Keys to Successful Site Acceptance Testing
What signifies the completion of the project? When have the contractual obligations of the project been met? The short answer to these pivotal questions that ultimately determine the project’s success is through Site Acceptance Testing.
At Matrix Technologies, Inc., we follow a documented process that starts at the project kick-off phase to ensure that all parties understand how to verify the project deliverables. This process is then continuously reviewed and developed throughout the project lifecycle to capture all changes to the project requirements.
Site Acceptance Testing is the process of ensuring that the system is fully operational as compared to the project requirements. While the SAT is traditionally for client acceptance, it is critical that the integrator generate the test plans to ensure that the test is specific to verifying the functionality of system as defined by the project deliverables.
SAT Preparation: Starts with Kickoff Meeting
It is never too early to discuss the SAT methodology. The project kickoff meeting is likely the first, and ultimately the best, opportunity to discuss with the client how the project deliverables are to be verified. While the answer may not be specifically generated at this time, it will at least start the thought process and allow for plenty of time to develop the answer throughout the project. It should also be a joint effort between the project development team and the client’s team.
Several topics need to be considered when determining the contents of the Site Acceptance Testing. The first point, and arguably the most important, is to consider the safety implications that the project may have on the system. Are there any new safety devices being added? Will the functionality of the system tie into an existing safety circuit? If it is a Greenfield project, have the location of all safety devices been thoroughly vetted to ensure ease of access in emergency situations? Once these questions have been answered, the plans for testing the safety aspect of the project can be developed. Does the end user have their own requirements for testing the safety of the system prior to releasing the equipment to be operated? Perhaps they have their own safety engineer onsite that requires a thorough inspection prior to even dry running the equipment.
Secondly, the complexity of the project needs to be considered. For a simple project the contents of the SAT could simply be a successful restart of the system. Does it work? Larger, more complex projects will likely require a more thorough means of testing. In this instance, several things could be considered as the final acceptance. It could be a predefined production rate, the quality of the product, maintaining the previous ODE rates for a predetermined amount of time, or any combination thereafter. The important part is to understand the end-user’s perspective and to mutually agree on the answer.
A third item that may need to be discussed is ownership of the process through the Site Acceptance Testing. Typically the project development team will have ownership at the beginning of the SAT with support by operations. But at what point is the system turned over to operations and what are the support requirements of the project development team at this point? These are all critical items that need to be discussed in order to generate the SAT plans.
Additionally, it is critical to understand who has the authority from the client’s perspective to provide the final approval. Ultimately it is best to receive the approval from the individual leading the project for the client. However, it is not uncommon for this task to be delegated as this person may not necessarily be involved with executing the testing. In this case, it is imperative to receive confirmation of the delegation.
Generating the Test Spec
A common misconception with regards to the SAT is that it is executing the same steps that were performed at the Factory Acceptance Test. While this would be an absolutely foolproof way of executing the SAT, the reality is that it is an extremely time-consuming process that may not be justified and/or granted. One caveat though, as there is with any scenario, is with regards to systems that have the potential to be extremely dangerous if operated in an uncontrolled state. Burner Management Systems for boilers, ovens and furnaces are easy examples.
More times than not, the client wants production to be back in service as quickly as possible, and rightfully so as the system is not generating revenue when it is not producing product. For a more complex system that endured an extensive FAT, performing those same steps for the SAT is presumably not an option. Nor is it necessarily required. Every interlock, permissive, alarm, and/or function of the project was already tested at the FAT so is it really required to be tested again at the SAT? This again should be discussed with the client during the preparation phase. The focal point of the FAT is to verify the functionality of the project as it was defined in the design documentation. The SAT should be focused on the operation of the actual system and ensuring that the quality product is produced.
Similar to the test spec that was generated for the FAT, the SAT spec should be reviewed and approved by the client prior to the execution. This provides another layer of confidence that both the project development team and the client team agree with the means of verifying the project deliverables.
One commonality between the FAT and Site Acceptance Testing is ensuring that any required updates are documented and discussed between the two parties. Perhaps a particular function of the project was not able to be tested during the onsite time due to production requirements. If this is the case it needs to be documented, as well as if an action plan was discussed or is needed. An easy scenario is that the system produces two different products, one being a high commodity that is produced a majority of the time and the other a specialty product that is only produced as demand dictates or seasonally. If there is not a foreseeable timeline for producing the secondary product, an anticipated timeline and the requirements for testing need to be discussed further.
Other action items that need to be documented are any requirements due to unforeseen consequences or inoperable items that are not critical to running the system. Documenting them ensures that they will be followed up on to determine the course of action to see the project to completion. Whatever the reasoning or the specific item is, the design team needs to ensure that approval from the client is provided once these items are eventually tested.
Now that the SAT has been executed, the results documented and all critical updates completed, the project is coming to its end. The system may have been in operation for several days or weeks at this point. Regardless, the client is satisfied with the project and agrees that the deliverables have been met. At this point the final acceptance of the project is obtained. This can be in the form of electronic written approval by the client or by signing the SAT Approval form. Sounds simple enough, however, this can be a difficult task.
At Matrix Technologies we are committed to delivering exceptional engineering solutions. Providing the final acceptance from the client perspective does not indicate the end of the relationship. It simply signifies that the project was completed successfully.
SAT: Protecting Both Parties
In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing manufacturing world, it is important to execute the activities of a project that ensure no stone was left unturned. Site Acceptance Testing provides a well-documented way to ensure that the contractual agreements of a project were met. Through careful planning and execution the Site Acceptance Testing ensures not only that the project deliverables were met, it also provides a means of confidently bringing the system back into operation.
Matrix Technologies is one of the largest independent process design, industrial automation engineering, and manufacturing operations management companies in North America. To learn more about our manufacturing operations management capabilities and manufacturing process control solutions, contact Matt Fether, Department Manager.
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Tags: Matt Fether / Commissioning / Controls Automation / Factory Acceptance Testing / Improvement / Industrial Automation Engineering / Manufacturing Operations Management / Manufacturing Process Control / Programming / Quality / SAT / Site Acceptance Testing / Management / Manufacturing
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