In our role as a solution provider to the manufacturing industry, and in this case that industry segment that deals in batch processes, we frequently provide custom designed subsystems packaged in skid form. These subsystems can be designed for mixing, cleaning, filtration, pumping, delivery, the list is extensive. We package or configure these subsystems in skid form for a number of clear and relevant reasons:
- A skid system ties all needed components together, and provides a unitized assembly requiring minimal installation effort in the end user’s factory
- When we integrate instrumentation and controls into the skid, we are able to perform testing under automatic control. This reduces time spent on site debugging the equipment.
- Because of the complete assembly nature of a skid system, the Factory Acceptance Test can be performed at near actual conditions. This aids in the discovery and remediation of any assembly problems.
- A skid based solution simplifies ongoing support in the client’s facility, as all of the associated components are co-located, keeping maintenance and troubleshooting efforts to a minimum.
- When a skid is designed for a particular process step, the arrangement of the components is studied to ensure access while minimizing size and thus structural costs. This has the benefit of also saving floor space in the client’s facility.
These are some of the more prevalent benefits we like to share with our clients, as they consider their implementation options. There is another benefit, not related quite as closely to the functional aspects of the packaging of the sub process, which I would like to develop a bit further here.
As we offer our total solution services to our clients, we frequently need to compare and agree with our clients on not only the functionality of the requested skid, and the technology used to deliver that capability, but also the methodology we use to move our project work stream from User Requirements to installed solution.
We want to be sure that our customers understand and agree with our game plan to define their needs and wants, to investigate and select equipment technologies, then to articulate how instrumentation and controls are going to be applied, which leads to a functional description and then software design. What follows next in the project work flow is purchase of hardware, fabrication, assembly, run off (Factory Acceptance Testing), installation, and debug/start up. We call this approach “Phases and Gates” or “Front End Loading.”
We favor using this controlled work flow methodology as it separates what can be a lengthy, complicated, and costly project into a series of well-defined steps with decision points, which promotes clear communication, well documented expectations and deliverables, and pre-defined gates where our clients can evaluate or re-evaluate their goals and business case and make necessary adjustments. It also provides a clearer understanding of and ability to predict schedule outcome.
What we are talking about now is risk, both to our clients, and to us. We believe that anything we can do to reduce mutually shared project risk is a win-win proposition. Now, let’s tie this goal of managing and reducing risk to the idea of skids. What is it about skids that might further promote risk abatement?
- Places most of the project scope/content in direct control of supplier
- Allows more thorough testing/less rework on site
- Any needed adjustments are serviced at fabricator’s shop, where tools and resources are available
- Necessitates clear battery limits between client and skid builder. No miscommunication or overlooked scope.
- Site prep, utilities tie offs at customer’s facility can be agreed to and in place ahead of time.
- Shortest, most predictable time between shut down, installation, and start-up. Fewer issues to debug and delay turn over.
As we consider our drive to make our solutions offerings on time, on schedule, and as error free as possible for our clients, thereby reducing project risk for both parties, we see that packaging the requisite batch process in skid form will by its very design and execution provide simplification, better understood responsibilities, improved communication, will promote more robust functionality on delivery, and a quicker turn over and benefit to all.