The Challenges of Project Commissioning

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The Challenges of Project Commissioning

Start-up and commissioning is the point where a lot of people start to get excited about seeing equipment and processes come together to operate in unison. As an engineer, it marks the culmination of many hours (or perhaps days, months or even years depending on the size and scope of the project) of hard work. You’ve tested and re-tested, made tweeks, changes (both small and large) along the way. You’ve witnessed and verified results to ensure your Go Live is seamless and meets the customer’s specifications. Recently, my team completed the first in a series of Wonderware System Platform upgrades for a large multi-site water distribution/treatment company. As with many projects, we faced a number of challenges. Some were typical, such as a lack of standards and documentation supporting the existing software. Others were more complicated, such as the health and safety concerns around testing at a plant that delivers water to the public. And, as with any project involving software changes, operator acceptance was a major concern. The overall success of the project would hinge upon a successful commissioning at the first site.

It became clear from the start, that communication along with a collaborative approach would be critical. Our customer’s team included a wide variety of personalities along with varying years of experience. To be successful we’d need to take a team approach. We started by undertaking a series of fact-finding missions. With little documentation, deciphering the existing code would be much easier with the collective input of everyone. As the project progressed, we sought out feedback from the operators who would be using the system. We created a punch list of the things they liked as well as the things they didn’t. We listened to their concerns and developed several navigational features to help ease the transition. Was buy-in immediate? No- but we continued to work together and despite the challenges, we were able to complete and install an expandable and reusable system that met the customer’s requirements and is easier to maintain. Now, it’s on to the next site.
Do you have any tips for successful commissioning?
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