invested heavily to create intelligent engineering data. However, it is not enough for the fabricators to just invest in robotics and machines to be able to continuously produce different items without too many interruptions. They must embrace digital workflows to enable seamless integration of fabrication into the whole digital transformation process.

In this blog, we will discuss some of the key areas where the adoption of an efficient digital workflow can help fabricators to mitigate risk, improve productivity and reduce waste while having full visibility at each stage from initial customer request through the fabrication and inspection processes to final hand over and delivery.

Seamless Integration between Engineering and Fabrication

Engineering, though sophisticated software and processes, creates lots of intelligent data. However, for contractual or perceived IP reasons, this is often ‘dumbed’ down to electronic drawings (pdf or still authentic paper versions) and Excel files for delivery to fabricators. The fabricators then re-enter the exact same data as this is needed to drive the production and robotics.

To embrace digitalisation, gaining access to the information directly from the source has major advantages in avoiding duplication and therefore cost, whilst eliminating the introduction of errors.

The first step would be to agree with the engineering company a suitable digital format that they can deliver:

Fabrication Type

Supported formats

Plates

XML, DXF, DWG, DSTV

Assemblies

XML

Piping / Pipe Spools

PCF, IDF, FIX

Profiles

XML, DSTV

No digitalisation strategy will work unless it includes true connectivity. Therefore, should it not be possible for the fabricator to be supplied with the required digital formats, it must be possible to manually create them in an accurate and efficient manner.

The additional benefits of having a digital format at the start of the fabrication process include:

  • Automated and error free import of engineering data.
  • Automated material checking and allocation.
  • Ability to make faster, and more accurate quotations.
  • Effective management of change.

Improved Fabrication Shop Management

With digital engineering data and materials loaded, the individual fabrication steps, a work chain, of cutting, bending, drilling, welding, blasting, painting etc., for each part, assembly, spool, module or block, can be templated and automatically added to the required work activities. This information, together with the availability and capacities of the material, workforce and machines will be used to produce production plans. The planning tools will be able to calculate both forwards and backwards to ensure optimised workshop capacity. With this information, accurate quotations for price and delivery can quickly be generated.

Using sophisticated nesting and remnant management tools, materials are allocated, and production is started. Where required, CNC files are generated, and each phase of fabrication is monitored, providing the production team with fully transparent view of the entire process.

In addition to tracking all activities to the part, the actual materials used i.e. heat numbers, material batches etc. are recorded. Where welding is involved, automatic welder assignments can be made, notice of inspections (NOI) can be automatically generated and records of inspection (ROI) will be stored in the system, as well as PWHT, welder certificates and performance can be monitored continuously. This all leads to a complete digital archive with full traceability on what material was used by whom and when and what tasks where executed with that material.

These digital workflows ensure that work preparation and planning can be reduced by up to 70%, production throughput is kept optimal and can be easily changed should any unforeseen issues arise.

Reduced Material Usage and Storage

Traditionally, allowing for over estimating, cut offs and unusable pieces etc. as much as 10% to 14% of purchased material (Plate, Pipe or Profiles) can be wasted or scraped during a fabrication project. Having the data digitally, enables you to see the bigger picture and better manage materials and remnants across projects, this in turn requires lower purchase safety margins which are immediately impacting the bottom line.

Firstly, when digitally managing the data, much more accurate material quantities can be calculated and purchased, saving between 1% and 3% of the total material cost. Furthermore, with improved nesting and effective remnant management, wastage has been reduced to less than 1%. These remnant savings can also result in up to 60% less material storage.

Structured Delivery and Handover to the Construction Sites

Progress is monitored against plans and with full visibility of the entire fabrication process, slippages can be easily spotted and rectified to ensure on time delivery. Construction delivery locations can be stored in the system to ensure correct delivery to the construction sites and all related certification can be easily packaged with the shipment.

Simultaneously with the handover, the actual quantities and fabrication times can be reported, and invoiced, resulting in a much-improved cash flow. In some cases, improvements in this area, have shown payments to the fabricator to be as much as six months earlier than using manual methods.

Furthermore, if required, the full welding database can simply be handed over to be included in the digital twin for the full life cycle of the facility.

Continuing the Digital Chain into Operations

As the facility moves into the operational phase, and since the fabricator, in most instances, has introduced additional shop and field welds to make the fabrication and constructability possible, the welding database will be a true record of the actual welds, and will be used by operations as the basis for future inspections and modifications.

From this starting point, as maintenance or modification work is often done without engineering involvement but will always pass through the fabrication and construction process, the database becomes an integral part of the digital twin, this enables operations to be able to maintain the as-built model over time.


Getting Started with Hexagon PPM

Curious to learn more about Digital Fabrication? Join us in Hoofddorp, Netherlands for our HxGN LOCAL Digital Fabricator Seminar on 16th May. Or, you can connect with an expert to see how digital transformation can benefit your company, https://hexagonppm.com/contact-us

 David Whittle, business development manager, Hexagon PPM, EMIA

David Whittle

Senior Business Development Manager

 

 
Categories: EMIA, Fabrication
Tags: EMIA, Fabricator