Why Team Communications Fail

Mar 27, 2015 5:24:00 AM | Posted by Bruce Brandt

Communications issues between team members or customers delay projects and increase frustration levels. See tips on how to address popular miscommunications and avoid them in the future.

Unless you are a one person team, you will always have problems with team communications during projects. Even if you are a one person team, you will always have problems with customer communications during projects. Those are rather absolute statements, but after 45 years of projects, I can’t remember a project where there were absolutely no communications issues. In analyzing those issues some patterns emerge that point to underlying causes of miscommunication.

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Migration projects: Incorporating the 'old' into the 'new'

Sep 9, 2014 5:08:00 AM | Posted by Bruce Brandt

Most distributed control systems migration projects revolve around ensuring that the new system can meet production targets of the old system immediately, but this isn’t always the case.

I’m currently in the midst of a migration project from an obsolete distributed control system (DCS) and the biggest challenge is convincing the plant that the team has done a perfect conversion in spite of the plant also wanting to take advantage of the latest thinking in controls—in particular the improvements in Batch. This is not unique to this project.

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Project delays: Identify the issue and keep the customer happy

Jul 1, 2014 5:01:20 AM | Posted by Bruce Brandt

Every person working on a project should be able to answer these five questions: Who? What? When? Where? and Why?

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Growing recent graduates into controls engineers

Jun 5, 2014 8:19:06 AM | Posted by Bruce Brandt

Too many recent engineering graduates have never set foot inside a process plant before, or they have very little experience with process control systems.

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DCS migration: Batch or S88 style application?

May 8, 2014 10:54:51 AM | Posted by Bruce Brandt

Deciding between a dedicated batch application and building an S88 style application really comes down to the level of sophistication required to make the system user-friendly and supportable by the plant.

I just finished supporting a batch process startup where the client chose to not continue using the same batch application as the rest of their facility. This plant area had previously been controlled by a programmable logic controller (PLC) using some basic sequencing. The project was to migrate it to a distributed control system (DCS) that has already been used in other parts of the plant. Some of the other areas that have been migrated are using the batch software application, but because this process is rather basic it was decided that using the DCS batch software was overkill. Therefore, the migration was done using Sequential function chart-based equipment modules (EM) to operate control modules (CM). It seemed like a logical approach, though as the checkout progressed we kept running into its limitations: the lack a structured recipe/formula management system, the need to create multiple identical equipment modules, a somewhat clunky operator interface, etc. All of which would have been addressed by batch software.

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‘Best practices,’ according to who?

Feb 14, 2014 4:54:57 AM | Posted by Bruce Brandt

While many best practices are based off of decades of experience there are many who don’t follow them for their own reasons.

In my role here at Maverick I’m often asked about best practices, and I’m expected to drive the use of them by our employees. The problem with that is the assumption that best practices are universally accepted as being truly the best, yet I’ve repeatedly run into situations where the best practice I offer up is met with either skepticism or the old “we tried that and it didn’t work here.” The former is easier to address since I can usually offer the names of contacts where it proved itself out.

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Configuring control systems through wireless devices, remote I/O: With great power comes great responsibility

Jan 23, 2014 10:18:02 AM | Posted by Bruce Brandt

In the new world of wireless devices and remote I/O we have the power to create control configurations that use I/O and that are not physically connected to the controller running the control loops.

In the new world of wireless devices and remote I/O we have the power to create control configurations that use I/O and that are not physically connected to the controller running the control loops. In the case of at least one distributed control system (DCS), the I/O attached to its gateway can be assigned to different controllers on a per I/O point basis. Within the confines of the configuration application there are pointers to where these live, but in the context of project documentation the world becomes a bit blurry.

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Penny wise and pound foolish

Dec 17, 2013 8:18:01 AM | Posted by Bruce Brandt

A few appropriate costs early in a project can create major savings down the road and avoid a whole lot of aggravation in the process.

I’ve just finished helping support a project startup that has gone rather well in spite of some decisions to save cost at the start. I continue to be amazed time and time again that companies underestimate the impact of cutting the wrong costs, simply because they don’t know what the project really should cost before they go for funding. The project in this particular case is actually the follow-on to the first phase of a system migration from one DCS platform to another. The customer’s old platform had been in service for a very long time and was becoming unsupportable when things failed. Since any migration was going to be a rip-and-replace, they decided to investigate what was now available in the market place and chose not to stay with the original installed platform vendor for technical reasons. Phase one was done by the vendor of the new DCS, but to save cost the configuration was off-shored. This might have worked if the customer had developed a really good scope, but for reasons I do not know, they did not.

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