Improve Productivity, Reduce Waste by Digitalizing Your Pipe Shop

By David Whittle 

The world is changing at an alarming rate. Everyone is connected and wants immediate access to all kinds of information. For example, consider an online order where at each stage in the process – from order receipt to actual delivery to your door – you are kept informed.

Many industries are responding to this need by digitalizing processes to improve efficiency, reduce mistakes and enable visibility at all stages in the workflow. This is what is commonly referred to as the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ or ‘Industry 4.0’.

Consider a typical pipe shop workflow. Currently most fabricators control and manage processes electronically using, for example, Microsoft Excel, which constitutes an electronic workflow, not an Industry 4.0 digital workflow.

It is now possible to transform your pipe fabrication shop into an efficient digital operation, improve productivity and reduce waste while having full visibility at each step from initial customer request through the fabrication and inspection processes to final spool packing and delivery.

Starting the Process
Customer information can come in many forms, hand sketches, PDF files, DWG files etc. through to the intelligent 3D isometric input files (IDF or PCF). Wherever the data comes from or whatever form it is in, we need to start the digital process, here you have two options:

Recreate the isometric in an intelligent digital form

Reuse the intelligent isometric information extract from the 3D design system

Therefore, the Intergraph Smart Production Powered by NESTIX solution is delivered with a fast and easy to use isometric sketching package so that you can resketch the paper, pdf or DWG files etc. to create an intelligent isometric format. This intelligent file will include all material, dimensional and fabrication information. A typical one sheet isomeric can be sketched in 10 to 15 minutes.

At this point, for both above options, an intelligent isometric file is available. Smart Production is delivered with a fast and intuitive pipe spooling package which will read this file and enable you to graphically add additional information and welds to generate the required fabrication and erection drawings and calculate material quantities.

Creation of Estimates
The spooling, component and fabrication data is transferred into Smart Production, where templated work steps such as cutting, bevelling, drilling, welding, testing, painting and blasting etc. are automatically added. Linked with materials and costing data, estimates are quickly created to include, purchased or free-issue materials, fabrication, inspection and other costs.

At this stage initial material checks can be made and 4D (time) information is generated to enable initial production planning and accurate delivery dates to be calculated.

Work Planning
On receipt of an order the estimate data is simply transferred to production where material assignments and detailed planning are made.

With full visibility of each work station in the entire fabrication shop, the nesting, including remnant management, and planning can now be performed. Step by step operations including, material picking and storage, are detailed and work station assignments can be made, enabling both forward and backward planning. Planning is performed all aspects of fabrication, considering the available materials, machines, tools and staff, including certified operators, welders and inspectors.

Moving into Production
Full work steps, including CNC files where applicable, are transmitted to all involved enabling the correct materials to be picked and stored local to each work station. As a step is undertaken the materials used are recorded, usually with bar codes, and the monitored work piece is moved from stage to stage.

All welds and inspections, fabrication and site, are recorded within Smart Production and stored together with their certification in a database. Further none planned site welds and inspections can also be added to the database if required. This database will then be used through commissioning and completions before handover to the owner.

Change Management
Due to the full visibility of the whole process, any changes that come along can easily be incorporated. On receipt of a change, it is immediately evident where the component or spool is in the production workflow, enabling rapid response to halt production if required. The individual Isometric, spooling, production and weld management tools include built-in change management features to enable changes to be incorporated as efficiently as possible.

In addition to design and material changes, Smart Production also has the capability to manage and change the production workflow, for instance in the case of a machine breakdown or a worker or work station being unavailable.

Packaging and Delivery
The precise location, at any time, of all materials including spools is held within the system. Completed spools are palleted and stored ready for delivery and once delivered the delivery location is also recorded.

Smart Production uses industry standard IDF (Intermediate Data File) and PCF (Piping Component File) formats for the import of piping data. These formats are supported by the major 3D design systems such as Smart 3D, PDS, PDMS, E3D and CADWorx. Should these formats not be available, the rapid isometric sketcher delivered with Smart Production enables the easy creation of the PCF format.

Smart Production has an interface to the material management package Smart Materials and XML configured interfaces to other packages such as SAP, JD Edwards, IFS…, integration with other and in-house material systems can be made through configuration and / or dedicated interfaces.

For the automated machines, over 1700 drivers exist for CNC file creation for cutting, bending, welding etc. new drivers can be quickly created.

With over 500 customers in more than 40 countries, using Smart Production to manage multiple projects in a digital workflow can help you. Our team will be happy to work with you and develop any third party interfaces you require.

Other Industries and Applications
Smart Production is a production management system which includes the pipe shop features as described in this document. However, Smart Production is not limited to pipe fabrication, it is used by many customers for cutting and fabrication of plates, profiles and assemblies in many industries including ship building and train manufacture. 


 David Whittle, business development manager, Hexagon PPM, EMIA

David Whittle

David Whittle is a senior business development manager for industry overlay at Hexagon PPM. He is based in  Middlewich, Cheshire, United Kingdom He is responsible for the global development of the fabrication market and product line business plans and marketing programs to support sales, and he has a wealth of knowledge within engineering, design and fabrication in general and piping in particular. 


Categories: Fabrication