Many documents can help integrators and customers commission equipment installations with a minimum of misunderstandings.
System integration always poses a number of complex technical challenges, which are compounded by the need for solution providers and end customers to work closely together to ensure that projects deliver the required results with a minimum of headaches. Close cooperation during the early phases of a program will go a long way in the effort to complete an installation with a feeling that the companies would like to pair up again later.
“Good communications between end users and integrators is always a challenge,” says Richard Anderson, senior automation specialist at Solid State Automation and Controls. “A lot of projects that have turned sour result from breakdowns in communications between end users and integrators. Problems can be associated with fundamental things like job roles and general expectations to mundane details like the color of graphics and alarm-handling characteristics.”
One way to avoid communications issues is to create a well-thought-out scope of work at the start of a job, Anderson said in a recent seminar presentation entitled “How to be successful with your solution provider.” The scope of work should include a broad project overview, detailing business needs and a project summary. Project deliverables should be clearly stated, along with goals and targets.
The scope of work should have several subsections, including a project scope segment that contains budget and technical data along with quantifiable goals. A project schedule provides deliverable dates, time restrictions and the expected project duration. The project management documentation addresses the issuing of payments, contracts and legal requirements, changes in the control process, contract administration and time management. Anderson notes that in this respect, projects with federal agencies often work more smoothly than those in the private sector because the contracts are very detailed.
Another important step is to understand the sheer size of automated systems. That’s important because systems often interact with other equipment. Integrators should have an instrument list for the system they’re working on, and know whether instruments are part of their system or another system. “That’s one of the most fundamental pieces of any project,” Anderson says.
Some of this information should be included in the purchase order, along with hard details like project schedules and payment details. That’s important because customers often refer to the P.O. when questions arise.
Once all these steps are complete, the focus will shift to the task at hand. Establishing a process flow map is one of many important steps. Basic processes will often be augmented by alternate processes, especially when there are multi-stage processes. These processes should include delays, decisions, start-stop, decisions and input/output documentation.
Network Diagrams are another must have for a successful project. The documentation for both network testing and mapping the process flow can be created using specialized software or even simple tools such as PowerPoint.
Many companies don’t create a sequence of operations document, but it can provide a simple way to provide information on the processes. Typically, a Control Narrative describes the program, explaining what planners want to design and build. The sequence of operations often provides great detail, describing the entire process. It’s usually the final record of system operation, and it’s helpful when it’s delivered to the customer along with maintenance manuals.
All this documentation needs to address safety as well as efficiency and performance. Safety encompasses many things; several of them can be described in a cause and effect matrix. These matrices often put all the inputs on one side, filling the grid with correlating states, for example listing all the outputs that are impacted when a given input’s status is “true.” The cause and effect matrix is also a good way to detail the operations of alarm panels and safety systems, Anderson says.
Example screens are another good tool for ensuring that solution providers and customers work together effectively. They don’t need to be artistically stylish, but they can demonstrate the concepts of programming and give customers a way to visualize the screens they’ll be seeing. If graphics need to be altered, it’s much easier to change icons and other factors at the early stages of the design cycle.
As the program begins winding down, the paper trail shifts to documents like the factory acceptance testing (FAT) checklists and commissioning signoff sheets. The FAT checklist is often reviewed in a sit-down where the customer and the solution provider ensure that everything is operating the way the user wants. This document shows what the customer wants to test and how the tests will be run.
The commissioning signoff is usually created to ensure that everything is hooked up properly. Everything is tested, with a focus on safety and cross communication. This step usually involves a fair number of people. Participating parties often include operators, maintenance personnel and even construction workers.
The role of documentation created early in the process can really play a critical role during these final examinations of the systems and operations. When documents don’t provide full descriptions of all relevant parameters, the possibility of conflicts rise sharply.
The successful projects occur more often when suppliers and customers work together to create documents, with both sides taking ownership for the concepts and technologies that are relevant to them.
“When both sides share ownership, when something happens it’s easier for them to come to a resolution,” Anderson says. “The documentation needs to be done early to ensure that the signoffs go more smoothly.Have an Inquiry for Siemens about this article? Click Here >>