Project Management, Big and Small

This issue of Automation World is devoted to all aspects of project management—from budgeting (p. 13), project management skills (p.

24), and “thinking outside the box” (p. 62), to tips from DuPont on how to get projects approved by corporate management (p. 33).

But what happens if the project includes some new cutting-edge technology, such as wireless networking? And how do you plan for the ongoing service and maintenance needs after the project is implemented? Two engineers found their project management skills were put to the test in these scenarios.

Louise Chuang, staff process control engineer with Celanese Chemicals (www.celanese.com), and Lee Swindler, principle engineer for Lyondell-Equistar (www.equistarchem.com), share several commonalities. They are both professionals in the chemical industry, are both based in Texas (Pasadena for Chuang, Channelview for Swindler) and both are Honeywell customers who presented their applications at the recent Honeywell Users’ Group Symposium, hosted in Phoenix by Honeywell’s Process Solutions business (www.honeywell.com/acs).

And while both Chuang and Swindler work for global companies with multibillion-dollar sales revenues, their experiences show that good project management skills are just as effective in multi-site applications as they are in a single installation.

In Chuang’s project, the installation environment at the Celanese Pasadena facility was a Class 1, Div. 2 area, and involved replacing NEMA 4-enclosed personal computer-based human-machine interfaces (HMIs). Chuang found she could install wireless networked handheld tablets for a similar cost as the NEMA 4 HMIs, and achieve the benefits of “view from anywhere” data collection using handheld terminals, and wireless data transmittal directly to the plant network.

One of the main concerns for the project was data security. Chuang used a stepped approach, implementing a security plan that evolved from Wireless Access Point (WAP), to Cisco LEAP (lightweight extensible authentication protocol) encryption, to the final iteration, which is LEAP combined with a Cisco firewall.

Lessons learned

The lessons Chuang learned on this project include: Specify your security needs upfront. Ensure adequate wireless coverage. Ensure access perimeter security. Have reasonable expectations for what can be done with wireless devices. And, make sure you deploy plenty of user training.

While Chuang’s project was more limited in scope, the task for Swindler, of Lyondell-Equistar, was to streamline the management of 12 separate automation service contracts across five U.S. sites. Among the problems of this traditional approach were varying levels of support, little feedback from Honeywell on actual usage, difficulty in funding hardware upgrades, and an annual struggle to justify individual contract renewals.

Swindler chose to consolidate the separate service contracts into one multi-year Honeywell Integrated Service Agreement that includes software updates and upgrades, technical support, and a training match fund. The other components are programs for parts availability, parts usage, labor and hardware migration.

In moving to the single, long-term service program, Swindler’s development process mirrors that of any successful project. First, he says, assemble your team. Next, define the potential benefits. Then, go through a discovery process. Next, develop the contract, and finally, roll out the plan across the sites.

Among the many benefits of this approach, says Swindler, are a much higher level of service at a lower cost, unified consistent support across sites, and the ability to fund upgrades as expenses, rather than from capital budgets. The program must be working, because savings in 2003 totaled almost $1 million.

So whether your project is big or small, good project management skills can help you add to your company’s bottom line.

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