The key to project success

by Derek Marston, project manager and controls system engineer, POWER Engineers
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POWER Engineers

What is the benefit of having your functional description or control philosophy reviewed and understood by the whole of the project team, including operations, early in the project? A greatly improved startup curve and turnover to operations.

In layman’s terms, the control philosophy is a written, detailed description of exactly how the new system or line will operate. It is typically written by a controls engineer with great collaboration from the process or mechanical engineers that designed the system. This document explains in detail how the system starts up, what buzzers or lights might be needed and what they indicate, and what interlocks and safeties are designed or programmed into the system to protect the equipment and personnel. But this is only the first step.

This document should then be reviewed with your engineers, operations, and maintenance groups in detail, prior to beginning any programming. Admittedly, it will be a long day or two to get though the document, but it will be completely worth it.

During the review meeting with your entire project team, you will learn what the plant preferences are for how they want equipment to start up, what level of interaction they want their operators to be involved with, and what decisions they would prefer to have a PLC make in code. You may learn what issues they have had with other control systems. In particular, you’ll identify the issues they have had in the past and want to ensure their new control system does not include. You may also learn what parts of other systems they have loved and wish that any new control system would incorporate.

However, I believe that the most benefit you will get with the operation and maintenance staff will be in buy-in and cooperation. Once you involve them with this process, they will understand that not all of their ideas will be incorporated, but they will also understand that they were a part of the process. Many of their requests or ideas will be incorporated, and they will feel like part of the team. As a consequence, during the startup, they will be out there with you making the system better, collaborating with you about performance and collaborating with you on details that you can only know after actually seeing it run.

The bottom line is, instead of avoiding the new project that is someone else’s problem or having a “call me after you get it running attitude,” operations will be on your team from Day One. You will have won support at the plant level that is necessary for your project to succeed. The more interaction you can get with your team, the better the results.

This story is sponsored by POWER Engineers, which has one of the most comprehensive teams of engineers and specialists serving the baking and snack industry. As an extension of its clients' engineering teams, the company provides program management, integrated solutions and full facility design for the baking and snack industry. Learn more at www.powereng.com/food.

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