Digital Twin Update: Why CAD Majors are Failing in Brownfields

Digital transformation remains a hot topic among owner-operators in energy and manufacturing industries. But if you ask SMEs what exactly a "digital transformation" should look like, you’re likely to get a myriad of answers.

Common questions in the digitization journey include the following: Does it require me to model my plant in 3D? Does it require me to change CAD platforms? Do I have to buy and install a lot of software? Is it expensive? Is there an “out of the box” solution for my plant digitization needs?

What makes the prospect of transforming assets to digital twins so enticing is that they give owner-operators in petroleum refining, chemicals, oil & gas, and other manufacturing industries the ability to implement an infinite number of custom-use cases to drive profitability, operational excellence, and compliance.

In order to do this, digital plans must include a digital infrastructure that connects a plant’s piping and instrumentation data to 3D asset visualization.

Ei’s ‘digital twins’ build connectedness between a plant’s engineering assets to facilitate data integration and drive profitability.

While CAD Majors like @HexagonPPM, @AVEVA and @Bentley see themselves as natural go-to providers for plant automation, their limited industry expertise severely undermines their effectiveness in digitizing assets that are of real use to plant operators.

In contrast, Ei’s operational knowledge and practical approach to solving operational challenges through digital transformation makes digitized assets with plant workflow in mind. This distinction makes a real difference to an operator’s bottom line. 🤑

In short: CAD Majors are biting off more than they can chew. But that’s easy to do when you have limited expertise of the task at hand. CAD Majors cannot efficiently or cost-effectively support a plant’s move from largely analog processes to digital workflows for four main reasons:

Reason #1: CAD Majors Underestimate the Complexity of Most Plant’s Computer-Aided Design Foundation: 90% or more of the 200+ oil, gas, and chemical plants I have supported utilize “vanilla” AutoCAD as a CAD foundation. This means the majority of P&IDs, isometrics, electrical one-line diagrams, plot plans and other engineering and design documents are stored in a native and non-data driven AutoCAD environment.

Let me be clear: THERE IS NO ‘EASY BUTTON’ to convert AutoCAD schematics into a data-driven format to facilitate a ‘single source of truth.’ However, some companies (like Ei) have developed cost-effective trade secrets and simple-yet-comprehensive workflows to support the digitalization journey.

Making the jump from a native AutoCAD environment to SmartPlant/Smart3D or AVEVA is not only costly and complicated, it requires a complete overhaul of existing workflows and management of change which can make for a turbulent journey if guided by CAD Majors.

Reason #2: CAD Majors Have Limited Expertise in Plant Operations: CAD Majors are software product companies that support implementation, but they lack the ability to truly support an owner-operator’s digitalization journey from end-to-end. They fail to identify and understand high-priority use cases that drive digitalization and 3D asset visualization among various stakeholders.

Reason #3: CAD Majors Crowd Their Platforms: Have you ever looked at the ribbon bar of CAD software? It is riddled with more buttons, menus, and commands than the dashboard of the Millennium Falcon. An effective platform must combine simplicity and ease of use to guide both young-and-old personnel.

Reason #4: CAD Majors Cannot Quote Competently: I have yet to see any CAD Major put forth a comprehensive understanding of the costs associated with implementing a digital twin. Sure, there are costs to digitize P&IDs and schematics, as well as to 3D scan/model and integrate these into a ‘single source of truth,’ but their failure to understand the business makes them a precarious choice that no plant can ultimately afford.


Beyond software, storage, and service implementation fees, there is a key component that the CAD Majors fail to understand: the cost of improving management of change workflows, as well as training potentially thousands of employees and contractors. These are significant costs that must be factored into a multi-year plan to successfully implement a digital twin.

In summary, the digitalization journey ultimately requires inclusive planning with a team that can understand a facility’s site-specific legacy systems, its goals, priorities, and budget. For more than a decade, Ei has acquired the knowledge, skill, and abilities to support end-to-end digital transformation. Soon we will be releasing a platform that will disrupt the flawed offerings of CAD Majors while providing a cost-effective, simplistic, and easy-to-use front end to unlock the value and potential of digitalization. 😉

#digitaltwin #digitaltransformation #plantdigitization #oilandgas #disruptivetech