Plant industry hots up

1624 0

Recent events indicate that the Process Plant software market is heating up. Following Intergraph being acquired, the Plant industry has received new offerings from Autodesk and Bentley Systems.

For those that follow the Process Plant industry, this year has seen some unusual and significant changes in the dynamics between the software vendors. Hexagon, which owns brands such as Leica, recently bought Intergraph, developer of PDS, for $2.1 billion.

Autodesk has released Autodesk Plant Design Suites, which combines groups of existing Autodesk products in value bundles.

Autodesk also shipped its first 3D piping system, and then a Process Plant bundle, and now Bentley has just significantly updated its OpenPlant Modeler V8i, which features breakthrough collaborative working technology.

While the positions of the main players have remained relatively stable for the last decade, it appears that now competition is increasing between old and new foes.

Autodesk has not always been a player in the market but there were many that used vanilla AutoCAD to create piping and instrumentation (P&ID) diagrams. Autodesk finally decided to create a 2D vertical product last year with AutoCAD P&ID. Considering this product had only been on sale for a year, Autodesk also appeared to be focussed on moving into the 3D modelling part of the market and quickly followed this up with AutoCAD 3D Plant 3D, trying to hit some of the big established developers.


This month, Autodesk has released Autodesk Plant Design Suites, which combines groups of existing Autodesk products in value bundles. There are two versions on offer — Plant Design Suite Premium and Plant Design Suite Advanced. In the Premium collection the software includes AutoCAD 2011, AutoCAD P&ID 2011, AutoCAD Plant 3D 2011 and Autodesk Navisworks Simulate 2011.

The Advanced flavour offers the same design tools but with Autodesk NavisWorks Manage 2011 included instead of Simulate, offering access to such features as 3D clash detection.


Autodesk has just started to offer these ‘Suite’ bundles across its key target markets (Manufacturing, AEC and Plant) and offers considerable cost savings over buying the individual software. It is looking to expand and secure its footprint in the Process Plant industry and offer 80% of the functionality for 20% of the price of competitive solutions.


Creator of MicroStation and PlantSpace, Bentley Systems has done much to consolidate its position within the leading pack of the Process Plant fraternity. Originally incubated at Intergraph, but turned enemies after an acrimonious split, the company has built a strong and vital global user base all running on its MicroStation core.

The company has had a habit of developing and showcasing technology that does not make it into its products for years and with this new version of OpenPlant, finally delivers on some of the collaborative potential I remember seeing over five years ago.

This month Bentley announced three new OpenPlan products:

  • Bentley OpenPlant Modeler V8i — Bentley claims is the only plant modelling software to natively support workflows that combine software standards including DGN, RealDWG, point clouds, and PDF. OpenPlant ModelServer V8i can automatically migrate Intergraph PDS models, piping catalogues, and piping specifications so data can be reused for design modifications. This is also the first 3D plant modelling software to natively use the ISO 15926 data model as specified by the iRING user community.
  • Bentley OpenPlant ModelServer V8i — harnesses the collaborative power of ProjectWise collaboration services, which manages both files and components. The support for component management means that it is actually possible for project teams to work on interoperable workflows across multiple design environments, including Intergraph’s PDS as well as Bentley’s AutoPLANT and PlantSpace.
  • Bentley OpenPlant Isometrics Manager V8i — allows the extraction and incorporation of intelligence from 3D plant models, automatically and in real time.

Bentley claims this ‘on demand’ intelligent generation of isometric views benefits owner-operators throughout the plant lifecycle beyond procurement, fabrication, and construction to “as built” and “as safely operated” maintenance and compliance.

The new generation of MicroStation-based Plant products, working at the component level, finally delivers on the company’s vision of enabling real-time modelling between many live users. This was originally envisaged to be a big game changer for the company when ProjectWise was devised. The maturity of the technology and the collaborative nature of Plant projects will take the maximum benefit from this. It will be interesting to see how this technology rolls out into Bentley’s other markets.

Bentley’s global subscription pricing is also seen as targeting the expensive legacy UNIX design systems For example, with Bentley’s Designer for Piping Passport Subscription (OpenPlant), individual piping designers gain access to Bentley OpenPlant Modeler, Bentley OpenPlant Isometrics Manager, ProSteel Modeler, ProjectWise Passport, and ProjectWise Clash Resolution Visa — plus complete virtual training — for the single annual fee of $5,995. Bentley OpenPlant products through perpetual licenses, which cost $7,295 for OpenPlant Modeler V8i, $25,000 for OpenPlant ModelServer V8i, and $6,500 for OpenPlant Isometrics Manager V8i.


Leave a comment