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Organizational review of plant automation group

Organizational Review of Plant Automation Group

It is intended that this organizational review, will provide the Districts with

a better understanding of the changing process computer hardware and software

support needs. Also to review the department location for the Plant Automation

Group (Group), and develop recommendations on the proposed reporting


¨ Review the background information.

¨ Identify the primary and secondary functions of the Plant Automation Group

¨ Review possible location of the Plant Automation Group.

¨ Identify and review reporting relationships options


Definitions used within this organizational review.

SCADA Supervisory and Data Acquisition System

PLC Programmable Logic Controller

HMI Human Machine Interface

ITD Information Technology Department

PAG Plant Automation Group

GMGeneral Manager


When the Districts first began consideration to form a focal group with

responsibility for Plant Automation, a task force was formed to make

recommendations. The one recommendation this task was unable to come to

agreement on was the location of this new Plant Automation Group (PAG). An

executive decision was made by the General Manager to center the PAG in the

Information Technology Department (ITD).

In September 1994, the Joint Board contracted with Ernst & Young to produce a

"Management Review of the Proposed Plant Automation Group for the Sanitation

Districts of Orange County". Their report recommended the location be with ITD

but noted that for the duration of the J-31 project, some engineering-related

activities would be involved and require close coordination with the Engineering

Department. As late as July 1995 when Ernst & Young performed the Finance

Function Review (which included the Information Services Division), they echoed

their previous recommendation but provided a timeline of approximately two years

to revisit the issue of PAG's location. However, this was not a firm


Over the past several months, a number of problems have made it clear that the

two year time frame identified in the Ernst & Young report may have been

optimistic. The problems of budget management, close coordination and

communication have placed a strain on the existing management of the ITD,

creating frustration and numerous problems throughout many parts of the


Primary Functions

The charter of the Plant Automation focuses on:

¨ Support of the Operations Division

¨ Providing engineering integration assistance through software and hardware

analysis and the setting of standards

¨ Support of the Maintenance Division regarding system and software

modifications and changes

¨ Assisting in the roll-out of the J-31 contract so that a transfer of knowledge

between CH2M Hill and the Districts occurs

¨ Analyzing and the recommendation of system and network architecture, system

design, and integration proposals.

The Plant Automation Group is made up of a number of disciplines. Process

control programming is very different from the type of programming which

Information Technology has been doing and requires different education, skills,

and experience. These skill sets all need to be integrated and unified for the

purposes of process control. Skills required include the administration of VAX

computer environments, configuration, computer operations, data communications

for Ethernet and report generation.

The Plant Automation Group also covers PLC development and programming, HMI

development, and data communications required for PLCs. It is also necessary to

perform software development for process control systems, either personally or

by assuming oversight responsibility for contractual development. Once a system

is in place, this is a task which cannot be contracted out due to the highly

customized nature of the process control software (Square D, CRISP SCADA) design.

The Plant Automation Group is also required to be on-call 24 hours a day in

support of the Operations and Maintenance Departments; and is a resource to all

other departments, providing technical support which primarily focuses on

control system and data integration.

Secondary Functions

The Plant Automation Group was chartered with an additional task, outside of

their normal work responsibilities, the design of the J-31 Projects. These

projects were expanded to include the development of a set of working software

programming standards including CRISP, Human Machine Interfaces, Programmable

Logic Controller Ladder Logic, and documentation at the conclusion of this


Location of The Plant Automation Group

Considerable debate has surrounded the location of the Plant Automation Group

and the J-31 Project. Each of the four departments has a vested interest in

this function:

A. Operation's interest is as a natural outgrowth of being the primary recipient

of our group's effort, and the department most concerned with its success.

B. Maintenance's interest is due to its existing responsibilities in PLC

maintenance through its Instrumentation Maintenance Division.

C. The Engineering Department's interest is due to their staff's concern in the

proper design of treatment processes, and facilities to optimize the treatment

of wastewater by the Districts.

