Is There Still a Need for Scan to CAD?

According to an AIIM post from Neale Stidolph, Head of Information Management, Lockheed Martin UK, at least one industry – oil and gas – still manages a great deal of paper in their engineering departments.

According to Mr. Stidoplph’s post “Most oil companies do not achieve data-centric engineering and do not practice engineering lifecycle management, though they may believe their engineering contractor does this for them. Records, drawings, specifications, datasheets and other documents are variously controlled, uncontrolled, lost, out of date, duplicated, rendered and generally not in an acceptable condition or one that can be used to advantage.”

Certainly, we find this to be true.

Our customer base contains several oil & gas companies who routinely come to us to have segments of their paper engineering drawings converted to digital, through the process of “Scan to CAD.”Scanning Legacy Oil & Gas Documents

Scanning Legacy Oil & Gas Documents

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the O&G industries are an amalgam of “cutting edge” systems, including 3D technologies, and “old school” ways of handling data, including pen and paper or early CAD systems.  We say this is an unsurprising mix, simply because this industry has spanned and survived a time frame of incredible technological advances.

And, like most industries, O&G puts its money where it will provide the biggest monetary return  – generally exploration.

“Those old legacy drawings are just fine sitting there in storage…we won’t make any money from them,” is the thought process.  And, that’s mostly true – until it’s not.  It’s not true is during a consolidation of companies, or when a company wants to cut costs.

Legacy information stored in multiple forms:  Paper archives, microfiche, scanned image files, and various types of electronic files or tape media.  It can be incredibly difficult to determine what has value and what doesn’t.

Converting legacy data can be both labors intensive and costly.  You may not have the manpower or the equipment to undertake such a time-consuming project.  So, how can you discover what you have and what its value is?

Determining What You Have

We recommend starting with safety-critical drawings and diagrams, such as P&IDs, isometrics, and line lists.  Working with a scanning service provider who can scan and OCR the documents will both cut costs and speed determination of the value of the documents.  This is not an activity that you should undertake “in-house.”  Scanning and OCRing old paper documents can be tricky.

The paper to CAD process must start with a high-quality scan.  This process, while it seems simple, requires high-accuracy scanners as well as highly-skilled scanning technicians.  Old paper drawings deteriorate, may be wrinkled, torn, stained, folded, and each of these issues requires knowledgeable strategies to achieve a clean scan.   Remember, image quality is everything.  The adage of garbage in, garbage out holds true when you’re converting engineering drawings to your CAD system.   If two lines are muddied and appear as a single line in a scan, that’ll give you an inaccurate CAD file.  The scanners should be able to provide the best-scanned raster image possible, and then that image should be rectified to make sure it is aligned properly, scaled correctly, and that it measures correctly on all axes points.

Next, the scanned raster image needs to be converted to your CAD vector format.  There are several different methods to convert drawings into CAD — heads-up digitizing, commercial R to V software, custom wrote CAD conversion scripts and software, or some combination of all three.

An experienced CAD conversion outsources company will be able to determine the method that provides the best result CAD conversion for your type of drawings.

Use the Scanned Data for Analysis

Once the labor-intensive data and OCRing is completed, you will have the data in a format that enables you to analyze the results. You will be able to see risks that need to be addressed, equipment that needs to be replaced, systems that need to be updated.  Conversion of legacy files can help you determine the best way to proceed into the future.

The benefit of legacy data conversion can be ongoing savings in operations and maintenance.  While the yearly savings may be only a percent or two, saving that amount annually going forward can make a big difference to the bottom line.  Convert your legacy data, analyze what you have,  and start managing better.


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