Information carriers and system granularity

December 6, 2021

This is a supporting article, if you have not yet read Digital strategy - Becoming data driven we suggest you start there.

The granularity of the system

The granularity of a system typically translates to the level of detail (as defined by the “smallest” objects) that is reflected in the system. For an engineering system - one 3d object or a drawing might constitute an object or item in the system. For a planner, a detail activity might constitute the lowest level of detail. For a purchaser the article numbers involved in a certain purchasing package may be the “atoms” in the system.

Information carrier objects

To be able to logically connect the entities and present data to the user in a practical way, we typically introduce information carrier objects: objects to group the data relevant to the current stage of value production. Examples of these may be; engineering work packages, 3d control objects, procurement packages or high level plan activities (containing sub activities). 

Additionally, the introduction of information carriers helps to mitigate the fact that the number of objects varies greatly over the project lifespan. During concept design only a few objects are defined. During detail engineering (as the scope is detailed for construction) the complexity and number of objects increase greatly, well into the fabrication phase. The number of active objects only decreases once groups of physical parts are assembled to blocks or subsystems. Typically, the number of objects within an EPC contract will develop (conceptually) as illustrated below:

This presents the system designer with a few problems:

  • The varying number of objects.
  • The different selection criteria of objects needed to perform each task optimally (eg engineering by piping system, fabrication by plate/profile and unit type, purchasing by material grade and uniform thickness).

Using information carrier objects is a workaround to achieve this. Objects can be grouped into static or dynamic “groups” required to address the needs of users throughout the value chain. They may be manually added, or result from a query. And they may be populated by more and more objects as the project maturity and level of detail increases.

To summarize, it is central that the granularity of the digital support system is adapted to user needs (making the data understandable, accessible and actionable). It is again likely that the system requires to be set up to support the needs of your business and domain. What level of detail adds value?

The future success of your digital strategy is likely tightly linked in building an understanding of the concept of granularity and matching this to user needs. See: Understanding your data needs

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