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Instrument Engineering System Closes Loop With AutoCAD

The Renaissance System® For Instrument Engineering ...

Terry Wilford's customers are engineers who didn’t give up on the idea of automating their document production. After trying everything from spreadsheets and databases to project engineering packages, along and in combinations, they came to Wilford, who is President of Renaissance for the Renaissance System® for Instrument Engineering. Before Renaissance®, users’ systems generally stored information in multiple databases for different software packages. It was difficult to figure out where and how to look for data, and hard to control revisions of multiple databases. With Renaissance®, users are able to keep all their design data in a single, up-to-date database.

The software is designed specifically for instrumentation and control engineering, says Kevin Andelin, I&C engineering for Abbott Laboratories, North Chicago, Ill. It is made to produce I/O lists, loop diagrams, cable box diagrams, and other I&C documents. The package is compatible with AutoCAD. "The loop drawing part was the big seller for me," Andelin says. "I can access the database automatically and put out current, as-built loop drawings at any time." A single, easily-accessed repository for all kinds of I&C data invites users to store lots of data for diverse purposes. Roy Prewitt, electrical and instrumentation department manager at RPM Engineering, Baton Rouge, La., is assembling complete data on each of the plants of his major clients. He also has customized report templates to satisfy each client’s requirements. While there is a significant initial investment to get the data and formats set up, Prewitt finds he can offer the client superior service and reduced costs for second and subsequent projects. "We don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time," he says. "Field experience can be used to update project management data such as installation man-hours and product costs. This information can be used for more accurate product selection and project costing, adds Prewitt. Fast, accurate estimates help win bids and build business relationships."

Entering all the necessary data is an onerous, ongoing task, users agree. But the Renaissance® package is simple and user-friendly enough to allow data to be entered by a clerk under an engineer’s supervision. "I can outline the work, then have others, who are less technical, do a large portion of it," says Andelin. Engineers are relying mainly on demonstration, tutorials, and examples to figure out how to use the software. "They came in and gave us a demo and showed us a little about it," says Dennis Thibodeaux, senior control engineer at Olin Chemicals, Lake Charles, La. "Once you get going, it’s pretty self-explanatory." To date, the applications are DOS-based. A new Windows version is being distributed that should improve user-friendliness. "I’m looking forward to the Windows version. On the DOS version, you have to know how to write a query in order to find a record," says Thibodeaux. "That should be improved in the Windows version." Despite the positive response to the package, some users see room for improvement. Like other users, John Harden, instrumentation and electrical maintenance engineer at Quantum Chemical, Clinton, Iowa, found the documentation to be "not really tremendous. It shows a lot of examples, but you have to dig some of the stuff out yourself." He says. While users found the documentation to be of limited value, they were enthusiastic about Renaissance’s customer service. "We had a real learning experience on the system configuration. Part of it was our company standards on what memory manager to use and how we’re configured. Once we made a separate configuration, everything worked," says Andelin, "but then I had problems with my hardware." Renaissance worked with Compaq and Microsoft to resolve the problem, he says. "They were determined to get us and running."

Package prices range from $15,000 for a single-user windows version through $38,500 for a five-user network up to $250,000 for a site license. "It’s not cheap!" says Andelin, but "the value is there immediately, in loop drawings alone." He says he paid for the package with his first "couple-hundred thousand dollar" project. Prewitt says that once the data is in, loop sheets take only 1-2 hours instead of 8-12 hours. Savings are there for users willing to learn that "the object is no longer the drawing, it’s the database," he says. "There's a lot of data to be put in. Either an engineer on a new project or a technician or a clerk entering that stuff is going to be a lot easier and cheaper and quicker than having a draftsman generate all those CAD drawings," says Harden. He is looking forward to when all his loop sheets will be generated automatically. "The value is tremendous."

Reprint from Control Magazine

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