Front End Design - A Good Beginning = Successful End

Everyone knows that no building is stronger than its foundation or a company better than its corporate principles so it should be no surprise that a project will be no more successful than the planning that takes place at the start of the project. This is certainly true for any industrial installation and in particular an industrial communications project.

There are many opportunities to either take advantage of, or undermine the many benefits of digital plant networks during the Front End Design either through missed opportunities or simple errors/oversights.

Typical missed opportunities include:

-          Not making use of multivariable field devices (this saves on process connections, device purchases, field terminations, associated design…) however if the Main Automation Contractor also supplies the field devices, what incentive do they have to sell you less equipment?

-          Using “traditional” work practices for new work and design requirements. (Loop diagrams versus Segment diagrams, equipment procurement, etc.)

-          New techniques to minimise field construction costs (“palm tree” versus “branched tree” networks, panel prefabrication/modular construction, etc.)

-          Security and access with associated policy development.

-          Work practices – how will the ability to communicate to field devices as part of the network affect your work practices? (a change in the field device is now propagated through to the control system and vice versa)

-          Your experience and suggestions please?

Of course, the further along in a project that a change is made the more expensive it becomes, in part because of the necessary rework, but also because there is a cascade effect to other engineering disciplines. Experience has shown that as you progress from FED to Basic engineering a change increases by an order of magnitude.

Of course the key to avoid these mistakes is a combination of experience (which may mean bringing in consultants as mentors) and training. Many is the company who upon completion of their first or second ‘new technology” project who state, “We would have been more successful if we had done more training earlier in the project.”