D. Information Technology is concerned with the management of the Districts'

computing and communication resources for the benefit of all of these


Reporting Relationship

There are three basic options, at this point in time:

1. The first option is to maintain the Plant Automation Group, as presently

defined, but change its organizational structure. At the present time it is

organized as a separate group within Division 2430, the Software Support and

Plant Automation Division. This has not worked well at all as the activities are

too varied to be able to manage adequately. If no other change is forthcoming,

it should be proposed that the Plant Automation Group be split so that the

Software Support Division and the Plant Automation Division be two separate

divisions. The new Plant Automation Division would be staffed with a Division

Manager whose role would be to provide the appropriate direction, coordination,

administration, and budgetary oversight to this important role. The advantage of

this approach is that, given the right manager, many of the problems which have

been experienced to date should be alleviated. The disadvantage is that it may

only bury the problems in another layer of bureaucracy -- much will hinge on the

management abilities of the new Division Manager.

2. The second option is to transfer the Plant Automation Group, in its entirety,

to the Engineering Department. Within Engineering, it should enable the proper

coordination and communication to occur for the elements of the PAG's activities

that involve design. The disadvantage of this approach is that the only design

element of PAG left is the remaining portion of J-31. When this project is

completed, no further engineering-related activities will remain. At the present

time, PAG is beginning to assume a 24-hour, on-going support function which is

not consistent with the Engineering Department's normal activities. The most

important role that the Plant Automation Group fulfills is that of System

Integration for Plant Automation. This activity is intimately attuned to the

activities of the Information Technology Department, although for a uniquely

different application than what the rest of the ITD is involved with.

3. The third option is to immediately transfer what small portion remains of the

J-31project to the Engineering Department for the duration of the project. The

PAG will then continue in ITD and become a separate Division, as outlined in

Option 1 above. The new Plant Automation Division would immediately assume the

sole function of supporting plant automation and make recommendations to

Engineering regarding future construction projects, in the same way that

Operations and Maintenance have always done. The advantage of this approach is

to allow Engineering to manage this project and get the Plant Automation Group

out of the business of Engineering. The only disadvantages are that a change in

project management mid-stream might result in some loss of momentum and

coordination difficulties. The other possible disadvantage may be a lack of

staffing in Engineering. Naturally, some support staff should be loaned to

Engineering from the Plant Automation Group to enable this transition to succeed.


The Plant Automation Group will only succeed through the combined effort of all

the departments. It must be allowed to focus on selected critical objectives.

Initially, it must focus on:

¨ Making Operations its primary customer

¨ Learning and analyzing new system architectures, hardware, and software

¨ Understanding and learning how to support and maintain the new systems arising

from the J-31 contracts

¨ Reviewing and participating on proposed projects, writing and testing

software standards for the entire organization to use.

The location of the Plant Automation Group should be based on its primary work

function, which is mainly computer software and hardware support.

The J-31 Projects have two very distinct parts - Traditional Design and Software

Integration. For the J-31 projects to be successful, cooperation and assistance

must be fostered between the departments. A team-like approach to problem

resolution is fundamental to building a responsive organization. The Districts

should employ the concept of "Concurrent Engineering," which solicits the input

and commitment of all relevant departments in the conception and design stages.

Concurrent Engineering allows for all parts of an organization to be included in

the initial phases of a project, in order to identify and address problems early

before change involves a great expense. Involving participants together enriches

the final product.

The best solution will center the traditional design portion of J-31 in the

Planning and Design Group of the Engineering Department, and Software

Integration within the Plant Automation Group. This same approach should be used

for any future follow-on projects involving automation for Plant Operations.

This dual responsibility will reduce each department's exposure and

vulnerability in dealing with skill sets outside of their normal working


Option 3 should be adopted as being the best solution to the problems

identified and I would recommend implementation of this option.


Banner, D. K., Gagné, E. T. (1996). Designing Effective Organizations.

Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Robbins, S. (1996). Organizational Behavior: Concepts, Controversies,

Applications. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc.

Fisher, D. (1993). Communication in Organization. St. Paul, MN: West

Publishing Co. Purchased:

Hersey, P. (1996). Management of Organizational Behavior. Englewood Cliffs,

NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc.

Steers, R. (1993). Organizational Behavior. Glenveiw, IL: Scott, Foresman

and Company.

Timm, P. (1992). Supervision. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Co.

Smeltzer, L., Leonard, D. (1994). Managerial Communication: Strategies and


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