Integrating controls from an equipment supplier successfully within a plant supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system or distributed control system (DCS) requires communication on multiple levels. These include the process of design, mechanical fit up, and installation, as well as coordination to get the equipment to work in concert with the plant’s other control systems. Simply looking after mechanical and electrical details is not enough.
From the perspective of an equipment supplier, several things can help streamline the process of integrating packaged equipment into a plant. First and foremost is planning. Both parties – the plant designer and the equipment supplier – need to understand and appreciate what the equipment is supposed to be doing and how it will do it in the context of the entire plant. This includes both the process design and the controls design.
From an automation perspective, this means that the communications interfaces, and more importantly, the functionality the communication interfaces are supposed to accomplish, need to be well-defined and understood by both the system integrator and the equipment supplier. Putting down details on paper is highly recommended to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Also, any terminology used in the details should be clearly defined, as words can often be interpreted differently.
On a well-run project, integration issues will be sorted out well before equipment arrives on site for installation. Having to sort out such issues after equipment has been delivered is expensive for everyone involved, so it should be avoided whenever possible.