ISA Interchange

Welcome to the official blog of the International Society of Automation (ISA).

All Posts

What Considerations Should You Make Before Upgrading a Critical System?

This guest post is authored by Quan Nguyen, a senior engineer at MAVERICK Technologies. 

What does a critical system mean to you? I interpret a critical system as one that is required to be in operation while the facility is in production, or when people must be protected from environmental, health or safety concerns.

What are some of the things you should consider before deciding to upgrade a critical system? In my experience, many people only focus on having good designs, Planthe right installation teams, validation of drawings, description of operations, hardware specifications, code conversions, the right tools, etc. To me, this is a list of “must” have deliverables for a good plan. However, I have learned that one of the most critical deliverables in a successful project is the “cutover plan.” While the document is not used until the deployment phase of the project, it should be developed as early as possible and updated as needed throughout the project.

Why should the “cutover plan” be developed first? In order to avoid disruption of a critical system all tasks associated with the upgrade must be thoroughly planned, reviewed, and approved prior to starting the project. Working on the cutover plan first aids you in organizing the overall plan for the upgrade, including decisions around which unit operations should be included in this part of the project. Another use of the cutover plan is identifying what code, functionality and unit operations are dependent upon the critical system so plans can be made accordingly.

A cutover plan document should minimally include these four sequential steps:

1) Coordinate and Cooperate

Having the “right skills, coordination, and cooperation” comes to mind when I think about coordinating a project and getting buy-in (cooperation) from others. Complex system cutovers often involve different functional groups such as end-user operations, mechanical installation, electrical installation, commissioning and testing, and potentially other functions as well. Coordination and cooperation starts with the right skill set of personnel willing to work together to get the project done efficiently and safely. Not having all of the stakeholders on-board can potentially lead to the project going over budget and missing agreed upon timelines.

2) Create the Cutover Tasks List

In order to ensure the most accurate list of required tasks for the cutover, stakeholders from each functional group should conduct a field survey for their area of responsibilities and document current field information and conditions. This is when the agreed upon spreadsheet or documentation template is of value to improve coordination and communication.

Along with the field survey, stakeholders should analyze the design to identify changes and add details to the plan. If changes are required, use an agreed upon Management of Change (MOC) process to document and obtain stakeholder signoff of the new plan. Stakeholders should then prioritize the tasks and provide durations for each one. The tasks must then be reviewed with the appropriate field experts to ensure the right level of detail is in the plan and adequate time is assigned to each task.

In some cutover or a hot cutover projects, once the work reaches a certain level of completion, there is no going back. Commitment to the plan from all stakeholders is an important key to success.

3) Execute as Planned

All tasks must be performed as noted in the agreed upon, written plan. If issues arise that negatively affects the cutover plan, stop the work, find solutions to the problem, and communicate with the customer or end-user. Utilize the MOC process to develop a new plan and get sign off.

Don’t deviate from the plan. A cutover plan is written, reviewed and approved by stakeholders and most importantly by the customer. Every task in the cutover plan is written and planned for reasons that are based on system hazards, safety, processes, regulations, and production -- so stay with the plan.

4) Do it Safely

Step No. 4 is about maintaining safety standards while producing high quality work, staying on schedule and in budget. While budget, quality and schedule are important, they should never come before safety. Safety first; schedule, budget and scope second. The success of a cutover depends on everyone knowing their job, understanding the risks and hazards, and not compromising safety.

Upgrading a critical system will happen in the vast majority of production facilities. What questions do you have about the upgrade process?

About the Author
Quan Nguyen1Quan Nguyen, PMP, is a senior engineer at MAVERICK Technologies with 10 years of experience in automation systems.  He leads and executes projects, and provides technical guidance.  He also is a Siemens platform subject-matter expert supporting the proposal and estimating group and the business development group, and offers consultant and design expertise.

Related Posts

ISA Journeys: The Benefit of Getting Involved

In this blog post, a dedicated member of the International Society of Automation (ISA) shares her path to...
Contributing Author Sep 29, 2020 5:30:00 AM

The COVID-Free Smart Building (Part 1)

A vision of how smart technology can change the way buildings are designed and maintained to safeguard oc...
Contributing Author Sep 25, 2020 5:15:00 AM

Coding for Automation Projects Is More Than Writing Code

Translating mathematical equations into code is part of, but also removed from, the development of automa...
Ed Farmer Sep 22, 2020 5:00:00 AM