Skip to main content

Digging into the digital workspace: part one

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) company Bantrel Co. started its transition to digital eight years ago, when Senior Process Engineer Duane Gingras first encountered documents in the field that were scanned to near whiteness or contained illegible handwriting.

A typical project can produce hundreds of thousands of documents in the engineering phase alone and can increase exponentially when the project goes to construction. While standard information is always required on projects, a prevalent lack of standardisation is found when it comes to the presentation of symbols, notation and document numbering systems. In an industry with longstanding procedures for developing project information on paper, how does the switch to the digital space even begin?

Like eating an elephant

Start small, build a functional alternative, deploy it, and then work on the next piece. Gingras started by moving digital versions of the process and instrumentation drawings (P&IDs) to the network and then to an online space. The master drawings became electronic copies, accessible by anyone at any time, from any location, standardised to a PDF format, ensuring they were accessible to all disciplines on the project. Concurrently, the Process Engineering team was set up with the tools to effectively markup its drawings. For this, it turned to Bluebeam Revu, which not only enabled standard and customised tool set creation and sharing, but also opened up additional opportunities to streamline processes.

Authoring on PDFs with standard symbols

The Bantrel Co. team now relies heavily on PDFs for all of the key deliverables on any project as a convenient method to transfer information between parties, internally or externally. The universal format is ideal as a design development platform. The Process team at Bantrel Co. currently digitally manages all of its key documents, such as P&IDs, process flow drawings (PFDs), heat and material balances (H&MBs), line designation tables (LDTs), process equipment datasheets and area classifications.

The P&IDs are created from a blank PFD template. All of the markup tools for the project are created in advance to align with the specifications of the client. The symbols are organised into tool sets and deployed to the team. However, the tool sets are maintained via a network location; therefore, when updates or additions are required, these changes are instantaneously pushed out to the entire project team. A standard control valve detail, for example, may be updated during the life of a project and this detail can be updated once and consistently deployed to all users, removing the redundancy of having to create the detail repeatedly. Experience shows that maintaining consistency across hundreds of drawings undergoing multiple reviews by many team members is a challenge. The use of a standardised tool set helps to eliminate consistency issues. “A client will normally have a standard set of symbols, which we use as a baseline,” said Gingras. “Once we have the symbols sets in place, including the line types and any special hatch patterns required, we can deploy them to the team as part of a profile.”

Revu’s 2D and 3D PDF creation maintains the fidelity of CAD drawings commonly produced by a dedicated CADD or drafting group. Depending on client requests, the PDF generated by the Process group should be suitable and deliverable, which helps to reduce the hour counts for some projects.

The biggest impact on hour reduction results from not having to handle paper. The physical presence of paper masters requires a location within the office, which is always distant to the majority of the team. When a project is developed via multiple offices, the distance has an exponential impact. Relocating master document sets to an online space eliminates transit times to the master stick files and also removes the time zone related delays for multi-office execution strategies. Alterations to a design can be made and are available to the entire project team immediately and master files do not require transportation when the office moves to a new location.

Mimicking legacy processes

Critical to the adoption of digital is the replication of conventional paper-based procedures. Enabling a familiar framework eases the move towards pure electronic project documentation management. The quality assurance and quality control programmes are not altered; document review simply happens online instead of on paper. The tool sets provided for a project contain a predefined pallet of commonly used commenting tools that are consistent in colour and style with markups on paper. Users can generate a process unit drawing in a fraction of the time, or review and comment on a document with a couple of keystrokes.

Written by Omar Sheikh, Bluebeam Software, Inc., USA. This is an abridged article taken from the December 2015 issue of Hydrocarbon Engineering. Subscribers can sign in to access the complete version.

Part two of this article is available here.

Read the article online at:


Embed article link: (copy the HTML code below):