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Project delivery optimisation – a new methodology

11 August 2015

Honeywell Process Solutions is suggesting a paradigm shift in the way projects are implemented is required to get the type of capital efficiency that industrial businesses need to achieve in today’s competitive, tight-margin environment.

Project cost overruns are one of the areas that are out of control and contributing to this dynamic. CAPEX planning, returns on invested capital and cash flow are all impacted negatively by these inefficiencies. Tweaking a project execution process can result in incremental improvement, but does not really move the needle. 

Lean execution already entails removing waste on projects. A new approach to automation project execution takes a further step by removing the traditional dependencies that used to force project flows to be sequential in nature and keeping automation off the critical path. This new methodology relies on separating physical from functional design, allowing parallel workflows, using standardised designs, and enabling engineering to be done from anywhere in the world. 

With Honeywell Process Solutions Lean Execution of Automation Projects methodology is said to result in up to 30% capital savings and optimised scheduling by 25% for large automation projects. 

Three technologies are utilised – universal I/O, virtualisation and cloud engineering, to enable this project execution methodology. These solutions enable important project benefits, such as late binding of automation systems, to physical hardware and equipment, flexible hardware procurement, improved agility and flexibility, and enhanced design options.

Traditional project implementation 
Conventional project engineering processes progress through a series of activities that continuously build upon each other to move the design from abstract ideas to validated engineering designs. Through the progression of these activities, decisions are made which enable subsequent activities to move forward based on the final design.

The sequential nature of the traditional engineering approach for automation systems means that there is only one path to project completion. Tasks are executed in fixed sequence to meet install dates, and outputs from one task are required for the following task. Any delay or issue arising in one of the activities will directly affect the delivery of the subsequent tasks.

The ultimate efficiency for this model is to execute each one of these tasks in the timeliest manner, and only execute it once. In a real world situation, this becomes a very challenging endeavor. Projects are often required to be finished on tighter and tighter schedules, and changes in a project’s scope or definition often occur in its later stages. These late changes may mean that a design will need to be changed, the build and/or configuration modified, and potentially, the testing of the component repeated. 

During new construction it is vital to minimise risk, increase flexibility, shorten schedules and keep automation systems off the critical path. This requires the elimination of non-value-added processes, such as repetitive tasks, rework and redundant tasks 

Changes in delivery models 
In contrast to the traditional automation project workflow configuration of the automation system software to meet the functional requirements favours a more iterative approach, with the system being built up as functional units. The units themselves have no dependence upon the hardware design state or the completion of other non-related units. 

Separation of the physical and functional aspects of the control system, into independent hardware and software design activities, enables tasks to be performed in parallel and also allows configuration activities to occur out of the traditional order of tasks. 

In addition, configuration activities can be started earlier in the project schedule, as they are not reliant on the physical system being designed. This independence leads to the creation of two separate execution paths, which can be managed to meet the project’s deliverables with greater flexibility than the traditional model. (See Figure 1)

With the latest technology developments, it is now possible to achieve full abstraction of the control system infrastructure. Supervisory control level 2 nodes are abstracted via virtualisation, while control level 1 and I/O can be fully simulated in a server environment and abstracted by the universal I/O. 

Figure 1: Optimised project workflow.
Figure 1: Optimised project workflow.

Universal I/O 
In the process of physical design for control systems, the objective is to start the design task as late as possible. Removing configuration activities from the critical path is one step towards that goal. Another step is to reduce the time taken for design by simplification of the design process itself.
The development of Universal Channel Technology has liberated field I/O, as well as control cabinets, from channel-type dependency. This more standardised, multifunctional solution enables late additions and modifications to I/O schedules with no more than a soft configuration change – potentially saving weeks of schedule delay when making late-stage design changes.

Universal Channel Technology makes it possible to utilise remote cabinet designs, with corresponding savings in equipment space, power, cooling and weight requirements. It eliminates wasted I/O space and enables reductions in installation and operational costs since users are no longer concerned about having sufficient modules for AI, AO, DI or DO configuration. The I/O connection can easily be configured, and reconfigured, at any point. 

Plant managers seek to reduce the amount of computer hardware in their facilities and their total cost of ownership (TCO). However, they must do this without compromising safety, reliability or production. Virtualisation abstracts operating systems and applications from the underlying physical infrastructure by representing the hardware as virtual devices. It allows a single server to simultaneously run multiple operating systems and applications., while insulating these virtual machines (VMs) from the underlying hardware and from each other.
Virtualisation makes a contribution to design independence on automation projects. Traditional methods of deploying process control systems have involved a tight coupling between control functions and the instruments connected to the process. Virtualisation solutions allow development of supervisory layer VMs can occur independently of the physical virtual infrastructure design. VMs can be installed on the final physical virtual infrastructure late in the project cycle, and development of these machines can occur at the same time as the physical virtual infrastructure design. 

Virtualization is now proving to be an important productivity and efficiency tool for all types of industrial operations. Targeted virtualisation solutions simplify and decrease requirements for plant hardware, while enabling greater reliability and availability of process control systems.

Cloud engineering 
More projects today are managed across multiple locations and project teams are no longer defined by geographical proximity. Instead they work as a ‘human cloud’ having the ability to share data without being limited by time or place enabling closer collaboration.

One advantage of a cloud engineering approach is the freedom to use the automation supplier’s infrastructure during the project engineering process – not the customer’s. This allows the project to procure the project servers as late as possible in the schedule, ensuring that the technology is delivered with the system uses the latest hardware available.

When applying optimised project workflows a number of tasks that previously occurred in a system-staging environment can now be pushed out to the construction phase to enable earlier on-site delivery of hardware. With Universal I/O, users can order fully standard Universal Cabinets from the factory in whatever quantities required, and execute a project without assigning I/O to a channel until commissioning. With virtualisation and product simulators, control strategies can be developed and tested prior to the final design, and users can develop those strategies in the cloud and allow the project engineer never to leave home. 

Applied together, these technologies enable a new project execution methodology. By separating physical from functional design, this allows parallel workflows, applies standardised designs, and enables engineering to be done from anywhere in the world. Overall, a reduction in main automation contractor (MAC) costs could result in 30% capital savings and can optimise scheduling by 25%. 

Project projection…
For an integrated main automation contractor project of approximately 45.5 million euros with 40,000 I/O, the Honeywell Lean Execution of Automation Project methodology is said to be able to potentially deliver the following benefits: 
• 66% reduction in defect opportunities and marshalling labour due to elimination of multiple terminations per loop. 
• 90% reduction in marshalling cabinets from 120 to less than 10 due to moving the I/O to the field. 
• 50% reduction in servers and network cabinets through server consolidation. 
• 60% reduction in remote instrument enclosures (RIEs)/local equipment rooms (LERs)/field auxiliary rooms (FARs) from seven to three, due to decreased footprint of automation equipment. 
• Shipment of control system I/O hardware up to six months earlier to optimise field construction schedules due to standardised cabinet designs. 
• 50% reduction in travel expenses through virtualised engineering development and virtual acceptance testing. 
• Reduction in total MAC costs of about 30% through the reductions stated above.

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