Publiceret: 4/2/2012
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Fluor Fluor Uses Enterprise Data Solution to Boost Project Execution, Competitive Advantage

Paying attention to data integrity has paid off for Fluor, one of the world’s largest engineering and construction companies. Fluor uses Microsoft and AspenTech technologies to help ensure the integrity of the physical properties data that are essential for reliable process simulation, conceptual design, and front-end engineering. Fluor recently upgraded its AspenTech aspenONE Engineering software, which now includes the Aspen Properties enterprise database. Supported exclusively by Microsoft SQL Server data management software, the new enterprise database replaces thousands of flat-file databases at Fluor. It further mitigates the already low risk of data error—which could cost Fluor millions of dollars per project—while also reducing the time and cost to mitigate that risk. Fluor also uses the Microsoft and AspenTech technologies to help mitigate risks to the security of its data.

Situation
Fluor is hugely successful in designing, building, and maintaining many of the world’s most massive and complex process manufacturing facilities—chemical plants, petroleum processing facilities, nuclear generators, and the like—in part because of the care it takes over the smallest, even intangible, components of those projects.

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* AspenTech and Microsoft have helped us achieve the conflicting goals of getting it right the first time, ensuring access to high-quality data, and protecting the security of our proprietary know-how. *

Paul Mathias
Senior Fellow and Technical Director of Process Engineering, Fluor

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“Process engineering is the foundation for the successful implementation of our projects,” says Paul Mathias, Senior Fellow and Technical Director of Process Engineering at Fluor. “And excellence in process engineering requires getting all the details right, no matter how small.”

The century-old Fluor apparently gets the details right. It is one of the world’s largest publicly owned engineering and construction firms. It’s a Fortune 500 company with a number-one ranking in Fortune’s “Engineering, Construction” category of the largest U.S. corporations. Fluor also repeatedly ranks as one of the world’s safest contractors and most admired companies.

Unlike Designing Any Other Facility
Designing a process manufacturing facility is unlike designing almost any other structure. Before any of the architectural elements common to other types of buildings can be considered, Fluor engineers first take into account all of the chemicals that will be processed in a proposed plant, their physical properties (such as density, mass, corrosiveness, and flammability), and the specific reactions (heat produced, gas emitted, byproducts created, and so forth) that they’ll generate during the manufacturing process.

Then, the engineers plan the systems that will create and control these processes and manage their byproducts safely and cost-effectively. A typical plant might be intended to process up to hundreds of chemicals or other products. Designing the systems for such a plant will typically require Fluor engineers to maintain hundreds of simulation files, each with its own database, in each of 30 to 50 aggregated simulation models that they create for a project. There are several hundred such projects underway at Fluor at any one time, for a possible total of thousands or even tens of thousands of active simulation models and databases at the company.

Those databases hold the physical property data that Fluor uses in its modeling. Getting accurate physical property data into the process simulation models is crucial for building realistic, accurate models of the processes that the facility must support. “Accurate property data is essential,” says Mathias. “Without good thermo [physical data], all of the work to design a project, size equipment, and estimate capital and operating expenses is of dubious value.”

Invaluable Intellectual Property
Fluor had long ago switched from developing in-house modeling software to relying on a third-party system. That made it possible for its engineers to focus on engineering rather than on building and maintaining application software. But, while Fluor outsources its modeling software, it considers the data used by that software to be invaluable intellectual property, one of its core competencies and competitive advantages.

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* Excellence in process engineering requires getting all the details right, no matter how small. *

Paul Mathias
Senior Fellow and Technical Director of Process Engineering, Fluor

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To maintain that intellectual property, Fluor engineers had to synchronize hundreds of databases for each project, deploying data updates manually. If models were to inadvertently use different data for the same properties within a given project, engineers might introduce errors into their designs. If those errors weren’t caught until construction was underway, that construction might need to be halted, new equipment purchased, and rebuilding undertaken. Penalties and costs could total millions of dollars.

Fluor mitigated that risk successfully because its reputation and its business depended on it. But the company was finding it increasing expensive and time consuming to do so.

Potential threats to data security were another growing concern at Fluor. Flat-file databases used in traditional simulation software didn’t fully meet the company’s expanding needs for security. Employees could unintentionally change data. Vendors or departing employees could potentially take data with them to competitors. Given the immense value of this data, its loss or degradation could blunt Fluor’s competitive edge. It hadn’t happened yet, and Fluor wanted to keep it that way.

Solution
Fluor wasn’t the only company thinking about these issues. So was the supplier of the company’s process simulation software, AspenTech, a Microsoft Partner Network member with multiple Gold competencies. AspenTech had good reason to take the lead in addressing these issues: thousands of engineering and construction firms, manufacturers, and plant operators worldwide—of which Fluor was just one—used aspenONE Engineering, the company’s process modeling software. The concerns facing Fluor faced most, if not all, of them.

