I’m sure you’ve found answers by now, but for the benefit of others…
Blender’s linking abilities are explained here:
And be sure to read about Groups:
It all depends on the project, but the Coal Process grew on it’s own. Another employee did some modeling which I would import into a new scene in the project. After cleaning things up and applying materials I would add the model (selecting all it’s parts) to a new Group. This group was then “linked” via the DupliGroup feature (see manual) and positioned via it’s Empty.
All the piping parts you see were appended from another project into a new scene and integrated in the same manner. It also made sense to do the exterior and interior as separate scenes. Things stay more organized that way.
I think I also had 3 different interior scenes for the major camera moves. Most of the geometry was shared (linked) between them all. In addition to different cameras and camera animations there was additional geometry for different particle effects.
It was nice to let the blend file grow organically with the project. Mind you, I was using meaningful names for meshes and materials – as well as the scenes.
Blender’s library system is a great strength that new users should take time to understand.