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The dos and don'ts of managing a controls project

11 March, 2013

•  Deadlines have to be met Because shutdowns are planned and downtime is expensive – again, measureable, understood and agreed – then

•  Budgets often flex One party or the other will generally end up overspending on their originally projected costs.

The final important discipline is engineering quality and its impact lives on long after the handover stage. It is the least understood by procurement professionals, it is the most difficult to measure, and the easiest one to compromise unwittingly. A low cost price inevitably means that less time can be afforded to a project and, when time is tight, corners are cut unwillingly to meet a deadline. No one wants this.

Understanding the engineering and management content of a project is therefore crucial to optimise the ownership experience and evaluate supplier proposals.

What can customers expect?

Both customer and supplier have key roles to play. I strongly advise the involvement of customer-focused engineering professionals in the assessment process. Today’s control systems are highly technical and complex in nature.

The procurement process begins with a visit from a supplier’s sales and applications engineer. This should be someone with extensive experience in the field of automation and control engineering. He must be familiar with the subject machine, its processes and the control methods used (both when the machine was built and with current best-practice techniques and equipment).

The supplier’s track record of providing solutions for a specific application, or ones closely comparable, is a good indicator of its ability to deliver. Testimonials and site visits are an excellent way to satisfy these queries.

The supplier’s independence from component manufacturers will ensure that whatever system they propose will be the most appropriate for the application. This can be a particularly complex area and depth of experience will simplify the decisions enormously.

Look for a fundamental understanding of the machine process. It is probably the most difficult skill to acquire, but the most important in delivering a successful project. This refers again to the track record.

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