How 3D Scanning and Modeling Allows Teams of Engineers, Contractors, Fabrication Experts & Other Stakeholders to Harmonize
By: Cale Collier – VP Scan & Model at Acensium
Modern industrial projects involve more complex teams than ever before. Instead of planning, engineering and fabricating every aspect of a retrofit or upgrade on site, it is now a common for facilities to retain external engineering support to supplement the on-site planning and engineering teams. External fabrication services are also employed, adding another team that needs clear and detailed instruction to be able to work in harmony with the on-site teams. In addition, other stakeholders will frequently be involved at various stages, including facility O&M, installers, vendors and purchased part suppliers all having key roles.
With project success dependant on these various and complex groups working together seamlessly, how is that process managed? The answer has traditionally been ‘With large contingency budgets.’ Veterans of large retrofit or upgrade projects knew that 25% or 30% increases to overall cost should be budgeted in for unexpected issues, delays and downtime. These funds covered the excess labor hours, shipping and other costs required to fix the problems that arose from teams not communicating well enough.
With original (and usually outdated) 2D as-built drawings as reference materials, manual field measurements for any change and back of the envelope guesswork on design aspects can make custom fabrication a costly operation. If there are design mirroring issues, an improper fit for custom components, or a system doesn’t function as intended, additional shipping and fabrication costs are incurred that quickly add up. Combining custom fabricated system elements with vendor-supplied equipment adds another layer of complexity.
Harmonizing Teams With 3D Visualizations
From the initial planning phases when teams are determining how much ‘real estate’ they have available for an expansion or upgrade, to the final installation where the O&M team takes over, having a digitized 3D representation of the facility and the equipment reduces risk and increases efficiency. Planning teams can see immediately the as-is conditions of both equipment and surroundings. Engineered or vendor supplied equipment designs can be ‘dropped in’ for immediate clash detection, streamlining planning and engineering.
Demolition and Installation have some of the highest risk for delays or extra costs. Finding out only at the last minute that there is no way a certain piece can be maneuvered into position is a place no project manager wants to be in. Downtime and delays during demo or install also typically rack up costly labor hours, magnifying project costs. ‘Creative’ solutions to unforeseen problems can create safety risks or the potential for expensive difficulties later on. Demolition and installation plans can be entirely simulated in 3D ensuring every aspect of space and safety are considered when planning the project phases.
A great example of this would be a large material handling project with a retrofit high in a transfer tower. A custom fabricated component has to be installed 100 feet in the air. It is the size and weight of a small car. By the time you get it raised 100 feet, ready to install and realize it doesn’t fit, you can’t just stop and work on something else. Many times these are serial operations where the next step is dependant on this one being complete. Now the faulty component has to be shipped back to the fabricator, corrected and returned. The lost time, labor and shipping costs can be monumental.
Though often engineers are used to digital 3D designs for new equipment, they are typically superimposed on 2D facility diagrams that leave out key aspects that can hinder the ability to move large components or could pose safety risks during operation. Cable runs, inspection hatches and other items not fully-realized in 2D can be easily ascertained and accounted for in 3D.
Sending stakeholders detailed 3D designs and facility environments is only one aspect of harmonizing efforts with 3D. 3D scanning can be used to validate fabrications before they ever leave the fabricator, saving re-shipping costs. 3D scanning output can be utilized daily during installation, giving project managers deeper insight into all aspects of progress on complex projects with tight schedules. 3D simulations allow O&M teams to create training materials, safety briefings and ensure regulatory compliance.
Having a common as-built, 3D scan of any project environment to share between teams reduces project risk and contingency budgets, ensuring projects are completed on-time and on-budget while avoiding the costly delays and downtime that have come to be expected for most large undertakings.
Cale Collier is the VP of Scan and Model Services at Acensium, LLC, an industry-focused engineering and intellectual services provider. Acensium delivers 3D scan and model, consulting, operations and engineering support for the execution of construction and retrofit projects, providing services to the industrial and commercial partners throughout the United States.