The Importance of Defining an Automation Project
By: Bernie Lyons, Shop Manager/ Senior Designer
There are many components to a successfully completed automation project. One important step is determining exactly what the goal of the project is, and how success will be measured. Time spent up front defining the project should result in fewer unanticipated changes or additions during project implementation. Also helping prevent scheduling changes and change orders.
Ideally the customer would have a project specification document or a description of the project as part of a “request for quote” (RFQ). Either of these documents should provide as much information as possible at the time, understanding that further detailed requirements may be fleshed out during conversations between the end user and the integrator. For projects where there is no existing scope document the customer should sit down with the potential integrator and describe the goals as best they can. From this conversation the integrator should be able to determine specific requirements:
- brand and type of major components
- operational requirements and sequence of operation
- safety requirements
- hazardous location requirements
- anticipated schedule
These discussions should involve as many of the project stakeholders as possible such as plant/process engineering, maintenance, safety officer, and production representatives. In some cases, it may be appropriate to involve representatives of major component vendors.
If the project is a modification or retro-fit to an existing system, any and all information and documentation that exists regarding that system can be valuable and give the integrator insight into the function and capability of the original system. Functions or features desired that the existing system doesn’t provide should be discussed as well as features included in the original installation that are no longer required. Devices, or components of the existing system that are installed but not functioning, but will be required in the upgraded system need to be identified as well. In some cases, these devices or components may require attention for the customers’ maintenance personnel or others. Also, components that will be reused may require evaluation to determine if they are compatible with the new proposed control system.
For many projects and customers, the testing, commissioning, and project document requirements are extensive and should be defined as well, as they can be a significant part of the project effort and cost. Projects that require a budgetary quote or estimate, less detailed information is required; however, the estimated costs will generally be higher due to the lower level of detail information.
In summary, time spent up front of the project defining and communicating the goals to all parties involved will reduce cost, rework, and schedule delays.