Commissioning For Process Controls: The Pursuit of Excellence

Commissioning is a team effort to document the continuity of a project as it moves from one project phase to the next. To achieve commissioning excellence requires that the testing documents be accurate and written in an orderly fashion. The Documentation Gatekeeper, a.k.a the Commission Lead, is responsible to develop, teach, implement, and guard the integrity of the process to produce accurate testing documents.

If a device to be tested gets checked incorrectly or missed altogether, the likely cause is a mistake on the testing document. We have all heard and used clichés like: “Let’s not let anything fall through the cracks,” or “I want to make sure that we are all on the same page.” These clichés are perfectly appropriate for this discussion on commissioning excellence. But one cliché is more appropriate, “We are ALL human.” If we were more than human, there would be no need for testing. Therefore, one goal that is necessary through all phases of commissioning should be to minimize the “human-ness” in document management.

Documenting and Minimizing Errors

It is a fact of life that we all make mistakes and that there are costs involved with each one made. With incorrectly tested or missed devices, the cost is an unhappy customer when he finds the error himself. When the mistake is found by the tester, the price is time. Time to research the discrepancy and determine the path for correction, e.g. “Is the mistake in the document or in the field?” But for now, let’s focus on document errors and minimizing them.

At some point, we must trust a commissioning document at 100%, like a design specification, standard operating procedure, P&ID, or I/O list. Even though a mistake in one of the base documents will permeate through to the testing documents, those mistakes are not in the scope of this blog. The base documents have been approved as accurate and issued to the test team. Once issued, data must be extracted from these documents and inserted into the test documents.

Appropriately Value the Commissioning Process

It is this process that must be guarded for errors. During commissioning there is little to no time to go back and verify if the test documents are still accurate or if the testers are qualified to test. “On the other side of that coin,” the document gatekeeper cannot wait too long to hit the PRINT button and hand out the test documents. Otherwise, you have testers waiting in the field for their tests. Yet in some cases, the least experienced engineers on the team (the new guys) are given the task of creating the test documents. With the significance of the process of creating, maintaining, and proofing the commissioning documentation, should the new guys be excluded? Hold that thought…we were all the new guy at one time!

Now that the test documents are complete, it is time to hit that PRINT button. But the process is still vulnerable because we all know that design specs can change mid project. How does a single change make its way full circle through the new design, the drawings, the design specification documents, the FAT & SAT, and be implemented without “slipping through the cracks”? The Documentation Gatekeeper. The Gatekeeper will not allow a design change to be implemented without first passing it through the process of documentation management and proofing.

What is the role of the Gatekeeper, a.k.a. the Commissioning Lead? To develop, teach, implement, and guard the integrity of the process. He/she will train and qualify all other engineers (including the new guys) who will be issued these tasks. Cross Company is ready to put our commissioning expertise to work for you. Contact us to discuss your upcoming projects.

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After a two year electronic and industrial technical program, Randy received most of his engineering education from the time he spent in the Michelin Tire Corp. Training Center in Greenville, SC during his 15 years of service. One of his first experiences with control systems at Michelin was a 1960's model from GE called Logitrol. In 1978 it was already antiquated. The processor put off so much heat from the Cathode Ray Tubes, it was enclosed within a cast iron ribbed box to radiate the heat away. 40 years and several multi million dollar projects later, he writes this blog to share a small bit knowledge with you.