on May 24th, 2011

I am currently on a roadshow presenting on a variety of subjects from industrial data comms and process control to electrical arc flash protection, which makes me think faintly of ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ but there you go. Thanks for the hundreds of participants for rocking up. Bela Farbas of Australia made some comments on one of my earlier notes and these brought a wry smile. He has gracefully allowed me to reproduce all his comments below.

Bela Farbas says: I would like to offer a comment not just for mechanical engineering professionals, but all engineering professionals working in a leading role in multidisciplinary projects. I work in the domain of industrial automation as an electrical and software design professional. In most projects that I am involved in the engineering professionals managing the projects at top level are of mechanical, chemical, or similar background.

To get to my point, my advice is: work out your naming, numbering, tagging system early in the project and DO NOT CHANGE the names, device ID-s, tags etc. after that. Once the initial (“for tender”, “for approval”) documents are distributed between the current and future stakeholders in the project any naming, device ID change in the project creates problems, confusion and significant latent costs.

Many times at top project management renaming the devices on the P&ID drawings seems a seductively simple exercise (“just change the tags, search & replace”), but think about all the information already generated with the existing tagging system.

These lists are already distributed and archived in countless spread sheets, emails, on drawings, cable schedules, software tags, IO lists, just to name a few. Changing them all is virtually impossible, so it does not happen. It leads to a lot of email exchanges in style of “did you mean Conveyor 5 of 3kW, or the old Conveyor 5 of 15kW?”
Sometimes it is hard to make this point understood; I usually offer this analogy:
“You live in East Street and there is a West Street in your neighbourhood too. Somebody decides to swap the two street names. Not a big problem, all you have to do is to let everybody know that you now live in 25 West Street now.
Send a few emails to your friends, send a letter to your bank, ring Telstra… Did you forget Medibank? Your new credit card (already posted) might go to your neighbour… Hopefully he will send it back…
You get a phone call for unpaid bills (that were sent to your old address)… You start wondering if the usage on your gas bill is based on your gas meter, or your neighbours… You try to ring the electricity company (…your call is important to us!)…”
How many man hours would this take to sort out?
I hope you find this comment useful, or at least worth a smile.

Obviously, with engineering drawings we never quite reach perfection - as Michael J. Fox remarks: I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God's business.

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