Remote Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT)

Remote Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT)

Due to the COVID 19 pandemic most workplaces have been required to change how they operate. GPA and Emerson recently took on the challenge of performing Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) remotely, eliminating the need to travel and be on site at other workplaces.

GPA were engaged to replace 3 x Burner Management Systems (BMS) at Santos’ Port Bonython processing plant. The Safety Instrumented Systems (SIS) were at their end of life. A market evaluation and tendering phase was carried out which resulted in the Emerson DeltaV SIS being selected as the new safety system.

During the week of 25 -29 May, GPA’s project team came together to carry out hardware and software Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT). For this type of FAT, it is typical for key personnel to travel to the factory where the equipment has been manufactured to inspect the equipment. In this way, any faults can be rectified prior to the equipment being transported to site. Unfortunately, due to the COVID 19 environment, interstate travel restrictions were in place.

It was decided to carry out the FAT remotely. The setup was as follows:

  • The new switchboard containing the DeltaV SIS equipment was located at Emerson’s premises in Melbourne. They had an engineer stationed by the switchboard to operate a digital camera for remote inspection, as well as to simulate physical inputs and outputs as required (using a micro-switches, pots, LEDs, multimeters etc.)
  • The programmer was located in Brisbane at her home. She was remotely logged on to the SIS controller in Melbourne and was able to run the simulations and make online changes as required.
  • Santos and GPA engineering teams were located in GPA’s Adelaide Office. Three remote sessions were running: one Microsoft Teams session and one WebEx session both displayed on the big screens in the meeting room. With a VPN connection to an additional laptop/screen that was logged into the SIS (in Melbourne), such that the project team could inspect and explore the configuration.
  • Santos Maintenance staff were also logged in remotely from Port Bonython Processing Plant.

With the setup described above, the FAT team was able to visually inspect the hardware with the digital camera. This was mostly fixed to a tripod with pan/tilt/zoom controls, but could also be handheld to enable looking into hard to see spaces. GPA were also able to run through software testing with the ability to see the SIS graphics as well as the functional logic. Electronic testing documentation was utilised such that progress and deviations were shared via the remote sessions also. Audio via Microsoft teams enabled all parties to communicate ad hoc throughout.

This creative way to conduct the FAT allowed the schedule to stay on track, and actually enabled more people to contribute and be involved in the ongoing dialogue. Often during FATs, conversations occur between 2 or 3 people standing next to each other or sitting in front of a PC screen. In this meeting room environment, all parties were present for all conversations. This allowed for some good robust discussions!

Whilst the realtime efficiency was slightly lower than would be expected during a face-to-face FAT, the savings gained through elimination of travel costs, meant that overall cost and effectiveness of the remote FAT was highly successful and very comparable to a traditional FAT.

Utilising innovative thinking allowed an effective solution to be reached for our client in uncertain times. Project challenges were resolved and team members embraced the new work environment, with everyone working together to get the job done.

Great work GPA team!