System Integration & Control Systems Design

Practical project management to replace an obsolete control system

September 2019 System Integration & Control Systems Design

There are numerous books on project management that can be referred to as guidelines for a specific project: commonly referred to are the Red and Yellow books of FIDIC, which provide for the general conditions of a contract, as well as any applicable specific items. These specific conditions, normally negotiated between the client and the contractor, cover areas like total project value, project duration according to the project plan, penalties for late delivery, additional costs for extensions, and any other items requiring specific mention as part of the contract.

Once everything is agreed and a purchase order has been generated, one starts with the procurement of materials. In this case it was the Yokogawa DCS hardware, software and computer equipment, as well as the cabinets for the DCS, the cables, cable racking and consumables. Next a safety file gets created along with the establishment of a site office. Then, once all goods and materials have been transported to site, project work begins in earnest.

Pre-work and acceptance tests

Work on this project could be done on several fronts simultaneously, namely site identification of field I/O to be rewired to the new DCS universal I/O modules. Most of the existing 2500 I/O would be accessed via the existing Siemens ET200 modules on the Profibus Network, which would be rerouted to the New DCS’s Profibus ALP121 communication card. Work could also be started in the ICA workshop on building the new DCS cabinets in preparation for the I-FAT, which is done in anticipation of the client factory acceptance test.

During I-FAT there were live subsystems running to simulate all signals and communication protocols that would be encountered on site. These included Profibus from the ET200 and Simocodes, as well as ASI Bus from the ASI switch packs on the valves at the pan floor. The client also asked that several of the digital outputs be connected to solenoids to prove the current rating of the NIO DO module, and that it be put on a soak test for three days or more. All the above having been done and the C-FAT complete, the panels were crated for transport to site.

Once on site, the panels were moved into position in the termination room in anticipation of the cable rerouting for the hardwired I/O, as well as UPS power, the connection of earthing and screening. The dual redundant Profibus network also had to be connected in order to access the I/O remaining on the ET200, Simocodes and ASI networks.

Software engineering was also started as a pre-work item, based on the URS (user requirement specification), with modifications of several control strategies based on the more powerful capabilities of the new DCS. During this stage, the close relationship with the Yokogawa proved critical.

Commissioning and training

Once the software thus complete, the installation crew could start with cold commissioning in order to verify I/O, to check the scaling of inputs, and ensure that the correct engineering units were displayed and linked to the corresponding graphic modifiers.

Once the client’s lead engineer was satisfied that all concerns had been addressed, items the process of hot commissioning could begin to check all facets of the engineering installation and the final issue of quality control packs (QCP’s). The client engineer and the site supervisor/project manager then sign off against these.

In this project, it was also necessary to train the client’s engineers and operators. This took place at the Yokogawa offices in Johannesburg. Once this was complete, there were obvious signs from the Umfolozi staff that they were eager to see the new system in action.

Keeping the project on track

To keep things running smoothly, regular progress meetings with recording of action items against specific people and completion dates proved invaluable.

Often, when project deadlines are missed due to factors like mechanical or civil work being delayed, the project plan gets ignored because emergency items arise through the site manager wanting certain critical tasks completed. This invariably leads to the E&I contractor being delayed and then the specific conditions of contract come into play.

One then needs to negotiate an extension of time (ET), based on the conditions specified during initial negotiations. All this can be avoided through meticulous planning and timeous execution as well as having a back-up plan where one mitigates problems through advance thinking about recovery scenarios.

In the project described above, no delays were encountered as the initial enquiry and tender phase allowed enough time for detailed planning, testing and simulation, well in advance of the project execution implementation phase. The software design was also carefully monitored with regular feedback sessions with the client engineer.

A comprehensive FDS (functional design specification) was also produced, which, together with the URS and the QCP documents, were all filed for their record and reference.

As a result, successful plant start-up was enjoyed with no delays and consequently Umfolozi has benefitted through excellent plant operations with new innovations thanks to the planning that went into this DCS project and ensured its successful implementation.


Project management is great but the old adage of ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ holds true. Fortunately, this project was a great success and resulted in Phase 2 being implemented the very next season, with equal success. Project management is easy if the planning, design, engineering, execution and implementation is handled correctly by a great team of people.

For more information contact Mark Calvert, Industrial Control & Automation, +27 31 709 0811,,


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