Commissioning and testing for process control projects

The head of a commissioning project serves as a gatekeeper for process control projects and is responsible for being thorough during the testing process as well as ensuring that everyone is involved.
By Randy Goff, Cross Company August 31, 2017

Courtesy: Cross CompanyCommissioning is a team effort to document the continuity of a project as it moves from one project phase to the next. To achieve commissioning excellence requires that the testing documents be accurate and written in an orderly fashion. The commission lead, who serves as a gatekeeper, is responsible to develop, teach, implement, and guard the integrity of the process to produce accurate testing documents.

If a device to be tested gets checked incorrectly or missed altogether, the likely cause is a mistake on the testing document. The cliché "We are ALL human" is apt. If we were more than human, there would be no need for testing. The ideal goal through all commissioning phases is to minimize the "human-ness" in document management.

It is a fact of life that we all make mistakes and that there are costs involved with each one made. With incorrectly tested or missed devices, the cost is an unhappy customer when he finds the error himself. When the mistake is found by the tester, the price is time. Time to research the discrepancy and determine the path for correction, e.g. "Is the mistake in the document or in the field?"

At some point, though, the team must trust a commissioning document at 100%, like a design specification, standard operating procedure, piping & instrumentation diagram (P&ID), or input/output (I/O) list. The base documents have been approved as accurate and issued to the test team. Once issued, data must be extracted from these documents and inserted into the test documents.

It is this process that must be guarded for errors. During commissioning there is little to no time to go back and verify if the test documents are still accurate or if the testers are qualified to test. "On the other side of that coin," the document gatekeeper cannot wait too long to hit the print button and hand out the test documents. It’s also important to include the least experienced engineers on the team and guide them in the process of creating the test documents. This is the only way to let them gain experience, but their hand should be guided all the same. 

Once those test documents are complete, it is time to hit the print button and begin the next step in the process. The process is still vulnerable because we all know that design specs can change mid-project. How does a single change make its way full circle through the new design, the drawings, the design specification documents, the factory acceptance test (FAT) and site acceptance test (SAT), and be implemented without slipping through the cracks? The commissioning lead, who will not allow a design change to be implemented without first passing it through the process of documentation management and proofing.

Randy Goff is an integration engineer at Cross Company. This article originally appeared on Cross Company’s Innovative Controls blog. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media,

Cross Company is a CSIA member as of 8/31/2017.

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