Automation integration projects: 7 tips for success, plus 1 more, often forgotten

Communication is key when working with an automation system integrator, according to a recent Control Engineering survey of system integrators. Eight key tips follow.
By Control Engineering Staff April 2, 2009
System integration

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Communication is key when working with a system integrator, according to a recent Control Engineering survey of system integrators. Eight key tips follow, explaining the need to ensure all project details are discussed with every stakeholder; disseminate all decisions to everyone responsible for designing, implementing or using the system; and make sure everyone understands what needs to be done, along with why and how.
Control Engineering April North American edition gives results of an open-ended survey, in which the 1,800+ system integrators listed in Control Engineering ’s Automation Integrator Guide were asked to share their top tips for ensuring the success of an automation project. Hundreds responded, commenting on how to pick an integrator, design the automation system, manage the project, test the finished product and otherwise get the desired results for the end user.
Above all else, respondents advised their clients to communicate effectively. While the article includes more details, 8 key tips follow.
1. Communicate early and often , even before the first screw is turned.
The client needs to give a prospective integrator full access to all plant personnel directly involved with the proposed project, as early in the buying cycle as possible.
2. Define the stakeholders on both teams and determine who needs what information.
3. End users need to read all documents their integrators give them; clarify where needed; 80% of problems with projects are a lack of the proper communications between the client and the integrator.
4. Communicate with all involved throughout the process: managers, operations, so everyone becomes champions rather than opponents.
5. Designate someone in-house to “own” the project.
6. Use communication tools such weekly production meetings to manage action lists. End users should have project meetings with their integrators at least monthly, obtaining commitments, assigning dates and a person responsible for each, and follow up.
7. End users should modify system requirements and designs as capabilities, interactions, and implications emerge since these things are rarely known or anticipated at the beginning, communicating with the integrator, with a methodology to handle changes.
The eighth point is often forgotten through commissioning and startup.
8. Continue communications beyond operations , ensuring appropriate training is in place, defining deliverables, such as manuals, maintenance, and decommissioning, if needed.
More help with system integration, communication, projects

– Edited by Mark T. Hoske , editor in chief
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