During process system development it is important to define engineering specs and deliverables as early as possible. A new process system requires a lot of work. From design to project execution and installation, there are many steps that must be completed expertly to effectively provide a quality system.
Take for example a batch process in manufacturing. If design specifics are not determined in detail before parts are ordered or programming commences, the wrong batch size or project spending overages may result. It may feel like things are getting off to a slow start to insist upon formal written and agreed upon engineering specs, but this process minimizes surprises and makes sure the system stays on-spec throughout development, installation, and startup.
You may have heard of Front-End Engineering Design (FEED) or Front-End Loading (FEL) before. These are both formal names for a process of detailed engineering scope development that clearly establishes design and technical requirements. Whether or not you do a formal FEED or FEL, and even when you do, creating a final formal engineering spec from these efforts that you align on with your design and build firm(s) is the key.
What are Some Commonly Overlooked Deliverables?
One of the most commonly overlooked deliverables is physical system requirements. You cannot wait until halfway through the project to decide the final resting spot for a system or determine the installation path. What doorways, turns, and obstacles will installation involve? What are the dimensions of the final installation spot? What utility access or hazards should be considered? Are there any aesthetic requirements that should be met? Even something as simple as plant-standard wire coloring codes can turn into a major cost to redo later.
Controls and software design are another often-overlooked areas. Many times this can be out of sight, out of mind for process engineers, and is sidelined during the FEED process. From selection of software and controls platforms to design and configuration, quality automation is equally important to getting a smooth running process system as equipment selection and piping design.
Who Is Responsible for Defining a Formal Engineering Specification?
Both parties are responsible for helping define deliverables and specifications on a project. You should have a general grasp of what you need before the FEED or design even begins, and you need to make sure this is conveyed to the design/build engineering firm. Forgetting to mention a narrow doorway or micro-solids in raw materials will not help your design-build partners be successful.
But your design-build firm(s) should also be driving you to provide necessary information. During most projects, the engineering firm should hold the majority of the responsibility in developing the deliverables. Not to say that they should tell the customers what to do, but that they should be driving the customers to provide information since the engineers know what information will be needed to execute the project well.
Engineering specs and deliverables can make or break a project. When defined well, the project will be completed on time, on budget, with minimal change orders, and with high satisfaction. When defined poorly, the project is likely to be overdue, over price, riddled with change orders, and everyone will leave with a sour taste in their mouths. When they are defined well, aligned on by all participants, and referred to often, everyone understands what is expected and projects go much more as expected.