With aspenONE, Fluor—a customer of AspenTech and a predecessor company for about 27 years—gained state-of-the-art property methods, models, algorithms, and data that its engineers used in process modeling. Fluor engineers used the Aspen Properties enterprise database to take advantage of the source database of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), with its more than 4 million points of experimental property data for more than 24,000 pure components and mixtures. They also use aspenONE Engineering to integrate their own, proprietary properties database with the databases from AspenTech and the NIST, to gain competitive advantage.

Fluor adopted aspenONE Engineering because it contributed to rapid, effective project execution and to greater consistency of data—not only within Fluor, but also among all companies that used it, such as Fluor’s business partners and customers.

From Flat-File to Relational
In 2009, AspenTech developed a major upgrade to aspenONE Engineering, designed in part to meet the growing needs of customers for enhanced manageability and data integrity. At the core of the current aspenONE Engineering software is the Aspen Properties enterprise database, a single relational database that replaces the series of flat-file databases of the earlier software (see Figure 1).

Diagrams of databases used before and after centralizing Fluor
Figure 1: By moving to aspenONE Engineering, Fluor centralizes its proprietary
properties data in a single, enterprise database (right), eliminating the multiple
databases it formerly used (left). 
AspenTech supports the Aspen Properties enterprise database on only one data management system: the Microsoft SQL Server data management system. When it began to develop the Aspen Properties enterprise database however, AspenTech focused on both Microsoft and Oracle database systems. It abandoned the Oracle work and supported its new enterprise database only on SQL Server, in part because of customer feedback.

“We adopted SQL Server because our customers had found it easier and cheaper to deploy and support; we didn’t see much customer interest in alternatives,” says P. Shrikant, Principal Engineer at AspenTech. “These are global engineering, procurement, and construction concerns. They are largely Microsoft-oriented. With SQL Server, we give them an enterprise database solution that fits easily with the infrastructures they already have, that supports both desktop and server implementations, and that can scale as needed.”

A Central Properties Database at Fluor
Fluor adopted the AspenTech upgrade at the beginning of 2010. “With SQL Server and the Aspen Properties enterprise database, we saw the opportunity to address our concerns about data integrity, database management, and data security,” says Mathias. “SQL Server provides a convenient delivery mechanism for properties data.”

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* With the Aspen Properties database running on SQL Server, the time involved in the process of updating data has been virtually eliminated. *

Paul Mathias
Senior Fellow and Technical Director of Process Engineering, Fluor

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With the SQL Server database in the AspenTech system, Fluor now can centralize its thermophysical data in a few databases that feed most process simulation models in the enterprise. Fluor achieves this centralization by using SQL Server Integration Services as a convenient delivery mechanism to bring its own, proprietary data into the Aspen Properties database.

Fluor uses SQL Server to host metadata not previously included in the AspenTech system. For example, the NIST data in the enterprise database includes experimental information that helps to give Fluor more accurate and up-to-date process models. The SQL Server tables linked to the core NIST information also host metadata such as research citations that annotate the experimental data.

In addition, Fluor adopted the two-tiered encryption capability of the new AspenTech software, which uses DES (Data Encryption Standard) encryption in SQL Server. Fluor deployed the AspenTech solution together with a Fluor-specific AspenTech licensing server that is required to gain access to the SQL Server database, providing another level of security should anyone attempt to run the database outside of the Fluor network.

Benefits
Fluor now works with more accurate and up-to-date data in its process manufacturing models, which helps it to avoid the major costs of addressing data and modeling errors later in the project cycle—after equipment has been purchased or built and construction has commenced.

Fluor also works with data that is more secure, helping it to maintain the value of its intellectual property and the competitive advantage that that intellectual property delivers.

“Execution excellence is one of the elements in our ability to grow and to improve our profit margins, despite increasing competition,” says Mathias. “Increasing the accuracy and security of our data is an essential element in execution excellence.”

Saves Time Formerly Spent Updating Data
In using the new enterprise modeling database, Fluor regains the time it used to take to update each of its component databases separately.

Previously, when properties data might be replicated in hundreds of files, Fluor personnel would have to replicate each update to each file and then test each update for accuracy, an immensely time-consuming process. Now, the enterprise database is updated automatically by AspenTech, and Fluor personnel reinvest the freed time in work that adds more value to the company.

