Project development is not an everyday occurrence at batch process facilities. To help ensure you are covering all the major issues involved in these infrequent work scenarios, here are some tips and considerations to facilitate a successful project startup.
1. Clearly identify the project specifications. What do you want to do? What is your existing process? Define operator involvement, quality control issues, interface points with other systems, and the technological capability available in-house.
2. Conduct a job risk assessment (JRA). Performing a JRA before the start of work highlights any hazards that could produce undesirable results to personnel or property. A safety assessment must be completed to ensure that the scheduled work can be performed in a safe manner and to address any hazards that are uncovered as a part of the review process.
3. Operator training is key. The operators must learn how to navigate and operate their process in the new control system. The training must be performed just in time (about two weeks before startup) so that the information is fresh in their minds. During the instruction, it is critical that the operators be trained using the operator interface graphics they will encounter.
4. Emphasize communications. Communicating with the site maintenance and operations departments is critical to the success of the project. Maintenance and Operations need to schedule their duties with enough lead-time to support the installation and startup activities. With enough time, maintenance can even contract back-fill support for the duration of the project startup activities. For operations, the work and vacancy relief schedule will have to be organized so that enough operators are available to cut over and start up the plant. This is especially important if a hot cut over is involved.
5. Have a detailed cut-over plan. Planning is crucial to any stage of an automation project. By putting together a detailed cut-over plan, the personnel performing the work will have a clear directive of the activities that need to be completed each day. The cutover plan will help keep the activities on task and allow the project manager to assess the progress of the work, create workarounds for problematic situations, coordinate with the plant operations, and drive the project to completion. A cut-over plan, at minimum, should include the I/O to be cut over and tested (including the order in which they are to be tested), any water testing through the process to verify configuration on the live plant, and the actual order of the first products to be run on the unit.
6. Devise a roles-and-responsibilities matrix. Defining the roles and responsibilities of all personnel and contractors involved in the project is key to delivering a successful project. By putting together this matrix and using it as a pre- and post-training reference for all staff, everyone involved will understand their responsibilities and perform the appropriate work.
7. Get management involved. Management at various levels, including upper management, needs to understand what is involved in the startup process and why it is critical to delivering on management’s expectations of the batch process facility’s operations. Communication and internal buy-in throughout the organization are very important aspects to a successful startup, and management’s visible support and connection to the project is critical to these aspects.
8. Be thorough in examining outside support. Be sure to determine if outside personnel, such as systems integrators, have experience in your industry. Is their knowledge transferable to the project? Evaluate their background and capabilities. What is the range of services they provide? Are there any commercial issues outstanding? Check references. Consider cost, but understand that the lowest bid is not always the best. A good resource for companies looking to hire control system integrators is the Control System Integrators Association, www.controlsys.org. This organization not only validates industry expertise, but also supports dependable business practices by its system integrator members.
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