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Monday
Mar312008

Equipment Information Exchange: AEX at FIATECH

It’s been a few years since I peeked in at AEX, the developing XML-based data exchange standard for specification and procurement of mechanical equipment. At the time, they were launching a proof of concept project for exchanging pump information, and I was rubbing my eyes to stay awake.

This time, AEX was discussing implementation now. The community has run the test cases. They have proved the concepts. At this meeting, people were discussing how to move into procurement using the AEX standards.

AEX has moved into the open in several ways. AEX now develops its schemas on SourceForge. This is radical stuff for standards groups. All posting and all revisions are placed in an open forum, freely available for anonymous download. Anyone in the world can make and submit revisions.

The pump description interoperability work is more exciting than it sounds. The committee has demonstrated an integrated data flow from the conceptual design through preliminary design to design review by the manufacturers. The manufacturers responded with AEX of their own actual products, including proposed changes to the specification that each of those products would require. During project estimation, engineers could review on a common format all the differences between the request and the proposals. This greatly speeds the purchase of materials and the accuracy of designs while providing information that can be used for maintenance during the lifetime of the project.

Of more interest to regular readers, General Motors has been trying to drive AEX data exchanges into their new plants, with a special focus on HVAC. GM has decided not to wait for vendors to provide AEX-compliant information. GM supplies an applet to its equipment suppliers for new plants and requires that they enter the information. This is wrong in every way but the most important one: it works today with the market conditions we have today.

The power industry was in raucous attendance. We are about to see historic levels of plant building, and the industry would like to see some stands of design and interoperability. The power industry has some very large databases of reliability and operating experience. It sounded like the industry has committed to delivering its metadata (their data structures, not their proprietary information) to the AEX process.

This is very exciting. The benefits of consistent early specification of performance and reliability are far greater than they are for detailed procurement documents. Sustainable design must be service oriented design, and service oriented design begins with performance and reliability. Perhaps we can harvest the AEX performance and reliability to describe the larger systems that are comprised of AEX-specifiable components.

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