Communications Key in Control System Migration Justification and Approval

At the ARC Industry Forum this week in Orlando, Momentive‘s Brooke Robertson presented as a panelist on a Control System Migration panel. She described their process to arrive at a global control system modernization decision—from the motivations to the justification process, internal communications, and results.

The motivation for change was control system obsolescence and increasing support costs. This situation increased the risk of extended downtime from hardware failures. Given the constant march of technological advancement over time, control system computing capability was also limiting ongoing optimization efforts.

Other motivations included the desire to standardize control system technology across all global plants to leverage in house expertise for projects and ongoing lifecycle support and gain favorable commercial terms. These motivations together pointed to the need for modern control systems to meet business goals.

Brooke provided many key takeaways for process manufacturers in describing the justification process that they used. It started with developing a vision for the project. This process involved working with the stakeholders from operations, engineering, and plant management to align on the scope, considerations for the risk assessment, and overall project roadmap. Using six sigma-based tools, stakeholders evaluated and prioritized what was important from their individual perspectives. The results of this process not only facilitated communications, it also helped to create a shared vision throughout the organization.

An important part of this process was pictures to help tell the story. One chart that proved to be very effective was an analysis of the age of the control and instrumentation ranked from state of the art to past due versus timeline to repair from hours to months. This helped visually convey the risk of remaining with the status quo.

The output from the stakeholder prioritization process was a customer/vendor matrix of requirements that was provided to the automation suppliers in the request for quote phase. A global team was assembled to review how the suppliers met the elements in the customer/vendor matrix. Initial polling was done to see if a clear supplier emerged from the responses and review process—unfortunately, the views diverged greatly. Through the course of discussions and clarifications, a unanimous decision was reached that was global in scope.

The process that facilitated global stakeholder communications also was effective in receiving full board support for the entire scope of the modernization effort. Projects are now underway, and processes being developed to have collaborative communications channels for engineers, operators, and maintenance teams to share their skills across the organization.

Brooke highlighted the major lessons learned were to involve the senior management team early in the process, open and sustain channels of communications with the stakeholders throughout the vision setting and vendor selection process, and clearly define and communicate the process to the vendors so that expectations were clear.

If you’re facing similar issues with obsolescence, increasing support costs, and system limitations to optimization opportunities, perhaps you can apply some of these practices to successfully navigate your organization.

Posted Wednesday, February 8th, 2012 under Modernization.

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