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* With Aspen Properties, the SQL Server database, and our own Microsoft-based infrastructure working together, we have higher confidence in the ability of our technology to protect our IP. *

Paul Mathias
Senior Fellow and Technical Director of Process Engineering, Fluor

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“With the Aspen Properties database running on SQL Server, the time involved in the process of updating data has been virtually eliminated,” says Mathias. “For me, it means more than saving time. It means knowing what has been updated and having the confidence that the updates were implemented correctly.”

Further Mitigates Risk, Need for Remediation
Fluor engineers find that the SQL Server–based enterprise database further mitigates the already low risk of using inaccurate data and triggering the time and cost of remediation. They have even greater confidence that projects spanning multiple process simulation models are based on consistent data, even while they save the time formerly spent on manual updates and tests.

That means that they now produce accurate project designs more quickly and with less effort than they did before. When errors are more likely to be caught early, during the feasibility, concept, and basic design phases, they can be corrected with little or no impact on total project cost. But once Fluor engineers and project managers engage in procurement, permitting, and the detailed design and construction phases, correcting mistakes that arise from inconsistencies in the initial databases becomes increasingly costly.

“AspenTech and Microsoft have helped us achieve the conflicting goals of getting it right the first time, ensuring access to high-quality data, and protecting the security of our proprietary know-how,” says Mathias.

For example, Fluor develops physical property packages for unique compounds, such as gas-treating solvents, through its Fluor Solvent Design, which makes processes more effective for customers and reduces their capital expenditures. Because this development work relies on the SQL Server enterprise database, Fluor is confident enough of its ability to avoid the need for remediation that it gives its customers a guarantee on the work.

The company also puts the accuracy of the AspenTech and Microsoft technologies to use in its work for biofuels companies. Fluor can provide these customers with the database from which their designs were developed, and keep track of the results—knowing which changes originated with the customer, and which changes the customer will manage moving forward.

Boosts Confidence in IP Security
“We have to be concerned about both unintentional and intentional risks to data integrity and security—especially since our proprietary properties database is a key part of our competitive advantage,” says Mathias. “But now, with Aspen Properties, the SQL Server database, and our own Microsoft-based infrastructure working together, we have higher confidence in the ability of our technology to protect our IP.”

With that higher confidence in IP security, Fluor is free to use its IP in ways that strengthen its business performance and help drive additional revenue.

For example, greater IP security and control over that security mean that Fluor can broaden employee access to its physical properties database—an example of the so-called “democratization of information”—with less concern that IP will be damaged, misused, or stolen. By giving controlled database access to more employees, Fluor gains more business flexibility to bring those employees, as individuals or entire teams, into projects when and as needed. It also gains the flexibility to open offices anywhere in the world, the better to win and manage global business.

Also, the ability to safely increase employee access to the database also extends to Fluor’s business partners. The company can grant finely controlled database access to employees at partner companies. That makes it easier for Flour to partner with those companies on joint-venture projects that are too large for any single company to manage, or that require skills or assets that a partner company is well-positioned to provide.

“Because we can more safely extend data access across our company and to partners, we have the ability to bid on, and win, more projects and larger projects than we could if we were limited to readily applying only our own resources, or a subset of those resources, to proposed projects,” says Mathias.

Microsoft Solutions for the Manufacturing Industry
Manufacturing enterprises must compete in an increasingly global environment. Success depends on finding ever-greater efficiencies throughout the enterprise, while developing a greater agility to react to local and global market opportunities. These challenges are best answered with technology from Microsoft and its partners.

Microsoft-based solutions offer much needed value to manufacturers who are under increasing pressure to generate greater returns on the assets that they have employed. This focus on efficiency scales across all the critical functional areas—from getting products to market faster, to streamlining the supply chain, optimizing the manufacturing operations, and generating new revenue streams. 

For more information about Microsoft solutions for the manufacturing industry, go to:
www.microsoft.com/enterprise/industry

For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about AspenTech, call (781) 221-6400 or visit the website at:
www.aspentech.com

For more information about Fluor, call (469) 398-7000 or visit the website at:
www.fluor.com

Løsningen - kort fortalt



Organisations størrelse
42000 medarbejdere

Organisationsprofil
Fluor, based in Irving, Texas, is one of the world’s largest publicly owned engineering, procurement, construction, maintenance, and project management companies. It has 42,000 employees.

Situationen
As both the company and the complexity of its projects grew, Fluor needed a better way to manage proprietary and commercial data for its process simulation models.

Løsningen
Fluor upgraded its AspenTech deployment, adopting the Aspen Properties Enterprise Database, which runs on Microsoft SQL Server data management software.

Fordele
Saves time formerly spent updating data Further mitigates risk, need for remediation Boosts confidence in IP security

Software & Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Integration Services
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise

Industri(er)
Manufacturing & Resources

Land
United States

Udfordringen
Asset Management

Languages
English

Partner(e)
AspenTech