In today’s world of increasingly smart devices, connectivity and matching protocols are critically important to the smooth, economical, and rapid startup of the plant. If the controls integration task is not properly done from the very beginning, a plant that’s 95% complete can languish in startup for weeks or months until proper function of control devices is achieved, and proper communication between critical equipment is allowed to effectively interface with the overall plant supervisory control and data acquisition system (SCADA).
Bring Integrator in Early
Since control and information system engineering is an engineering task at its heart, it should be handled in much the same way as the site civil, structural, building, process, mechanical and electrical engineering tasks are handled. The CSI should be a part of the design team, and must be brought into the design phase prior to the selection of major equipment and control components to review them from a control system standpoint. The CSI should be selected based on similar criteria and with same care as the responsible engineering firms. These criteria include credentials, length of time in business, appropriate experience, competence, references, and knowledge of the process and the industry.
Leaving the CSI’s is critical engineering tasks out of the design process, automatically selecting the low bid, and putting the CSI under the supervision of the construction manager or general contractor is an invitation to an unsatisfactory controls system. It also can mean a long and expensive startup, a potential controls disaster, and the added expense of the construction manager’s markup on controls work in which he plays little or no part. Many users have learned the hard way where the CSI truly belongs on the construction team, and now carefully select and position the integrator where he can bring the most value to the design and construction process. The CSI should first be a member of the design team, and then transition into the construction process as the owner’s controls engineer, working with the design engineer and the installing trades. This will help to assure smooth startup of a plant that is truly under the automated control of a precisely designed, fully developed, and carefully installed control system.
Questions For Integrators
From a Plant Engineer
Provide a list of references and/or trade and professional certifications or affiliations that indicate comitment to industry best practices and guidelines.
Regarding your experience in chemical processes or manufacturing, do you have experience implementing Advanced Controls?
Are you familiar with ISA-88 or implemented batch controls? If so, describe your experience.
Is your company a registered member of the Control Systems Integrators Association (CSIA)?
Describe your experience in the integration of and networking of open systems using OPC, Control Net, Foundation Fieldbus, Modbus and others.
Now, more than ever, manufacturers rely on good systems integrators to "peak lop" in times of high capital expenditure. But more than that, many of today's integrators offer system upgrades, maintenance and management services, and even training. They're able to do this on-site or remotely. They form relationships with a small number of manufacturers and become an extension of the workforce.
Maurice Wilkins, Chairman, WBF
Nels Tyring is commonly considered the father of control system integration, and is a successful integrator and founding member of CSIA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org