In our previous article, we spoke with PlantStream CEO, Seitaro Narue, about the inspiration behind PlantStream. Now, we delve a little deeper into his future plans for the product.
Welcome back, Mr Narue. Let’s jump right in — we’d love to know your thoughts on artificial intelligence (AI), and if you’re working on anything related to AI at the moment.
I’m very interested in understanding what the oil and gas industry might look like fully automated, but that will likely take a few decades. It’s interesting to see that transition because, at least when it comes to design and construction, everything was done by hand up until the 1980s. Then in the Nineties, there were rudimentary 2D computer-aided design programs, with work done now in full 3D but still manually. What we are trying to do at PlantStream is take the next step from there, which is automation.
So you’re not quite satisfied with where PlantStream’s software is currently in terms of automation?
I think it’s going to take about five years to get to where I want to be. However, for the product to be in a really good state for customers to use, I believe it’ll take only a year or two more. What I’m trying to achieve is something much grander. I’m interested in the intersection of art and functionality in plant design. There is an artistic approach to designing a plant, and I think the software can help engineers strike that balance.
Another goal we’re trying to achieve is creating features within the software that not only help engineers know what they’ll need to design the plant, but also allow them to purchase materials directly within the software. We want PlantStream to be a platform where you can do anything you need to do to make a plant.
While you’re looking ahead five years, what do your current users think of the product?
Our clients are very pleased with Plantstream, but there is always room for improvement. A client’s experience really depends on who they are and how well they understand what it means to work in 3D. Those who are really invested in 3D and deal with it often do see some room for improvement in our product. However, those who have not yet gone from 2D but want to make the leap into 3D, are very satisfied.
Is it easy for people who have only worked in 2D so far to use PlantStream’s 3D software?
Yes, it is. In the planning phase of building a plant, a crazy amount of work needs to be done. Some of the tasks that need to happen during that phase can be completely automated with PlantStream. So those who would have normally done those tasks manually, now have time to focus on other tasks that require a more human-centric approach.
If you look at the image below, the orange part of the 3D model design process is what’s automated. The blue part is the work that needs to be done manually.
With our software, we give users more time for the tasks that only a human can do. This is the type of freedom we are offering our clients.
You faced some personal challenges too during the very intense years you spent as a plant engineer, right? How do you think these impacted the kind of leader you’ve become?
Yes, my father became ill and I needed to visit him during the week, usually a couple of times a week. This was really hard as I also needed to be 100% available for work at the time. Finding the right work-life balance was a challenge that I hope has made me understand the importance of this for my employees. Most of the time, my staff at PlantStream are able to get their work done during work hours and get home on time!
What do you think you could be doing better in your role at PlantStream — are there areas you’d like to improve?
Sure. Any area that might not be in tip-top shape is probably due to the fact that I need to be involved in so many aspects of the company and handling all tasks related to our clients, which doesn’t leave much capacity for getting totally involved in everything else. One change I’d like to see is getting more people involved in different tasks. I’m trying to organize that as best as possible.
Finally, do you think you’ve built a product that helps save others from some of the challenges you might have faced as a plant engineer?
Perhaps. For me, I really like the process. Making a power plant isn’t just a one-person task. It takes tens of thousands of people to accomplish this enormous achievement. And within all those people and projects, PlantStream plays just a small part. But I want to help streamline processes in a way that makes clients happy.