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Big Picture Thinking & Creativity for Custom Solutions

The first step of a project, process, or even new site is a concept design. Concept design, also known as macro design, is where big picture thinking and creativity collide to create a vision for not only the equipment needed, but also the evolution of facility solutions, integration plans, operations, cost savings, and improved performance without compromising production. Concept design is arguably the most creative and critical part of the design process.

Brainstorming is a Key Function of Concept Design

This often involves asking questions:

  • What problem does this concept solve?

  • How will we approach this concept?
  • What is the final goal of this concept?
  • What will it feel like to achieve this goal?

The stages of concept design look different to everyone but are usually a hodgepodge of white boards, sticky notes, graphs, charts and back of napkin calculations. Back of napkin calculations are an engineering fan favorite during process design and are critical in early decision and consideration of concepts.

sticky notes, white board and collaboration on a project board

Key factors of the concept design phase are to consider optimization options:

  • Can utility consumption be reduced?

  • How can we reduce footprints and optimize critical floorspace?

  • How can we reduce pollutants, waste products, and unwanted bi-products? Alternatively, what are the markets for these bi-products?

  • Are there opportunities for waste heat recovery?

  • What are the technical risks?

  • What are the safety concerns?

As the brainstorming process is completed the work of this phase commences. Drawings, process flow diagrams (PFDs), and preliminary budgets are created. This phase involves the activities associated with function formulation, concept generation, concept organization, concept evaluation, and concept improvement.

At the completion of the concept design phase, a Concept Design Review (CDR) is completed. CDRs are a business tool that enables stakeholders to review, critique, and evaluate the initial design and concept. This step is critical before moving on to more detailed design, budget, and planning activities. During the CDR the mission of the project should be clearly communicated, and the concept being considered should be reviewed for fit. Often this process results in a clean, clear new concept design path with mitigated technical risk. New facilities, new products, new technologies as well as major processes and plant modifications and new should utilize CDR review assistance as these all could benefit from accumulated expertise.

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