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3/17/2018 Understanding Project Timeframe for SCADA Implementation

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How Long Does SCADA Implementation
Take?

June 21, 2016

By: Dan Curlin

Understanding your project’s timeframe for the


SCADA implementation process, and tips on how to
shorten it.
As senior project manager, I get the “how long is this going to take” question a lot…from owners
wishing to get the new system up and running as fast as possible, and ECs on strict deadlines.
How long does SCADA implementation take? That’s definitely a loaded question and a difficult
one to answer, because it really depends on your environment, other subcontractors, and system
complexity.

Before getting down to a time range to expect when looking to get a SCADA system installed by
control systems integrator, you must first understand the SCADA implementation process in its
entirety.

 
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Understanding the SCADA Implementation Process

Most of what control systems integrators do takes prep work you might not see onsite. Here are
the three main steps to a SCADA integration process after receiving drawing/proposal approval:

1. In-house configuration

The SCADA architecture must be meticulously planned to ensure it integrates seamlessly with
your existing systems. It can take a few weeks to a few months to initially build out a system in-
house before onsite integration. First, a control system integrator orders the equipment for your
approved project, which takes time to be delivered in-house. Then, they configure that
equipment in-house. During this process, they check for proper compatibility between operating
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systems, HMI software, and data servers. If implementing a system on your computers, they
might need remote access to correctly set up the software.

2. Onsite integration

After in-house configuration is complete, your integrator will ship the newly configured
equipment to your location. Typically, the part that takes time in this phase is waiting for
schedules to coordinate, whether it’s waiting for a good maintenance window to shut off power
(during a retrofit project) or planning timing around your other subcontractors (during new
construction). Your integrator may rely on subcontracted electrical contractors to tie the SCADA
system into existing systems. After onsite integration, it’s time to test the system.

3. Onsite testing/commissioning

In the last step, your integrator will thoroughly test all parts of the system, including alarms and
output parameters. This is where scheduling becomes very important, as the customer must
allow time for equipment to be tested during a scheduled maintenance window that has the leas
impact on the system. As with all parts of the process, the testing timeframe totally depends on
the systems being tested. A single generator can take an entire day, while a battery system may
only take a few hours.

Why System Integration Might Take Longer Than You Think

Before we even delve into example timeframes, you must understand the two biggest factors tha
can negatively affect implementation time: new construction projects, and systems with multiple
manufacturers.

Retrofit vs. new construction

For existing SCADA environments, your timeframe should be a lot shorter than new construction
Because there is no hard startup deadline during a retrofit project, all onsite work and testing is
at the client’s discretion. It’s up to the client how fast or slow the project goes.

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Because new construction environments require the coordination of many contractor and
subcontractor schedules, SCADA implementation can take much longer. For example, mission
critical environment projects usually span a few months at least. In one extreme example, a
project I was working on spanned multiple years due to its size, complex wiring design drawings,
schedule coordination, and the intense testing process.

Industry

Historically, the more OEMs you have, the longer the integration process takes. Central energy
plants, for example, require a lot of system coordination that takes significantly longer than an
average project. They don’t just have an electrical system to integrate…they also have
mechanical, generators, battery backups, power distribution units, ATSs, boilers, chillers, cooling
towers, condensed water loops, and chilled water systems. Getting all those systems to work
together makes the design, implementation, and testing process very complex.

How Long Does SCADA Implementation Take?

I can’t stress enough that the following examples are purely samples of the possible length of
your project. The following examples do not include any time for waiting on other schedules.

Small system

A small, 5-piece system (power distribution units, UPS, metering, etc.) with 20 monitoring point
each in a new construction environment may take:

2-3 days for submittal phase


3 weeks to ship hardware plus 1 day for drawings (concurrent)
3 days to set up software
1 week for in-house integration
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2-3 days shipping


2-3 days for onsite integration
1 day for commissioning

Total turnaround time: 5-6 weeks

Larger system

A large, typical distributed generation system with multiple substations, two generators, a
handful of UPSs, 25 power distribution units, and 20 cooling units in a new construction
environment may take:

1 week for submittal phase (including mockups)

3 weeks to ship hardware


3 days to set up software
1 month to 1 month ½ for in-house application development and integration
3 weeks for onsite integration
1 week for commissioning

Total turnaround time: 3-4 months

How to Shorten SCADA Project Timeframes

If you think the turnaround time of your SCADA implementation will take too long, there are
actually a few things you can do to shorten your time frame.

Hire a flexible integrator

Some integrators have a difficult time meeting deadlines, mostly due to poor project
management. I know a lot of control systems integrators without devoted project managers, who
trust their engineers to manage their own projects. In some cases this may work, in others it can
take much more time as the integrator goes from one job site to the next then back again.
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Affinity Energy, on the other hand, has two project managers dedicated to getting projects
completed on time, under budget, and within the client’s specifications. If you’re under a tight
deadline we have the resources to get it done quickly. If your milestones are spread out, we have
the flexibility to be on hand when you need us.

As a PMP, I know that with good project management comes increased flexibility, risk reduction,
consistency, and happy customers.

Allow your integrator to participate in scheduling conversations

The #1 reason projects take longer than expected is because the system integrator isn’t included
in the beginning of discussions, when schedules are being decided. If the owner has a scheduling
meeting with the general contractor…then passes that information to the electrical contractor…
who passes that information to the integrator……

1. Important information can and will easily be lost or miscommunicated down the line
2. The integrator might need more time than he was allotted (in which case, he would be force
to communicate that information back up the lengthy chain, wasting time.)

Take away the red tape and let your integrator communicate with all project stakeholders (client
construction team, electrical contractor). Better yet, include the integrator in your scheduling
meetings and CC them on every scheduling email.

Better communication between administration and operations/engineering

In our industry, there is a large discrepancy between the administrative part of a client’s
organization (project planners) and the operations/engineering teams. This usually results in an
unproductive ‘hurry up and wait’ mentality.

For example, I’ve had projects where the administrative person told me it had to be completed in
one month. We rushed to send the client submittals to get the project rolling….but after four
months we hadn't heard anything.

To make sure your SCADA project timelines run smoothly, ensure those that manage your
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subcontractors, extended timelines, etc.) On after understanding all factors, should they decide
on the project deadline.

Dan Curlin was a Senior Project Manager for Affinity Energy from 2003-2016 with responsibility
for project performance, revenue forecasting, account management, and resource utilization. A
Certified Project Management Professional (PMP) with a Project Management Certificate from
North Carolina State University, Dan directly managed scope, scheduling, and budgets for a larg
project portfolio of Fortune 500 clients.

After working several years as a designer, Dan seized the opportunity to work as an Automation
and SCADA Engineer designing HMIs for process control automation firm Digital Systems, Inc.
and ultimately won Intellution’s HMI screen design competition.

Dan joined the Affinity Energy team in 2003 as a Project Engineer, and after eight years of
experience ensuring the SCADA, power monitoring and control, and critical facility monitoring
systems he implemented adhered to customer schedule and costs, became a Project Manager.

Dan is a graduate of North Carolina State University with a B.A. in Industrial Design, and a minor
in Science, Technology, and Society.

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