Readiness: The New Project Deliverable?

Aug. 8, 2008
The Commitment to Ensure Operational and Business Readiness Far Surpasses Traditional MAC Relationships
By Keith Larson, Group Publisher/Vice President of Content

From roles as main instrument vendor (MIV) to main automation contractor (MAC) and now beyond—the major process automation companies continue to assume increasing levels of responsibility for the successful execution of their clients’ projects.   Indeed, process automation suppliers often have a wealth of applications expertise to offer, and the depth of bench simply isn’t there at operating companies or at the engineering firms whose scope of responsibility once included the  automation aspects of capital projects.

Clear evidence of the cutting edge of this ongoing shift was on display at the North American gathering of the Honeywell User Group this spring in Phoenix. There, Honeywell executives explained the advantages of the company’s “integrated main automation contractor” (I-MAC) methodology. But, more importantly, users explained how it already had helped them ensure readiness on day one.

I-MAC has to do with project execution, with managing cost and schedule risk, explained Jack Bolick, Honeywell Process Solutions’ president. But it also has to do with helping clients to set operational and business objectives, as well as with lifecycle sustainability, he said. “When the FAT [factory acceptance test] is over, we don’t leave,” Bolick said.

For Freeport LNG, Freeport, Texas, its I-MAC relationship with Honeywell has been critical to ensuring that the first new liquid natural gas regasification terminal built in the U.S. in the past 25 years was ready for operation and for business when the project was completed.

“Our requirements went far beyond traditional MAC,” said Freeport LNG’s Eric Rojas, in his keynote address to the gathering. “While the LNG regasification process looks simple, the business needs are actually quite complex. We needed an automation supplier that would have us ready on day one, and then support us throughout the entire plant lifecycle.”

The company faced a shortfall in skilled resources, and needed to “leverage relationships with suppliers that had broad capabilities and qualified resources,” Rojas said. Indeed, Freeport LNG’s vision was to have one contractor take full responsibility for automation and integration, from instrumentation through ERP. Honeywell, together with IBM, was awarded the contract to ensure operational and business readiness—a deliverable that far surpassed traditional MAC relationships.

Beyond the nuts and bolts of automation and integration, key Honeywell contributions to readiness were in operator training and in business processse. “Honeywell’s results exceeded expectations in many ways,” Rojas said.

Because start-up of the facility would be contingent on regulatory approval of operator readiness, operator training was critical. To address this need, Honeywell developed a high-fidelity operations training simulator (OTS) that included all of the specific details of the Freeport LNG operation. “We were able to dramatically improve our operators’ understanding,” Rojas said. In addition, the simulator allowed the company to discover several design flaws that would otherwise have affected start-up.

On the business-readiness front, Honeywell helped to create a unique, “Day in the Life” event that brought together representatives from various Freeport LNG functions in order to ensure that the business processes of these often-isolated operations were thorough and consistent. The OTS played a critical role in these three days of exercises, Rojas said, and helped identify business process gaps in three applications.

In no small part due to these readiness efforts, the plant started up smoothly and safely—and “now we’re in business,” Rojas said. “Indeed the plant achieved its ‘substantial completion’ milestone,” Rojas said, meaning: “It’s done!” And as the plant shifts from project start-up to operational support, an ongoing Honeywell role appears assured. Said Rojas, “We wanted a partner that would be there in 25 years.” Clearly a commitment far beyond the FAT!