Original Date: 08/26/1996
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Information : Process Automation Group
Because of Weirton Steel Corporation’s (WSC’s) commitment to continually review its operations to reduce cost, improve quality, and meet schedules, the demand has increased for new hardware and software; changes to existing computer systems; data accumulations; and other computer-related needs. This demand motivated WSC to establish a process automation group that is now responsible for maintaining and enhancing legacy systems; designing, developing, and installing systems; managing projects; and providing analysis and consultation on all Level I, II, and III, computer-related needs of the Operations Department.
The group was established in early 1995. Prior to that, the computer-related needs on the plant floor were minimal, and typically were handled through the standard channels for capital improvements or process troubleshooting. The group established a process automation methodology to define both the criteria for the project levels accepted by the group and the process flow of all projects coming into the group. The criteria is as follows: Level I is equipment- related; Level II is line-related; and Level III is area-related. Requests that affect department-wide operations (Level IV) and Corporate-wide operations (Level V) are not accepted by the group; however, the group may be called upon for assistance and advice.
To start the process, the requester submits a request form describing a necessary action. The group enters the action into the Request Tracking system that tracks and produces request tracking reports. Next, a preliminary investigation is conducted. Using a functional specification, the group generates a scope-of-work statement; documents the process, material and data flow; and determines the performance and interface requirements. The requester reviews the group’s interpretation of the project; makes sure the project was communicated properly; and comprehends what the returns will be. A detailed investigation then follows. Using a system-design document, the group identifies subsystems and components; documents how to implement functions; and performs architecture analysis. The group uses a detailed-design document to partition subsystems into modules; define input and output operations; and define communication mechanisms.
A method for handling the request is chosen: in-house, contract out, or hand-off to a systems integrator. Next, the request goes through the development, testing, system integration and implementation steps. Development deals with computer hardware assembly; generating module codes; compiling and debugging standards; module testing; implementing the database, operator interface, alarms, and error handling; report generation; and man-machine interfacing. Testing involves the integration of the software and hardware as a total system. System integration, based on a test plan, tests the system and simulates operations; verifies internal functions and external interfaces; and tests operator interface, sequencing calculations, control, and timing response. The final step, implementation of the project in an actual, operational environment, includes the hardware/software installation and checkout; the operator, maintenance and engineer training; and the system start-up and verification.
The process automation methodology provides excellent control and tracking of projects within the process automation group. The entire project’s process flow, description, details, and schedule are available on the Process Tracking system, a unique feature that allows the requester to monitor the progress and status anytime.
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