Offshore marine engineering company uses Femap to expand its engineering capability
LOC Group member, Longitude Engineering, uses Siemens PLM Software technology to optimize efficient global collaboration for business growth
Reducing risk through reliable engineering
The overriding concern for clients, contractors and direct suppliers operating within the shipping and offshore energy industries is risk reduction. With technical expertise and hands-on experience, LOC (London Offshore Consultants) Group, is a recognized leader in this area, focusing on transportation and construction in the marine environment and advising on technical matters when accidents and disputes arise. The ability to predict performance in a range of circumstances is critical, particularly with regard to the structural design and analysis of offshore structures. This is the specialist area of LOC Group company, Longitude Engineering, which as a part of its core services assesses strength, fatigue and vibration in fixed and floating structures.
Much of the engineering input required for a marine project is unique, particularly as structures are typically built specifically for each application, or modified for a specific project need. Core tools that analyze performance and strength are therefore critical and Longitude Engineering relies on Femap™ software from product lifecycle management (PLM) specialist Siemens PLM Software for global and local finite element analysis. “We use Femap because it is proven software with a reliable front end in which we have trust,” explains David Bignold, director, Longitude Engineering. “As a commercial tool, Femap is used all over the world for challenging projects in aerospace, defense, automotive and industry, so we know that it has been thoroughly tested.”
Global team efficiency
With 35 offices worldwide, LOC has access to many potential markets, yet the specialized capability underpinned by Femap was initially limited to just one of Longitude Engineering’s sites. Although larger offices within the group did undertake some engineering, smaller offices simply did not have access to the tools. “There was clearly a huge opportunity to strengthen our engineering capacity, be more consistent when bidding for multi-national contracts and deliver a better service to customers,” says Bignold. “It seemed to me that extending and encouraging the use of Femap was key, yet it was difficult to build a business case for this on the traditional model of named user licenses for specific locations. Siemens PLM Software and our partner TEAM Engineering came up with the perfect solution.”
With licenses available across a wide area network in five different time zones, consultants across the globe can now standardize on Femap. “Our network across the company used to consist of individual servers specific to each office. Now we have connectivity across all our servers and engineers can access Femap on their own computers,” comments Bignold. “The software is actually on their machines, they log on to a license and it is easy to see exactly who is logged on.”
This allows ‘follow the sun’ efficiency for LOC’s global workforce. For example, as United Kingdom (UK) engineers begin their business day, they can take over licenses used by co-workers in Singapore; and at the end of their day they pass them to users in the United States. As there is no fixed overhead for using Femap, there is every incentive to access a license for any analysis need. “It is a very cost-effective solution,” says Bignold.
Easy to use yet powerful
For Bignold, one of the outstanding benefits of Femap is ease of use: “I had learnt finite element system a decade ago, but not touched it for years, and then I decided to check out a lifting beam I had designed. Without any instruction, I was comfortably using Femap within a couple of days. It really is a very easy, quick and reliable means of modeling information. As long as you know what you are looking for as an engineer, you can figure it out. I encourage graduate engineers to have a go, confident that they will quickly learn. I have also noticed that new users across the group have been picking up the software and doing fairly complex things with it.”
The structural analysis undertaken at Longitude Engineering typically involves the assessment of stresses, deflection, vibration and fatigue in structures; from analysis of a simple structure using manual calculations to full global analyses using frequency and time domain methods. Calculation of a local model, for example, a single item on a vessel, might take anywhere between a minute and half an hour. To run a global model to assess a whole ship only takes two or three hours. Even a complex non-linear analysis can be completed within 12 hours.
Longitude Engineering has a range of industry standard design software and because the structures it designs are relatively simple, the company’s engineers work in 2D, producing drawings for suppliers who build the structures. As Femap is engaged to analyze comprehensively in 3D, users can model up from 2D to 3D within Femap or import complete 3D models. “We know that Femap works with any CAD (computer-aided design) package,” notes Bignold. “As a solver, Femap gives dependable results; in fact, we cannot do our work without it.”
Focusing on the fine detail
The use of Femap is helping to achieve engineering consistency across the group, with LOC operating at a high level and Longitude Engineering going into the full detail. According to David Bignold, the role for LOC and Longitude Engineering is to provide better information. Femap is used to show, for example, what forces a structure can withstand, or where material can be reduced. “Clients do expect us to know worst case scenarios, particularly when they do not have their own in-house engineering expertise,” he says. “We have the capability to do a very powerful analysis like a non-linear calculation to estimate the structural response and size of a dent that would be created in the event of a boat impact against a fixed or floating structure.”
Speeding up development capability with FEA fuels future growth
With the ability to quickly identify areas of high stress using Femap, engineers can easily redesign a structure to reduce stresses on certain areas then assess it again. This approach is enabling LOC to improve its overall speed of development due to the ease with which Femap models can be manipulated. In addition, when a deadline has to be met, engineers can pass models from one office to another, maximizing their effectiveness.
In terms of business growth, the advantage for LOC is that it is now a one-stop shop offering design and assessment of structures using finite element analysis. David Bignold notes, “Working independently or together, LOC and Longitude Engineering need to be looking for big projects across the world. A portion of these projects will include finite element analysis and Femap has the power to do more than we need. In fact, without a finite element tool half of what we do would be difficult; fatigue calculation, for example, would be impossible without a tool like Femap.”
Within three months of the Femap implementation, a major achievement was marked when LOC’s Australia office was awarded a large contract for a range of structural and naval architectural tasks. “Without the ability to carry out structural analysis with Femap, it would have been impossible to tender for the job,” says Bignold. Initially valued in the region of 200,000 AUD, new work is continually being added to the contract.
Shortly after that award, LOC was asked to quote on the first part of a multi-million contract to be managed from the United States. Bignold explains, “The engineering will be done in the UK but we will utilize our licenses so that our co-workers can review and modify our work. This type of collaboration will enable us to win substantial contracts.”
Bignold concludes: “LOC will not invest without clear value. By making Femap licenses available across the group, we have made clear gains and in the future we expect to implement more licenses.”