The Finnish Maritime and Process Industry had their first joint DBE¹ Core workshop on Friday, August 25th. Technical information exchange between companies was the topic of the day. Dull subject, some might say, but not selected for the first joint workshop by chance.
Digitalization challenges are common for these seemingly different industries. In industrial context technical information is not only just nice-to-get. Instead, it determines what kind of ship or plant is to be built, how to maintain it and – ultimately – how to use it for making money. For many industrial companies physical asset related technical information is the key element between the financial investment and the cash flow it can generate.
If the buyer doesn’t know exactly what to buy, the standard practice is to ask for a bid from one or several suppliers on the basis of technical engineering specification. And then orders equipment based on the best offer. On the other hand, if the buyer knows what to buy, then he can order equipment directly on the basis of the product item identifier. Digitalization of these workflows is challenging and in industrial context culminates on the issue of how to handle related technical information. Exactly the point of having this workshop!
In all cases the buyer should make sure that it gets all required equipment data in usable format for the operations and maintenance needs. Different buyers require different set of data depending on the practices and standards of the company and its industry segment, equipment groups and many other criteria. And for the buyer to get the most applicable equipment to the right place the supplier has to understand the specifications correctly.
Technical information is a key component of plant asset information. ARC Advisory Group estimated that poor asset information management results in about 1,5% losses of sales of an industrial plant. That information is almost fully created by other companies than the industrial plant itself. Therefore an additional challenge for all ecosystem companies is to organize the intercompany information exchange efficiently. Core target for DBE Core!
Digitalization of intercompany business information exchange means standardized information content, business workflows and systems integration interfaces that are fully agreed within the ecosystem. All these issues were discussed in the workshop. The main focus however was on technical data models and related standards.
Standardization is based on international ISO and IEC standards. UBL 2.1 (ISO/IEC-19845 standard) made for commercial business communication is the main DBE Core standard. UBL is already widely used and covers all basic commercial transactions. But UBL alone doesn’t have proper tools to manage detailed technical information. Therefore, IEC-61987 and ISO-15926 standards are applied to fulfill that need.
Commonly agreed intercompany business workflows form the rules for the ecosystem operation. UBL standard describes workflows for the basic commercial business processes. As technical information exchange is always linked with some commercial transaction, it’s natural to attach them together. Therefore, technical information exchange should always be an integral part of business workflow, never a separate process. Business contracts will define what technical data should be attached automatically to each workflow.
Back-end systems integration interfaces will be based on modern API technology that can take care of the information security issues. The ultimate DBE Core project target is to create reference APIs for all workflows. These external reference APIs should guide companies’ own API implementation efforts. Of course, all the companies must do their internal systems integration work – implementing own APIs – by themselves. Definitely, that will be the biggest investment for every company. DBE Core is aiming to ensure that there will be an interoperable open business network for companies.
Wide variety of larger and smaller companies has already joined DBE Core. They represent wide spectrum of industries from industrial plants and shipyards to banks and IT companies. DBE Core is not just one discussion board anymore. At the meeting Metso Flow Control and Efora (Stora-Enso’s maintenance company) introduced their first pilot results and ideas for further development. Several new pilots are under preparation.
¹ DBE = Digital Business Ecosystem