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Is the Process Control System Documentation at Your Plant in Order?

This guest post is authored by Alex Habib, a professional automation and controls engineer and ISA-certified instructor. 


The process manufacturing industries are undergoing constant change as a result of the introduction of new systems or corporate mergers and acquisitions. Technical staff and project management can often smooth out the rough spots resulting from corporate and technological flux through the development of a common set of documents for instrumentation and control systems.

Investment in control system documentation has become critical for overall project as well as business success.



Manufacturing, utility and energy processing facilities often have differing and conflicting documentation standards, experience increased use of new hardware and software automation technologies and also must adhere to strict regulatory compliance for quality, health and safety.  Add to this the challenge of technology transfer between different plant sites, different companies and plant sites operating in different countries. A focus on the quality of control documentation has become an important and often strategic mission for a variety of automation industry disciplines such as process manufacturing, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering.  Proper documents also benefit civil engineers, designers and industrial project managers.

ISA standards including piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs), control software functional requirement specifications, interlock and sequence logic diagrams, loop diagrams, instrument installation and location diagrams are essential methodologies for designing and developing complete and comprehensive control systems documentation for any facility in any industry.

The topic of control systems documentation attracts interest from a variety of industries, such as oil and gas, water and wastewater, power utilities, food and pharmaceutical manufacturing and the specialty chemicals industries.

At one of my training classes in control systems documentation, a power generation and distribution company requested guidance on deploying the most up-to-date ISA standards to document its control systems for a new project. The project team, which included process and instrumentation engineers and design engineers, wanted to learn the most current ISA standards to document the control system. The goal of such training is to ensure that an entire team can effectively communicate the design and build requirements to anyone associated with project implementation.

In another case, managers at a petrochemical refinery that had been recently acquired by a multinational corporation needed to establish a uniform set of documentation standards for a new control system that was on a fast track project schedule to go from concept to implementation without interruption.  The project team, which included process and instrumentation engineers, electrical engineers and designers, credited a completely revised and uniform set of project documents with an implementation on time and on budget.

Control systems documentation is your blueprint for a successful project implementation. Are your documents in order?


About the Author
Alex Habib has more than 19 years of experience in automating and modernizing systems in a variety of industries including specialty chemicals, petrochemicals, food, flavors, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. He is currently vice president-elect of the Industry and Science Department and director of the Food and Pharmaceutical Division for ISA, and president of the Central New Jersey Section of ISA.  Alex earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Fairleigh Dickenson University in Teaneck, N.J.

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