Path to Modernization, Part 2

Last summer, we posted The Path to Modernization, Part 1 as a recap of our seminar on plant modernization. It was one of our most popular posts and continues to receive traffic many months later. Control system modernization is a subject that draws a lot of interest and with good reason. There are still billions of dollars of obsolete control systems installed, systems that can’t be upgraded for new productivity features or to combat modern security threats. 

Part 1 focused on the rationale and planning elements of a modernization project, including the FEED+ study. In Part 2, we’ll examine issues of implementation: assembling the team, developing the schedule and the management plan, and maintaining communications.

Assemble the Right Team

One of the major causes of failure is not having the right team. It needs to engage all levels of stakeholders. It’s also critical that the team understands and buys into the scope of work (SOW) for the project. This is where the kickoff meeting comes into play.

The kickoff meeting will achieve buy-in to the vision and will develop the detailed SOW, with costs. It will identify the core scope and address options that can be employed. From the kickoff meeting will come the all-important schedule.

Schedule and Management Plans

It is beyond the scope of this post to address the intricacies of project scheduling, but we know the schedule needs to be accurate and realistic. It also has to address all critical path elements, and it needs to make clear the responsibility for each milestone in the schedule. From this will come a live action list for the project manager to work. This list will include the item description, start and due dates, team member responsible, and a record of completion dates.

Your FEED/FEED+ plan is the foundation of the management plan. It will provide the complete “as-is” picture of the existing systems with the identification of what’s being reused, replaced, or modified. And the FEED report will have laid out the approach for the project. (View a typical project management plan)

Formal Communications

Judged by our top people to be one of the characteristics of the best project management, regular communication is essential to great project implementation. It needs to take place at all levels and with all stakeholders. There should be a regular cadence of team meetings where actual progress is compared to the schedule, and the action item list is reviewed. Team meetings should also provide a two-week look ahead for upcoming activities and should review any existing commercial issues.

Other Considerations

Those are the top three elements, but other considerations need to be addressed as well:

  • Make sure that necessary resources are available at the appropriate points in the schedule
  • It’s critical that the right operations, engineering, and management personnel receive system-specific training on the new systems, especially those that may involve a new or unfamiliar technology
  • Hardware and software FATs are critical to the start-up and commissioning process, and may also be opportunities for the required training
  • Verify the communication functionality of all smart field devices (a potential risk element)
  • Verify the network’s performance with all devices connected

Success Measures

We believe the FEED+ scope of work is the ultimate source of success parameters, and the project results should be compared against that SOW. The project needs to be completed on schedule and on budget, meaning no scope creep has occurred. When these targets are met, all team members experience a win with a successful modernization project.

(For a more in-depth discussion, check out our legacy system migration white paper, which includes a brief example of a successful modernization project.)