Don’t Fall Victim to Commissioning Gremlins: The Value of a Controls Expert

Dec. 27, 2021
Having an experienced controls expert on your design team will bring valuable insight into what needs to be addressed during the design phase and how to implement it.

During a new commissioning, have you ever found yourself fighting the “gremlins”? As a controls engineer, I know this feeling all too well. These gremlins can be anything from a poorly placed sensor to a process that seems fantastic in theory, but the specific conditions and ramifications cannot be duplicated on the actual production floor in practice. 

Sometimes these gremlins cannot be eradicated completely (see Murphy’s Law), but having the right people involved in the initial design of your system can significantly reduce the number of gremlins you have to problem solve for later. Having an experienced controls expert on your design team will bring valuable insight from the perspective of how things will get accomplished. How are we going to control the flow? How are we going to maintain our target temperature? How are we going to measure this volume? Where are these devices located in your building? These seem like simple questions, but given the right circumstances, these simple things can end up causing significant delays in commissioning. A controls expert knows what questions need to be addressed in the design phase that many of the other team members may not even know to ask.

It may seem like overkill to include many strategic team members on your design team but having more eyes on the job from the beginning is not a bad thing. Don’t get bogged down by “having too many cooks in the kitchen,” instead simply embrace that the more teammates that are included in the design phase will determine how successful the project is when implemented. This does mean that you will need to clearly define roles within a design team, but once you know who is responsible for sorting out certain details, you can all move towards a common goal.

One key area where a control experts adds significant value is their ability to have insight spanning multiple disciplines and industries. Having experience in so many different aspects of a business gives a unique perspective when it comes to philosophies on control and approach to automation. Very often when you have a new idea for your system it has been used in a similar set up for another business. Knowing whether or not his new idea will work prior to implementation is priceless. A well-placed control expert or system integrator can help you leverage your process knowledge with the right controls experience to design a solid system that works the best for everyone’s needs. Not to be too cliché but we actual find that teamwork (does indeed) make the dream work.

Dave Roosais a Senior Engineer at Avanceon, a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about Avanceon, visit its profile on the CSIA Industrial Automation Exchange.

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