31 March 2020
When it comes to standardising or recording configurations, the question soon arises: ‘Could this really work for us?’ Many organisations wonder if standardisation pays off, and whether configuration is possible. After all, every project is unique. And indeed the argument that every project is different or unique is one heard frequently. It’s also true in principle. Yet there is a major common denominator. When we ask customers how they start a new project, the answer is often that a copy or parts of a previous project are used. It’s apparent that there’s a significant repetitive factor in projects and installations.
If we consider an installation on the basis of the Google Earth principle and zoom in a little bit each time, we encounter products (popularly known as objects or modules) that we see everywhere. We think of motors, sensors, actuators and other products for instance, each with its own configuration.
So at the start of a standardisation process we often begin with the product definition phase. In it an inventory of the products is drawn up, and we consider what configuration possibilities (variants and options) each product has. We use the memory aid that variants are often ‘or’ questions while options are ‘and’ questions. An example: a product can be a valve, with the variants bi-stable or mono-stable. Feedback of the valve position could be an option. The product definition phase is an important one in the standardisation process. Which products do we have? Which variants and options? What should be part of the standard and what do we keep outside it? It’s important to take a multidisciplinary approach to the product definition phase. After all, a product or function can be interpreted differently for each discipline.
So every project is a mishmash of small products. In the process world these smallest products are also called control modules (ISA88). We can nest these small products into a larger, composite (often multidisciplinary) product. Products that will fulfil a function later on in a project. This way we work together in a multidisciplinary mode, on a product structure that makes it possible to configure a simple way in a later phase.
Standardising repetitive products results in by far the most time and quality savings. This also ensures that the most repetitive work, often boring and error-prone for the engineer, can be automated. That then lets the engineer focus on project-specific functions. A big step can be taken in efficiency with the smart reuse of products or modules (rather than the copy-and-paste method).
31 March 2020
Excellent product data management provides great benefits. Especially in electrical engineering, where...Read more