April 2018 State of the Piping Business

At last the process piping business is showing some signs of recovery. For the first time in a while companies are hiring piping engineers and designers.

I have decided to issue my blog without any technical content and I shall ramble on about what is happening in our field of business.

Upon being awarded a contract to Design/ Build a plant, Western (European and North American) E.P.C. companies are sub-contracting the detail engineering overseas to places like India and China where labour costs are much less. E.P.C. companies are now only interested in the Front End of a project. This may or may not be due to MBA’s having more input into ‘the bottom line’.

The sub-contracted work is completed overseas and then relayed back to the home office to be checked for consistency and issued for construction. Numerous inconsistencies are often the norm.

Everything nowadays is ‘Fastrack’ and this results frequently in an inferior plant and piping layout with many errors which are left to ‘the field’ to fix. The costs that were saved initially by subbing out the design work are now offset by additional field corrections and poor layout practises that add to maintenance and operating costs.

This practise of using overseas companies to design plants will, of course, eventually result in less and less European and North American engineers and designers that will have gained the necessary ‘on the job’ experience required to complete a functional plant/piping design.