Chemical Plant Design Basis

Seeking Veracity

During the late 1980s while with DuPont Engineering, in-depth thinking about how to proceed with Chemical Plant Design was developed.  On November 23, 1988, a white paper was written on another term, Front End Loading.  This embodies the idea that by increasing the engineering effort more than normal and very early in project planning, a capital project stands a better chance to be executed on time and within budget.  While this theoretically seems true, the business centers are always in a hurry to get out into the market place and at odds with . . . "knowing what we what to do, before doing it".  They just want to expedite the project process, but this is at direct odds with the Front End Loading concept.  The following chart is a "distillate" of a great deal of thinking on the subject.  It's sort-of . . . "everything you want to know about the Basis for Design on one page".  Click on the image for an expanded view.  The whte paper follows with more detail:
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There are numerous definitions of, so called, "Front End Loading"(FEL).   The way I prefer to describe it would be............. "Those THOUGHTS,  PLANS, PROGRAMS AND ACTIONS that will identify WHAT we want, BEFORE trying to achieve it"!  "Look Before You Leap" is putting it another way.   I submit that It would be irresponsible........ and intellectually negligent not to use the FEL concept in any of our professional efforts.  There are all sorts of benefits to paying attention to this principle and many of us don't need persuasion.  On the other hand, I feel that we  sometimes pay "lip service" to FEL, particularly at the intermediate to high management levels in the DuPont Company.  And sometimes the "workers in the trenches" don't have time to think they use traditional approaches.

The point of this note is to share some thoughts around what I think is "The Right Way" to initiate and conduct a FEL program that potentially can lead to a Capital Project.  This, and certain STRATEGIC COMPUTER APPLICATIONS show the way to Miller's and Todd's (Engineering Managers at the time) VISION of 25% less project investment, 25% less time to install facilities and 25% less manufacturing operating cost.

Here are ten ideas that might guide Front End Loading in The Right Way, and contribute to QUALITY Project Basic Data.  AND perhaps, the production design force in PED (The Project Engineering Division) will then "Know It When They See It"!

1.  COMPLETE Project Basic Data is composed of:

                          * PROJECT OBJECTIVES

                          * RESEARCH DATA

                          * PROCESS FLOW SHEETS


                          * MANUFACTURING SITE DATA

2. Flow Sheet DEVELOPMENT is required in PARALLEL with the collection and preparation of the Research Data.  This will permit INTERACTIVE flow of information between those developing the process systems and those obtaining laboratory and pilot plant data.

3. The completion of Project Basic Data, including the FINISHED FLOW SHEETS, PRIOR to PED P&E activity will significantly contribute to the achievement of a STEP REDUCTION in E&HO (Engineering & Home Office Expense) cost and reduced time for CAC (Current Appraisal of Cost - for initial authorization) - preparation.

4. Quality Project Basic Data must include the contributions of  RESEARCH, MANUFACTURING, ENGINEERING and PRODUCT  DIVISION people.  The ideal team composition to handle the responsibilities in item #1 above would be:

                      + Marketing Engineer...Business Center/Product Division

                      + Research Engineer....R&D Division

                      + Project Engineer.....Project Engineering Division (PED)

                      + Process Engineer.....Plant Technical Group (Mfg Div)

                      + Site Engineer........Plant Engineering Group (Mfg Div)

 5. DIRECT  LINKAGE between the process simulator (Aspen or Process) and the flow sheet preparation device (Intergraph) will permit rapid intercommunications during process development.  This is something that we do not have now, but NEED!

6. It is PRUDENT to RISK the expense of an ADEQUATE  FEL PROGRAM rather than sink back into the traditional doldrums of "start and stop" production design and the associated lost P&E (Plans & Estimates - 1st authorization to start conceptual design) money to cost.

7. The Basic Data Development Team, as specified above, must be dedicated to the task of collecting the Basic Data and FREE FROM  DISTRACTION and other responsibilities to produce a STEP CHANGE in PERFORMANCE.  Relocation may be required.

8. The most efficient way to proceed with Conceptual, and then Final design is to reassign the development team members to NEW PROJECT  ROLLS after the Front End Loading period.  However, having a QUALITY Basis For Design in-hand, new project people can be brought "up-to-speed" more quickly than before.  Also note that FEL principles can and should be used throughout the project!

9. The Basic Data Development TEAM members should be TECHNICALLY ORIENTED in addition to having business and administrative perspective.  The PED member should be capable of configuring the process, operating the simulator and preparing graphic, well thought-out FLOW SHEETS that summarize the BASIS FOR DESIGN.   The Plant Technical engineer will need to visualize the individual process steps and postulate a FUNCTIONAL DESCRIPTION.  The marketing engineer will be the link with business reality and be the interpreter, if not the writer of the PROJECT  OBJECTIVES...........that include what DuPont customers really need in terms of PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS.  The Research Engineer  must have expertise in the particular technology and the ability to produce the RESEARCH DATA resulting from laboratory and pilot plant programs.  The Site Engineer will bring the local plant situation into focus as it relates to the newly postulated facilities and be responsible to provide the MANUFACTURING  SITE  DATA.  All Team members will have to be able to "fill in the holes" during the development of the Basic Data.  Obviously, MANAGEMENT will have to use MAXIMUM  SKILL AND CARE in selecting this group.

10. Industrial and Engineering Department MANAGEMENT  COMMITMENT to FEL is absolutely vital.  A lot could be said about this area, but if we can somehow convert the above management VISION into a believable and communicable "meme", AND let this team and their resources be truly CREATIVE and INNOVATIVE, the Step Change will happen!

F. L. Arbogast - November 23, 1988 - Newark, Delaware