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Vendor Database – The Achilles Heel Of Engineering Companies

Vendor Database – The Achilles Heel Of Engineering Companies I am not delving into Greek mythology. The title is a metaphor indicating that lack of a good vendor database is a weak point of many engineering companies. Absence of a proper database is an obstacle in providing good quality engineering services as well as enabling timely completion of the engineering services.

Let us understand, why a vendor database is required in the first place.

Many equipments and package items in the chemical process industry are even today proprietary in nature whose design is neither done nor understood by the companies involved in providing general engineering services. Let us consider some examples of what a general engineering services contractor is unable to do and has to depend on the vendor to incorporate it as part of the overall engineering package.

Let us start with the simplest of equipment. Vessels and Separators can be considered as a simple piece of static equipment. Many of the vessels / separators have internals such as special inlet devices (e.g. Schopentoeter, inlet diffuser etc), special gas / liquid distribution and separation devices (vane pack, mist eliminator etc.). The above mentioned devices are special devices which a general engineering services contractor would be unable to design although he may be able to provide the design for the vessel / separator as far as determining the overall dimensions of the vessel / separator as the length and the diameter. The vendors who manufacture these internals then come into the picture. They have developed in-house design procedures including using sophisticated design tools such as Computational Fluid Dynamics techniques to provide the design of the aforementioned internals. It is obvious that the engineering contractor has to depend on the vendor for the design of the vessel internals. If a proper vendor database is maintained, the engineering contractor can immediately refer this database and incorporate it into his design for a project where the equipment is of a similar nature as available in the database.

Another example is of pumps. Details of mechanical seals, stuffing box are vendor driven. Consumption of cooling water for bearing cooling or stuffing box cooling is provided by the vendor which will be incorporated by the engineering contractor in the cooling water consumption summary as part of the overall utility summary.

There is some misunderstanding in many quarters that a general engineering contractor is quite capable of designing an Air-Cooled Heat Exchanger (ACHE) using software such as HTRI and HTFS. I disagree with this viewpoint. ACHE design is still very much vendor driven. Even if I am able to design an ACHE using HTRI or HTFS as an engineering contractor, can I take the performance guarantee of the ACHE. The answer is no. If a reputed ACHE vendor proposes a design which is different from the one I have obtained using software, am I in a position to challenge his design and say that my design is better. Again, the answer is no. Of course, the vendor is obligated to provide a design which fulfills my objective of good design, operability, maintenance and cost and I can fully evaluate the merits and demerits of a proposed design by different vendors if I have the requisite knowledge on the subject. In the case of ACHEs also a vendor database would be helpful, since I could take the data of an existing ACHE for an identical application in a different project thereby saving time.

Packages such as Steam Generators, Nitrogen Generators, Thermic Fluid Systems, Water Treatment Plants, De-mineralized Water Plants are mostly vendor design driven with very little design scope for the engineering contractor. Most of these packages are long lead items and having a proper vendor database would be of the greatest advantage when similar requirements are there for any new project which the engineering contractor has undertaken.

In these days of fast-track EPIC (Engineering, Procurement, Installation, Commissioning) projects executed, a good vendor database would be a pot of gold for any engineering contractor. Good engineering contractors take a lot of pains in building, maintaining and updating a vendor database which goes a long way in their success.

Hope this topic proves to be interesting to all of you. Am looking forward to comments from the members of “Cheresources”.


like very much, absolutely correctly said
That is very true.The client always thinks that EPC can design anything and have answers of everything.
I am one of these vendors of packaged engineered systems, and wish our value was appreciated as much as you state above.
Qalander (Chem)
Jan 12 2012 10:59 AM
Dear Ankur,
I second your blog
  • it is indeed the weakest area in many petroleum petrochemical and process industries and
  • comprises of very complicated direct and indirect
  • associations,
  • likening, dis likening
  • lobbying and counter lobbying etc.
Thanks for highlighting the issue.
Best Regards
Jan 27 2012 02:45 PM
Dear Mr Ankur,

topic is very informative....

thanks a lot

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