What Plant 3D Questions Will Power BI Help YOU Answer?

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October 5, 2021 | All, Plant 3D

Part of Series: Power BI and Plant 3D

One of the most overlooked benefits of using Plant 3D for your design process is the rich data that is automatically generated. This data has always been there, but it has never been easily surfaced in a way that makes it easy to ask questions to improve your design process or understand the quality of your designs. As part of our continuing effort to elevate the conversation around Plant 3D and business intelligence, we’re going to be showing you some ways that we can use Microsoft Power BI with Plant 3D to give anyone in your organization access to design data that they will find relevant.

Before we even think about the technical details of connecting Power BI to the P3D data, we first have to learn to think of that data as a resource for answering design questions. This series of blog articles will address some very basic questions that an engineering manager might ask about a project, and hopefully that will prompt you to think of some questions that might be more relevant to your situation. We’ll then show you how we are able to answer those questions using Power BI.

The first question that we feel might be important comes from a design team that frequently re-uses designs for process piping. This saves them a lot of time, but they ran into an issue where the client has standard pipe specs that their piping needs to adhere to. The mechanical design lead wants to know how successful the implementation of the client specs has been, and how many components in the pipe models are out-of-spec. Basically, first question we need to answer is “What is the magnitude of the issue we’re facing?”.

The following Power BI visualizations show a couple of important bits of information that would be valuable to someone who is not a Plant 3D user.

Specs in a Project and Number of Off-Spec Items Dashboard

The first is just a list of specs that are currently in-use for the project. Sounds simple, but without a license of P3D and some training, getting that information is not easy for the average person. The second is a graph of the number of items found in all project models that are out-of-spec, grouped by the spec that they are in. We can clearly see that CS150 has over 3000 components in this project, and because that spec is not in the project, these items need to be addressed by the design team. There are a small number of components using CustomParts Imperial, and these also should be reviewed to get them into a specification that is approved.

This looks fairly basic, and it is, but let’s keep in mind that this data is live project data. It is not some special report that took hours to extract and clean, nor is it days-old info from an Excel spreadsheet that sat in an Inbox until it was reviewed. This Power BI visualization can be placed on the network and anyone with a free installation of Power BI Desktop can view the live data, and with a click of the Refresh button, see it update in real-time. It works equally well for both SQLite and full SQL databases, too! Advanced users can build Power BI visualizations into project dashboards, greatly enhancing the transparency of your design process.

This is just scratching the surface, and that is the point of this article. We want to ‘prime the pump’ of your thinking to look at data as more than just a bunch of tables full of numbers and text and fire up your imagination to leverage the data Plant 3D generates to make your design process more transparent. Stay tuned to this series to learn more about how we connect Power BI to the P3D data and set up these basic visualizations. Also, be sure to register for AU 2021 and sign up for David Wolfe’s presentation on using Power BI with Plant 3D.

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