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The dos and don'ts of managing a controls project

11 March, 2013

There are many ways that controls projects can go wrong. Michael Hill, managing director of UK-based Optima Control Solutions, draws on his extensive experience to offer advice on how to manage projects effectively, to the satisfaction of both the supplier and the client.

Once a control system project has been completed, its ownership transfers to the customer and their production and engineering staff. From that point on, ease of maintenance and the cost of ownership kick in.

This long period of responsibility for the machine control system is often not fully considered during the procurement process. Two simple measures can optimise the ownership experience for both the customer and the supplier, and both actions will maximise the quality of project engineering – a sufficient allocated budget and realistic timescales.

A project will be deemed successful by both the customer and the supplier when each of the following four component disciplines has been met:

•  budget;

•  deadline;

•  functionality; and

•  engineering quality.

Too often, projects are compromised on budget and timescale, thus jeopardising the engineering quality and resulting in an undesirable ownership experience. The procurement process is almost always classified as “successful” when the lowest price for whatever being bought is obtained, for what appears to be the same level of goods and services provided.

It is no secret that a lower cost will mean reduced deliverables, though the compromises that the supplier makes to provide the cheapest price often reside in the engineering discipline and are not always obvious. The quality of engineering and project management is not so easy to determine at the procurement stage and it is this engineering input that determines the life-long ownership experience.

Pecking order

Of the four important success criteria, one is invariably met – functionality. Deadline comes next in the list of must-haves, then budget and finally engineering quality.

Why are they prioritised that way? It might be a “natural” phenomenon. Three of the four disciplines conclude when the project is handed over. Even when budgets are squeezed:

•  Functionality cannot suffer The machine must perform its primary functions, and because this is easily measureable everyone understands and agrees.

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