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Application Engineering

A Practitioner's Perspective on ETA Project Delivery

"Our hands-on relationships in the AEC, EPC, integrator, and consulting engineering communities have been built on cooperation and shared knowledge."

The NBE application engineering group functions as the central point of process expertise for all the many bulk material handling projects we are managing; whether it's in pre-bid, engineering, production, or on-site. These projects are engineered for very different types of industries, and for very demanding applications.

NBE projects are specifically engineered-to-application. That means we are engineering to address enterprise-wide influences; not just those that are upstream and downstream on one particular line. We are engineering to the broader context of the application. That broader context includes that plant, other related plants, and out into the supply chain. These are not applications where a build-to-order BOM, or even an engineered-to-order machine would be sufficient.

Mechanical Engineering for Function, with a View Toward Context

The NBE mechanical engineering group designs from deep within the functional specs of a project, but, that's always done with a view toward the project's entire context. Here's how. The NBE mechanical engineering lead, together with leaders from other NBE practice areas, meet as a project review team. NBE may not have even accepted the project yet, but these teams go to great lengths to identify how, and where, NBE capabilities can bring performance advantages others may miss.

A case in point: as a design concept moves through mechanical engineering; the ME, knowing the objectives from the project review, sees an opportunity to bring innovation to what is a conventional, functional design. That departure from convention now becomes a feature that's easier to access and safer to clean. An easier, safer-to-clean design makes changeovers faster and more thorough. Faster and more thorough changeovers reduce the likelihood of contamination and improve TCO.

Automation Architecture Providing Enterprise-level TCO Insights

The NBE application engineering group is responsible for doing the process analysis, gathering the performance requirements data, and confirming the many other application inputs needed by the project team. This information is crucial for determining the optimal sequence of operations and the controls architecture for the project.

From the sequence of operations, and the controls architecture, will come the functional specifications, such as: rates, accuracies, and operator efficiencies that are so necessary at the enterprise level for acting on TCO and project life-cycle calculations. Clearly, this is not an off-the-shelf controls and automation engineering package. The NBE engineered-to-application methodology permeates an entire project, and that's reflected in the work of the NBE controls and automation group.

Highly Proactive and Collaborative PM Prevents the Paper-pusher Norm

The comprehensive scope of an NBE project requires the involvement of many people within our organization and at the end-customer. Often, there are also people involved from an AEC or EPC firm, an integrator, and another OEM. The NBE project management group avoids the reactive-information-provider norm of project management, to, instead bring our customers a highly proactive project execution management system.

This system becomes active, often, before a project is accepted by NBE. And, it continues through to project turnover, and into operations and maintenance stages. The participants in NBE projects are involved at multiple stages, and at varied degrees of frequency, and at fluctuating intensities. So, rather than functioning as just a static management information system, the NBE PM group, works with each participant in a dynamic and collaborative way. This way the project data that is being managed is relevant to the stage, the frequency, and the intensity of each participant.

Fabrication and Assembly Teams Driven to Optimize Project Process Efficiency

Because of the on-going work between the NBE application engineering lead and the NBE fab and assembly project manager, the NBE assembly team builds every project with full knowledge of the operational requirements of the application. These requirements may be utilities efficiency goals, HS&E procedures, changeover targets, and so on.

A knowledge base like this, throughout the assembly team, brings a perspective to the build process that is oriented toward optimizing the end-customer's process efficiency. The assembly team knows they have the ability to submit design, finishing, or component spec improvements if it means advancing the customer's operational performance. Because NBE projects are engineered-to-application, and not just build-to-order or engineered-to-order, participation by our fabrication and assembly team is as vital at the outset of a project as it is during start-up and validation.

The Priority of Quality Assurance, From Pre-release to Operations & Maintenance

It is the focus of the NBE customer service and quality assurance practice to ensure the application-specific engineering in an NBE project delivers process effectiveness for the end customer. That means, from the project's pre-release review, to the pre-inspection meeting with the project leaders, the NBE quality assurance team is working to provide a project that will improve the customer's uptime, throughput, and quality.

The NBE customer service group continues to provide process optimization to our customers from the time of commissioning and start-up, through to turnover, and long into the operations and maintenance future of the project.

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