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Engineering in a global environment

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Engineering in a global environment

In some respects, the internet is often equated with the invention of printing: Both phenomena have radically changed our access to knowledge, the dissemination of information and the way we communicate. Internet-based technologies have also had a major impact on plant engineering. Over the last years, it has evolved from heterogeneous planning in isolated applications to integrated working – also thanks to web applications such as Comos Mobile Solutions.

The VDI/VDE guideline 3695 (2010) informed the industry about optimisation possibilities in the use of computer-based engineering tools along the planning process. At that time, data consistency across all trades was defined as a desirable target state. Including automatic electronic data exchange with independent consistency checks. With the integrated, object-oriented software system Comos, Siemens ensures holistic plant management over the entire life cycle of process plants. Comos considers the fact that the engineering process represents the interaction of different disciplines and thus the system offers specific views of the data. In this way, all specialists are optimally supported. However, planning projects are no longer limited to the above-mentioned domains: project managers, legal, procurement or finance departments are now involved as well as external service providers. In order that this extended group of knowledge bearers can also be optimally integrated, modern planning systems must master further challenges like worldwide access to current data under highest IT security aspects or high-performance multi-user access with simple operation.

Work anywhere and at any time

Comos Mobile Solutions is the technical basis that enables globally networked cooperation for all project participants. All relevant data is accessible via web-based services. Whether access is via PC, tablet or smartphone is irrelevant. The user interface (UI) is based on HTML5 and only requires a current version of a browser such as Chrome or Edge.

A Comos web server acts as interface for accessing the Comos database. Authenticated users access the server via encrypted SSL (Secure Socket Layer) access or via VPN (Virtual Private Network). A client gateway service for connection and access management as well as other internal services runs on the Comos web server. The client gateway service manages all requests that are sent to the web server via Internet. The internal services are responsible, for data exchange, UI display, user administration or task management. This modularity allows a customer-specific configuration of the scope of services during server installation. The advantages of such a concept and the browser-based functionality are obvious: The user does not have to carry out any installation on his device, can completely dispense with the installation of software updates, does not need any Comos individual licenses and can use any operating system.

Graduated integration concept

Basically, there are two forms of access for Comos Mobile Solutions: authenticated users can either have read-only access, or they are granted a combined read and write access. In the first case, users are given read access to projects, documents, revisions, or working layers via Comos WebView, tailored to their rights/role characteristics. With Comos WebView, current engineering data can be called up – without local Comos installation by simply clicking a link and viewing it in the browser.

As a result, departments that hardly encounter planning and CAE systems are directly supplied with the data that is crucial for their respective work. For example, central purchasing will in future receive the order data as a link rather than via an Excel spreadsheet sent by e-mail. This saves time, reduces errors, and ensures that data is always up to date, as the web server serves the inquiries with live data from the Comos database. In this way, additional internal and external users can be integrated into the project in no time at all. Additionally to hyperlinks, users with read access can also access relevant and up-to-date information via quicklink in the home screen of the application or via the full text or document search by means of attributes.

More flexible work and accelerated workflows

The purely read-only access to project data in Comos ensures a significantly simplified flow of information and facilitates the integration of specialist departments. Web-based engineering with Comos WebPQM takes one step beyond: documents can be checked out and in, data can be changed and commented on, test and revision steps can be released, redlining can be carried out, etc. All these typical project work activities can be carried out via web browser regardless of time and location. No reformatting, sending, or releasing of the corresponding data is necessary, since the Comos data is accessed directly via the web server. On the other hand, this always ensures the consistency of all project data. The data handling also includes permanent traceability and documentation of all changes. On this technical basis, Comos WebPQM offers a wide range of possibilities for up-to-date work. Via mobile data access, project managers or technical decision-makers can go about their work at any time – in the office, in the plant, on the train, from home or from the other end of the world. External service providers are given the opportunity to contribute the data you supply directly to the Comos project without high licensing costs, inconsistencies, duplicate entries, manual checks, or transmission errors are basically avoided. This not only increases the engineering quality but also accelerates all processes from project planning to commissioning and operation.

Simply a better overview

Another central component of Comos Mobile Solutions is the dashboard. This customizable overview page welcomes the user with the information relevant to him/her after logging on to the system. It shows a list of Comos favorites, quick links to data and documents, or the result of predefined queries, users can define key performance indicators (KPI) on the basis of which line or pie charts can be output. For example, the current project progress can be noticed briefly. Furthermore, a task management system that can be used independently of the classic Comos facilitates the structuring, assignment and tracking of tasks, work packages and activities. The integration of task management queries enriches the project overview with clear answers to important questions. Which tasks are currently in progress? Which milestones have already been reached? Which releases are still pending? Both the tasks and the queries can be adapted to the specific project, so that all users can be sure to get answers to their most important questions and has a clear overview of the project status.

Ready for modern work – even in a state of emergency

The use of Comos Mobile Solutions helps to ensure that even complex planning projects with hundreds of participants are reliably implemented within shorter project times. For the smooth international cooperation of very different teams, the web-based infrastructure allows secure multi-user access to centrally managed data and simultaneously offers trade-specific work support. These features turn the system also into the perfect companion even in exceptional situations: For example, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a completely new and unexpected reality that requires permanent staff, specialists or external service providers to be able to work from home without restrictions. It is precisely here that this mobile multi-disciplinary approach with optimised information flow and higher data quality with less coordination effort becomes a prerequisite for uninterrupted project work.

Siemens AG, Nuremberg


Author: Stefanie Westerhaus

Marketing Manager Comos,

Digital Industries Process Automation,

Siemens

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