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Managing Technical Information Exchange With Process Equipment / Package Vendors




Dear All,
 
Today’s blog entry has shades of technical as well as communication skills. It is not restricted to process engineers and the guidelines provided in the subsequent paragraphs can be utilized by engineers from other disciplines such as Projects, Mechanical, Electrical, Instrumentation etc. in how to manage their dealings with manufacturers / vendors.
 
Before I begin, let us make a distinction between a manufacturer and vendor.
 
 A manufacturer is the one who actually manufactures / fabricates and / or assembles the pieces of equipment for the particular end-use. A manufacturer need not necessarily assemble the pieces of equipment for end-use. This may be done by a third party who conforms to the assembly requirements of the equipment pieces as specified by the manufacturer. A common acronym which many experienced engineers are familiar with is “OEM” which expands to “Original Equipment Manufacturer”.
 
“Vendor” is a loosely used term and could mean a manufacturer, an assembler, a trader or the combination of all the three. Most experienced engineers in the process industry are more familiar with this term and I will be using this term rather than manufacturer.
 
Where does all this begin? It begins from the requirement of a particular equipment for a given chemical process plant and for a given chemical manufacturing process.
 
How does it appear as information in the first place? It gets represented in a “Process Flow Diagram” in the very first stage. The second stage involves qualifying the function of the equipment in terms such as exact type of equipment, capacity, power requirement (rotary equipment), material of construction,  operating and design conditions (pressure / temperature), properties of the process material entering / leaving the equipment, compliance to statutory requirements (if any), HSE requirements and any special considerations.
 
The aforementioned information is generally captured as a “Process Datasheet” by the process engineer.
 
The third step would be to prepare a specification or material requisition which would provide further details for the requirement to be fulfilled. Some further information required to be part of a specification could be as follows:
-  International / Company Standards that need to be followed in design and manufacture
- Vendor Documentation type and quantified in terms of number of paper / electronic documents
- Spares and consumables requirement in terms of commissioning and operation of the equipment
- Material testing and test certification requirement
- Inspection and testing of the completed equipment as per any established guidelines and standards.
- Packing and Shipping Instructions
- Site Conditions for equipment storage, erection and commissioning
- Erection / Commissioning / Operation / Maintenance instructions
- Lubrication Schedule
 
These are jus t a few to name. There could be many more depending on the type of equipment and specific project requirement.
 
Now let us discuss how to improve the communication with the vendor to expedite the procurement  of the equipment as required or suited for the particular application and in a timely manner. Please note that the emphasis is on suitability of the equipment for a particular function and an adjective such as “best” has not been used to describe the equipment.
 
1. As far as possible avoid providing data as a wide range. Do your study to arrive at precise data and parameters for the equipment. There is practically no equipment which can perform well over a wide range. You are creating hurdles for the vendor to come up with a suitable equipment design by providing a very wide range of data. You should know the operating or rating case of your equipment.
2. Wherever possible please fill the information in the datasheet. Do a thorough  analysis of what information you can provide and what you cannot. Ask vendor to provide only that information that is relevant for the equipment and is necessary for the selection of the equipment.
 
3. Asking for design information related to any proprietary design is a waste of time. It is better to prevail on the vendor to provide performance guarantees for a proprietary design. However, make sure by doing your homework that what the vendor is claiming to be a proprietary design, is really proprietary, and not something that is an open design.
 
4. Incomplete or incorrect information can be disastrous in terms of getting trapped in selecting the wrong equipment and allowing the vendor to escape from his contractual obligations for the performance guarantee of the equipment.
 
One of the most common examples of this would be the selection of a wastewater treatment plant. Incomplete or wrong chemical and biological analysis of the influent waste water would certainly lead to selection of the wrong treatment unit or units. This would be specifically true when the specifications of the discharged effluent from the treatment plant are very stringent and there are practically no margins on the discharged effluent quality as specified by regulatory authorities. It also gives the vendor the excuse of escaping from the performance guarantee clause of the contract by proving that the influent water quality is not correct or incomplete for his specific design. In a nutshell, wastewater analysis in terms of multiple samples over a spread of time would be the ideal way to ensure that the treatment plant selected gives the optimum performance in terms of quality of discharged effluent.
 
One major problem related to providing such data is how to manage this in case of a Grass-roots or Greenfield project. This is also manageable. Most reputed vendors maintain an extensive databank of projects they have executed in the past. It is very likely that they would have data related to a similar project executed in the past which could be used for your project. Here my emphasis is on reputed vendors with an extensive portfolio of executed projects.
 
5. Be prompt to raise queries to the vendor when you find an error in the vendor documents or something which does not fit into the scheme of your plant or unit. Remember the vendor is in the market to do business and earn a profit. You must understand your requirement precisely. Many times the vendor would try to sell you something extra which is not required for your application. The analogy goes like this:
“I only need a sedan. Why are you trying to sell me a limousine?”
 
I hope the above mentioned guidelines provide an insight to the new engineers on how to effectively communicate with vendors in order to ensure a proper and timely selection of any equipment or package.
 
I look forward to comments from the members of “Cheresources”.
 
Regards,
Ankur.




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Ajay S. Satpute
May 19 2014 02:17 AM

Very good info. Thanks.

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processengbd
May 19 2014 11:37 PM

Thank you. Very Good information I have a few question.

 

1. On what stage of projects we usually start the communication with the vendors. Is it usually when we get approved equipment datasheet from client?

2. What is the scope of procurement department. Like Process Engineers prepare the datasheet. Should the communication be initiated by themselves?

 

Regards

processengbd

Thank you. Very Good information I have a few question.

 

1. On what stage of projects we usually start the communication with the vendors. Is it usually when we get approved equipment datasheet from client?

2. What is the scope of procurement department. Like Process Engineers prepare the datasheet. Should the communication be initiated by themselves?

 

Regards

processengbd

1. Communication could start as early as having a meeting with the prospective venbdor(s) for understanding what kind of system the vendor is offering even before floating a formal enquiry specification. It all depends on the purchaser's understnading of what is required.

 

2. Process role is generally limited to preparing a process datasheet. Most enquiry specifications or material requisitions are prepared by the mechanical group with the process datasheet generally being an annexure to the specification. A final "Interdiscipline Check" (IDC) is performed to ensure that the sepcification matches the requirement for the project and the document is error-free.

 

Regards,

Ankur.

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UNMESH BISWAS
May 30 2014 04:18 PM

Mr Ankur,

 

You have written a very good article. I would request to share a good article on Procurement Cycle.

 

Regards

Unmesh

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Yogesh Bhatt
Jun 02 2014 10:18 PM

Very informative. Thanks

Very helpful...thank you Sir!!!

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alberto.palma1972
Jun 03 2014 06:46 AM

My personal thanks for another helpful effort in sharing knowledge.

Thank you sir for sharing your knowledge .

Informative. Thanks

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