Distributed Control / Systems Integration / Optimization / SCADA

Automation Software: Using SharePoint on a Project

Maverick Said Customizing SharePoint Was the Key to Project Cohesiveness and Success

By Dan Hebert

When system integrator Maverick Technologies began working with a dairy products manufacturer, they relied on SharePoint extensively.

The project involves a multi-site manufacturing execution system (MES) rollout that included migrating all existing I/O to a standardized platform, and adding more than 500 new devices, such as flowmeters, scales, barcodes and scanners, to each plant to provide the necessary process information to the MES. The project is a multi-year program currently in the pilot phase.

Both the customer and Maverick have multiple people working long hours, across multiple time zones, often outside normal business hours.

Dave Van Manen, PE, PMP and operations manager for enterprise integration at Maverick, says, "For this customer, customizing SharePoint was the key to project cohesiveness and success. While internal teams meet multiple times a week with the customer via WebEx/Join.Me/LiveMeeting, we found the most effective tool for overall project management to be SharePoint."

SharePoint is just a toolkit that's most effective when it's custom-configured for the project, he explains. "What we've done is implement project-specific structures, workflows, rules of engagement, dashboards, alerts and how-to files to ensure everyone's work is up-to-date and accessible," he says.

SharePoint provides real-time management of project documents in a secure environment. Security extends to "internal use only" areas, and a "check-out" system ensures only one user can update a document at a time. This guarantees everyone is working off the most current information. This applies specifically to P&IDs, functional design specs and bills of materials.

"Version history is tracked so we can see who changed what and when," explains Van Manen. "It helps us stay organized. Individualized dashboards/KPIs for developers, team leads, PM and customer items requiring action float to the top."

Maverick combined collaboration technologies by hosting WebEx/Join.Me/LiveMeeting in conjunction with SharePoint. "Reviewing HMI screens and graphics is difficult when everyone isn't looking at the same image," explains Van Manen. "Because people tend to remember more when seeing information as well as hearing or reading it, this combination allowed us to be more effective."

Prior to kicking off the project, the internal Maverick team leaders met face-to-face to ensure the internal team was aligned on the project scope before engaging their other team members. Then Maverick held a kick-off with the client, where introductions, team building activities and working sessions with the SharePoint tools/methodology all helped confirm the value of Maverick's collaboration method. "We provided the customer with workflow charts and how-to documents on Maverick's collaboration process, and we're constantly improving it," says Van Manen.