Designing new production processes, especially in the field of chemical engineering, is a complex job. A new, comprehensive methodology has now been developed for use by design groups. It integrates design management, process calculation and simulation tools in order to model design activities and the chemical process.
"The new design methodology for production processes guides designers towards carrying out essential operations. It ensures that the ever-increasing safety and reliability demands are considered early in the design process. This means that necessary modifications that arise as the result of the safety analyses, as well as expensive design errors, will decrease," explains Raija Koivisto, VTT's process safety research professor and co-ordinator of the EU-funded POEM project.
The new procedure helps to avoid the kind of 'over-focused' unit-specific thinking that makes current design so inflexible and routine. The procedure also simulates the group’s planning process, rather than just the production process, and combines information generated from various current design and management tools. Hence, such information will always be available to those involved in the design process.
The methodology is based on Nordem Oy's basic idea that all real things can be comprehensively described using only four attributes: purpose, structure, state and performance. For example, a flow or P&I diagram reveals the structure of the process, i.e. it is just one part of the description of the production process.
"The methodology provides us with good evaluation practices for design. These compel the group to determine clear objectives and evaluation criteria in advance, both for the design activities and for the production process being designed. The new procedure has given the groups which have tested it a more comprehensive approach to design," says safety manager Livio Colombo from the Italian engineering company Snamprogetti S.p.A.
A program prototype based on and demonstrating the benefits of the approach has now been completed. The participants in this EU funded project were the University of Oulu, Raisio Chemicals Oy, CS Italia S.p.A., Hyprotech Europe S.L., Snamprogetti S.p.A. and VTT.
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