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Automating workflows and having overview of progress

Securely controlling external data integration and internal engineering processes with the Workflow Assistant

Your advantages at a glance:

  • Automatic: data transfer to and from external systems, data comparison and versioning
  • Guaranteed data consistency between external system and engineering
  • Assurance that project is up-to-date
  • Overview of project progress
  • Ease of use
  • Easy customization to individual workflows
  • No specific knowledge required for the external system
  • Users are guided
  • Error minimization
  • No mixing of versions
  • Work steps cannot be forgotten

Challenge

It is not only since Industry 4.0 has become an issue that the increasing complexity of plants and machines has, on the one hand, complicated engineering tasks and, on the other hand, dramatically increased the number of special tools and add-on solutions for the product lifecycle. These increased requirements and multiple "standalone solutions" in the lifecycle of machines and plants now make life more difficult for many designers.

No compromises

Planners, designers and project managers should always be able to use the tool which is best suited to the respective discipline. Thus data integration has become even more important in engineering in recent years. The idea of a complete digital twin of the plant in the engineering process is impossible without the integration of all related information. However, the valuable data must neither end up in "obsolete" collection containers, where it usually loses its stored logic, nor does it make sense to cover all disciplines with a single system. An all-round tool can only ever be a compromise.

Confusing and forgetting?

However, the networking of special systems with core engineering also requires secure management of data transfers as well as a comprehensive overview of the status and progress in the project management. The same applies to the variety of tasks within the engineering system. Here, it is also necessary to ensure that versions are not confused and tasks are not forgotten.

Solution

Secure: Workflow Assistant automates engineering processes and data exchange with external systems (© AUCOTEC AG)

Fit for the future

With its database-driven Engineering Base (EB), AUCOTEC has created an exceptionally integrative platform which, on the one hand, meets the increasing complexity of current and future requirements as such and, on the other hand, can conveniently connect standalone solutions. EB's comprehensive consistency and networking also with external disciplines significantly minimize errors and time spent on consultation, but make it all the more important to maintain an overview of all workflows and the workflow status.

Automatically managing workflows and data exchange

For both the increasingly complex intrasystem work areas and the integration of external data, EB thus provides a highly efficient support solution which ensures security and high data quality at the same time: the Workflow Assistant (WA) can control data exchange with all types of external systems, in addition to the automation of the system's own workflows.

For this purpose, any number of workflows can be defined in the WA, including different types of workflows. For the cooling system in a plant, for example, the tank definition, then its instrumentation, wiring, and finally the mechanical design are queried in succession. EB then automatically "ticks off" the completed steps in a status checkbox. You can also specify certain actions that are to be triggered automatically after completing a task, for example, "send e-mail," "generate revision," "export to XLS", etc.

The path for the various work steps and the steps themselves can be defined individually. It is important to define useful "gateways", thus the respective checkpoints which are to be "ticked off" and/or should trigger a follow-up action.

As with individual system or functional developments, the gateways can be either close together or also significantly further apart, like the workflows for designing a large process engineering plant. Here, the process could also be oriented towards entire disciplines, such as P&ID creation. It then starts with the design of large devices, such as tanks and heat exchangers, then specifies the piping development, then smaller components until finally the detailed connections have to be worked out. Here, gateways would then be: "Main equipment in P&ID?" and "Piping connections set?" If the task has been completed and the tick has been set, even the less technically savvy manager knows at first glance how far his design project has progressed and the "level of maturity" of the plant model.

Good prospects and overviews for management

Processes can also be defined for exchange with external tools or supplier data and their status can be read. Using the checkboxes that are set according to requirements, EB's Workflow Assistant shows the progress of the associated project milestones as a percentage. A large German machine manufacturer is already putting this tool into practice for data exchange with SAP ECTR.

From 3-D via simulation to production

EB's integration package contains links to different ERP, PDM/PLM and automation systems, to all standard 3-D tools as well as to predictive maintenance, simulation or production. Data exchange with all these specialists can be controlled automatically via the WA. It manages the corresponding status transitions in EB in freely configurable status networks, thus sequences of steps to be processed, as customary in SAP.

The WA automatically executes all operations to the external system via macros. The designer himself can configure the parameters for the integration macro for the respective status transitions in the Workflow Assistant. Thus it is possible to define precisely what status change should take place and what should be transferred at what time. The data itself is transferred via an exchange directory. Before each action, the WA checks whether EB and the external system have a corresponding status.

Benefits

Forget about worrying about forgetting

The Workflow Assistant thus ensures constant data consistency. EB users do not have to worry about data consistency or storing documents in the external system. The WA also allows you to safely forget about forgetting work steps or confusing versions. By means of the WA, project managers are always aware of the percentage progress of individually defined milestones in the workflow.

The automation of data integration and internal work steps is crucial, especially in relation to Industry 4.0. The new WA, which can be adapted completely freely and thus in a future-proof manner to every workflow, is a further stage of the integration concept of EB and also achieves security and saving of time as a central management tool.

Always up-to-date

The central documentation is always up-to-date. The WA greatly simplifies interface handling and release mechanisms due to its individually definable automatic processes. This significantly increases the data quality.

While the Workflow Assistant initiates and manages the status transitions, all necessary steps are automatically processed in the background. Thus the project is ultimately mapped completely and the document storage is organized properly. The WA thus builds particularly stable bridges which create added value for all participants regardless of the standalone solution.

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