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MAY-JUN 2018

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28 INTECH MAY/JUNE 2018 WWW.ISA.ORG Why automation projects are tough to manage And how to execute them better By Lee Swindler R eflecting on my 30-year career as a proj- ect manager, I have come to realize pro- cess automation projects have unique challenges, which make them more difficult to execute than other types of projects. Why is that? Based on my experience and many discus- sions with peers, here are some key reasons: Complexity The process automation industry is highly frag- mented with numerous global suppliers each controlling a small portion of the market. With the typical automation project containing lit- erally thousands of individual components, every automation system ends up as a mixture of parts from multiple suppliers. Because these suppliers have limited expertise outside of their immediate product family, the project team is left to integrate all these parts. Considerable engineering and coordination is required to en- sure this plethora of equipment comes together to form an integrated, high-performing control system. The resulting designs are highly engi- neered and customized for each application. Adding to the challenge is that automation components are based on rapidly changing computer, software, and electronics technology. Unlike other disciplines, automation knowl- edge becomes outdated every few years as the underlying technology advances. Not only is it difficult for manufacturing facilities to keep their installed systems current, project teams need to be proficient in implementing the latest technology. Ongoing effort is required to keep technical resources updated to ensure sound decisions are being made, and the team mem- bers can effectively execute the work needed. Third-party interfaces to various subsystems often require special skills and knowledge, as standardization for data communication and

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