Siemens Energy Generates Efficiency in Project Management
Siemens Energy is the world’s leading supplier of a complete spectrum of products, services, and solutions for power generation with thermal power plants and renewable energy sources, as well as for electricity transmission networks and the extraction, processing, and transportation of oil and gas.
The Netherlands, Singapore, and Portugal are just a few of the countries where Siemens Energy has in recent years completed, or is currently building, combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power plants. High demands are placed on the data required for project management as well as in the planning and construction phases of such complex projects. The varied nature of the data also increases this complexity. Contractors have always reviewed and monitored the progress, cost compliance, and quality of their construction projects. However, the figures needed are dispersed over several IT systems and manually generated reports, making it difficult to recognize changes ahead of time. This prompted Siemens Energy to search for a solution that can quickly retrieve data from the various sources, monitor it, and make it available to project managers in a form they can quickly assess and use as a basis for decisions.
It now uses an application created with business intelligence (BI) technology from Information Builders for project monitoring in the construction of the CCGT plants. The solution provides efficient and immediate monitoring of variables that impact the success of the project, such as cost, time, and quality, as well as providing early-warning indicators of any potential problems. It contributes greatly to efficient project management.
Operational BI Monitors Project Activities
Since there was no standard software on the market that met all of Siemens Energy’s requirements, the Energy Solutions Business Unit of the Fossil Power Generation Division sought out a tool to create its own application. It quickly became clear that the divison’s needs would be best met by a BI application. The company wanted a solution for using and processing data from operative systems for the direct supervision and control of project activities during plant construction.
Other essential requirements were avoiding data duplication and the need to re-enter existing data manually. The data had to be current enough for project managers to immediately recognize potential deviations from the planned procedures and progress of the project, enabling them to take appropriate action as quickly as possible. This is exactly what operational BI does best; it controls and optimizes business processes during a company’s daily operations.
After an initial selection process, three products from leading BI vendors were shortlisted. They underwent practical tests according to the specifications of Siemens Energy and in close cooperation with the Siemens Corporate Information Technology Unit (CIT), to prove what they could do. In this proof of concept, the functions of the BI application for direct native access to different data sources played an important role.
It was critical that current data be collected directly from operational systems and presented in a graphical dashboard to obtain a comprehensive overview of developments within the project. “This is where the WebFOCUS BI platform from Information Builders was able to demonstrate its strengths in native access to operational data,” said Regina Mühmel, financial director of the Project Office of the Energy Solutions Business Unit at Siemens Energy Fossil in Erlangen.
After choosing WebFOCUS to manage the CCGT power plant projects, work started on implementing the technical and IT requirements with a skilled and motivated team of business and IT experts. This included a sophisticated role-based access system that defined who can merely access data, and who can modify it by differentiating between the company’s management team, project managers, site managers, etc. Standard authentication methods were used to establish secure end-to-end connections to transmit the data, which the BI application requires from the various business applications.
The data sources that are used with the BI application also had to be examined and prepared from an IT perspective. In the first stage, the BI solution would access more than 20 different systems for project management, while in the second stage there will be more than 25. Staff from Siemens Energy IT, the Energy Solutions Business Unit, and consultants from Information Builders completed the initial pilot testing in just under six months. Siemens Energy was then able to obtain the skills required to maintain and develop the application in-house. In addition to this preparatory work, users got to know the system in a series of two- to three-hour training sessions.
Project Cockpit for Monitoring and Controlling
With the help of previously defined indicators, end users received all the key data on the status and progress of a project in a key performance indicator cockpit linked to the authorization system. The guided user interface is menu-driven and helps users to access and compile data, also giving them early warning indicators so they can respond effectively. “An important aspect is the concept of the single point-of-truth,” said Regina Mühmel. “There is only one way to access operational data. Where in the past we often had to consult manually compiled, error-prone Excel reports and data was collected in multiple locations, much of this is now automated. That’s what makes the BI application an integral part of controlling critical project processes, and how it ensures we work efficiently with the relevant data.”
For example, users can consult a progress curve on the graphical user interface of the Project Cockpit to see whether specific phases of construction are on schedule. This tracking information supports decision-making. “The figures and early warning indicators can’t make business decisions for you, but they can back them up with detailed and current numbers,” said Mühmel. “The knowledge, skills, and teamwork of employees are still the most important factors and can never be replaced by a tool. But having the right information at the right time helps us communicate better and take effective measures sooner.”
Project Cockpit provides a view of both individual projects and the entire portfolio. Portfolio comparisons provide a good way of learning from past experiences and gaining opportunities for improving future projects. This can then be used not only for the construction of CCGT power plants, but also for other plant construction solutions.
Siemens Energy anticipates that the BI application for monitoring and controlling the daily operations of CCGT projects will pay off within two years. “A BI project like this should be initiated and managed by respective departments,” concluded Mühmel. “Our business and IT staff also worked together closely to build up the right infrastructure and ensure smooth operation. With this BI solution, we’re now able to monitor the management of CCGT power plant projects faster, with less work, and at a lower cost, which gives us a competitive advantage.”