Anyone who has been a project engineer knows that there are some areas of a project with more inherent risk to schedule and cost more than others. Areas like data integration between hardware, software and systems need early attention so that they can be resolved before the pressures of the critical path are felt.
One of the Emerson Exchange papers being presented in the Project Work Processes track is Data Flow Requirements for Main Automation Contractor (MAC) projects. Emerson’s Mike Simpson and Jim Davis from our West Coast Business Partner, Caltrol, convey processes, procedures, and tools for the information formats, milestones, sequences, and timing for smoother project execution.
Mike notes that many of the decisions for standards and responsibilities are made during Front End Engineering Design (FEED) phase. These have major impact on the data exchange processes during project execution. Their recommendation is to set the communications rules during this phase of the project and confirm all the data sources and predecessors.
The key is to designate a single coordinator for all data exchange. This person establishes the data exchange standards including: data types, formats, media, due date, supplied by, supplied to, risks. A database application with milestone alerts can help to issue project controls for completion and near term due exchange alerts and all long term milestones.
When on a project with a new process or process technologies, Mike and Jim recommend testing to avoid surprises. Split this work into two phases with the first phase, a thin slice phase and the latter, the main phase. The thin slice phase lets you test new hardware, control strategies, and/or communications to discover surprises. This testing helps avoid committing your entire project to the new technology and avoid assumed methods of engineering and implementation without assessing how it will work.
Mike and Jim show examples of how this applies in integrating process units and process skids using serial and digital bus-based communications and taking advantage of software tools like Intergraph’s SmartPlant Instrumentation to manage this project data flow.
Mike notes that it really boils down to early involvement in the FEED phase of these MAC projects where it is critical to plan these well-executed data hand-offs.