Getting the Greenfield OT Experience Right

June 5, 2023
Building a large greenfield (new) plant is a great opportunity for a manufacturer. However, it’s important to take the right approach to get buy in and not lose people over the time it takes to complete the project.

A key component for the successful implementation of operations technology (OT) in a greenfield plant is generating comprehensive Functional Design Specifications (FDS) for each area of the plant. An FDS includes information on which devices are involved in specific operations, how they will be configured and programmed, along with which control modules are used in each action. For a large facility, these detailed documents can be more than 500 pages, as the purpose is to be informative, concise and minimize any surprises along the way.

Once the FDS has been compiled, the next step should be an agile development process, where iterative detail is added to the FDS with the purpose of producing a foundation for the PLC, HMI and related systems. As the foundations are built, regular sprint reviews should be scheduled for collaboration with the stakeholders to ensure everyone is on the same page. This helps alleviate the risk of operators and key personnel not understanding and embracing the new system’s functions and layouts during the go-live phase.

By the time the facility’s design has been created, there should be an emphasis on methodical testing of all functionality. This phase consists of a simulated pre-FAT (factory acceptance test) and FAT and continues through the field installation, with any deviations noted in a detailed punch list that includes a record of the device status, as well as issues and resolutions. The purpose of all this testing is to ensure accuracy of the development and gain operational buy in. Given this purpose, corrections and/or suggestions are encouraged.

Following testing and commissioning (which are often executed in parallel), the next step is to train operators, maintenance and engineers. There should be a strong focus here on troubleshooting and developing detailed training material packets that are accessible online.

Specialized OT Functions

The value of a greenfield project is that you have the opportunity to engage new technology and approaches. This provides the opportunity to use new standards for all the devices, control and HMI layouts you have developed for the new facility. Standards are specifically designed to reduce the development time and increase the testing efficiency.

A simple and clean approach is desired for modern HMIs, so this stage provides is a great opportunity to include the use of high-performance HMI designs and situational awareness concepts to further draw the operators’ eyes to pertinent information and arising issues.

As a case in point, consider reinvention of your HMI layout for increased operator ease of use and to maintain its consistency throughout the plant. A simple and clean approach is desired for modern HMIs, so this stage provides a great opportunity to include the use of high-performance HMI designs and situational awareness concepts to further draw the operators’ eyes to pertinent information and arising issues. Last, but not least, take the opportunity to leverage IT tech in the OT world. This means having multiple dual monitor HMI stations throughout the plant with mobile HMI access via tablets and IT-approved smartphones.

Another specialized aspect of a greenfield project involves consideration of the MES (manufacturing execution system) interface.

When implementing an MES from scratch, it is easy to preserve key plant functions and data in a single place for MES consumption. Functions like OEE, quality, product, traceability and the overall workflow are more easily integrated when a ground up approach is taken. This can be achieved by implementing the MES interface along with the control system, SCADA and historian. This allows for key data points, statuses and calculations to be exposed for consumption by the various MES modules. A best practice to accomplish interface efficiency here is to develop an MES functional specification to manage and track the incoming data, then define the needed routines and calculations within the PLC.

Ruti Baumstein is marketing and sales specialist 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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