Too much work goes into project planning to forget about a deployment plan. The deployment plan should include safety requirements and be used by both your team and the customer to ensure project success.
In this day and age, everyone has a plan. People have one-year plans, five-year plans, ten-year plans, and other plans designed to help them forge ahead and prepare for the future and the unexpected.
What about a deployment plan for a project? Thus far, everything has gone great in developing standards, documenting the process, ensuring the program is up to code, and planning for factory acceptance testing is going well. Now, the same effort into developing a written deployment plan for use by both your team and the customer needs to be enacted.
Things to consider in deployment planning include safety requirements, areas affected, steps needed to reach the deployment goal, personnel involved, hardware and software requirements, and where the team will reside.
Safety considerations should always be first. It is vital to understand what the safety requirements are at the location you will be deploying. Questions that should be asked during the deployment plan include:
- Does the project require standard personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a hard hat, safety glass, and steel toe shoes?
- Is special PPE required?
- Will the team be required to go through specific training onsite? If so, when and where will the training be conducted?
- Who will coordinate the team's safety?
The plan should also include what areas of the plant will be affected by this deployment. The plan needs to address whether an area will need to be shut down and whether the deployment needs to happen during hours when production will be impacted the least. The plan also needs to address how the project will affect other areas of the plant.
Knowing who will be involved can be a challenge. The planner needs to know how many employees will be needed for the project and whether specific skill sets are required. On-site personnel will be required, which will force the planner to consider how many will be required.
The level of dedication is also a key question. Will the project require people working 24/7 or can everything be done in one shift? Each project has its own variables and challenges to consider. No two projects are alike.
Before mobilizing, the team needs to be sure all the hardware and software required to complete this deployment is there. The plan should also account for any special hardware needs that may need to be acquired as well as any software and license updates for the team's laptops and other devices.
It's easy to forget in the midst of all the on-site planning where the team will stay during their deployment. The plan needs to consider whether the workers can commute or if it requires an extended stay at a hotel. In some cases, the team could be sequestered under armed protection due to the sensitivity of a project. It's rare, but it should be considered all the same in the planning process.
Once the logistics have been ironed out, fleshing out the details comes next. There are many questions that need to be addressed such as:
- What are the steps we need to take to be successful and who will be assigned these tasks?
- What controllers will be used for downloading; what human-machine interfaces (HMIs) will be installed and/or updated?
- What communication paths will need to be verified?
- What controller setting should be verified onsite?
- What will need to be done to commission the field devices for the project?
- If variable frequency drives (VFDs) are involved, does the team know how these should be configured?
- Is there any hardware the team is not qualified to work with? If so, are outside resources needed?
This should be an order list with each task assigned to one or more team members.
Put some consideration into how devices will be commissioned. Ask who will be involved in testing and how will the systems be tested once devices have been commissioned.
Taking the time to develop a written plan and review this plan internally and externally we help ensure things run smoothly and give you an opportunity to ensure you have covered as much as possible and shored up the majority of the holes in your deployment that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. Your deployment experience will be much more satisfactory when there is a thought-out plan.
This post was written by Jeff Haywood. Jeff is a senior engineer at Maverick Technologies, a leading automation solutions provider offering industrial automation, strategic manufacturing, and enterprise integration services for the process industries. Maverick delivers expertise and consulting in a wide variety of areas including industrial automation controls, distributed control systems, manufacturing execution systems, operational strategy, business process optimization, and more.