InterfaceManagementEffective information exchangethrough improved communicationABB Value Paper Series
InterfaceManagementEffective information exchange through improved communicationby Josh Caglar, P.E. and Mike Connolly, ABB Inc., HoustonIntroductionIn today’s flat world, many major oil and gas projectsinvolve multiple project participants from differentgeographic locations including one or more Engineering,Procurement and Construction (EPC) companiesperforming process and facilities design, a variety ofthird party suppliers providing products and servicesand a broad range of external and internal customersneeding to exchange information between themselvesand other project stakeholders. Critical elements inthe successful operation of major oil & gas facilities arethe automation, control and electrical power systemsand for these systems to have a common “look & feel”throughout the facility owner/operators are increasinglyadopting the concept of Main Automation Contractor(MAC) and Main Electrical Contractor (MEC) where majorvendor/equipment suppliers take on an expanded rolein the design, manufacture, installation, commissioningand initial operation of the facilities. An importantaspect of the MAC/MEC role is promoting effective andtimely communication and exchange of informationbetween participants since this is a prerequisite to theultimate success of a project.likely in different geographical locations, resultingin cultural and language differences and the necessityto collaborate and work together over multiple timezones. In situations such as this it is essential forthe MAC/MEC to have the ability to interface andcoordinate information to minimize the risks associatedwith ongoing design development, project changes andlate and erroneous data. This requires the establishmentof a process to coordinate activities directly with otherproject participants to ensure an effective exchangeof critical information.MAC/MEC brings value to the end user by providingadvanced technology solutions and integratedproducts. In order for the solutions and integration to beimplemented successfully it is essential that a commonframework of communications is established whichpermits the timely exchange of relevant and accuratedata between the involved parties. To achieve thisABB employs Interface Management, a key processwithin our project execution model and an essentialelement in delivering flawless project execution.The process must be robust and it must be managed.This requires a management structure with the abilityto cross the relevant participant boundaries withoutimpacting the overriding contractual relationships.The nomination of an interface representative positionwithin each entity’s project organization achieves this.The Project Interface Manager has overall responsibilityfor implementation and maintenance of the interfacemanagement process throughout the project life cycleby developing and implementing project specificInterface Management work processes, capturing thenecessary interface agreements, monitoring progress,ensuring that schedule requirements are maintainedand identifying/ initiating any change requests that mayarise out of the interface requirements. Depending onthe size of the project the MAC/MEC Project Interfacemanager may also have a team, of project interfacecontacts (technical liaisons) embedded in the locationof other external entities to be the interface liaison withthe owner and EPC’s Interface Representative or otherpersons and departments required by the owner.RequirementsDefinitionA major factor impacting the exchange of informationis the contracting structure employed on the project.There are a variety of different contracting modelsthat can be used ranging from direct contractswith the owner to various prime contractor/subcontractor/supplier relationships betweenthe owners, engineers etc.The objective of the Interface management processis to facilitate agreements with other stakeholdersregarding roles & responsibilities, timing for providinginterface information and identification of criticalinterfaces early in the project through a structuredprocess. The overall goal is the early identificationof issues with potential for impact to cost or schedule,to minimize or remove their impact and promote clear,accurate, timely, and consistent communication withother organizations for exchanging interfaceIrrespective of the contracting model used, these largeprojects will involve multiple participants most
ABB Value Paper SeriesInterface Managementwith its scheduled project tasks. This can include butnot limited to the engineering drawings, specifications,design reports and calculations, equipment detailsand project schedule information.There is no limitation on the source of interfaceagreements. They can arise from several sourcesincluding members of the project team, contractrequirements, responsibility matrices, customerrequirements, third party vendors/suppliers andother project contractors and projectstakeholders.Whatever the source, informationrequests on an Interface Agreementhave two basic rules:1. They should be specific and primitivein nature and should not be capable of furtherbreakdown in to more items.2. They should have a specific requirement date.information. Interface Information is a requirementthat associates two distinct entities, either internal orexternal, that is necessary for an entity to generateits own deliverables.Interface Agreements result in exchange of any projectinformation generated by one party that is needed byanother party in order that the other party can continueInterface Agreement is unidirectionalTo simplify the process and make the tracking andmonitoring efficient all Interface Agreements should tobe unidirectional from the first party (receiver) to thesecond party (supplier). If the second party requiresthe return of data then this should be the subject of aseparate interface agreement from the second partyto the first party.The Receiver is the party that initiates the requestfor information and the supplier is the party that isresponsible for providing the requested information.During project execution all participants may adoptthe role of receivers and suppliers at some point.
ABB Value Paper SeriesProcessThe interface management process is designedto provide a method to formally document andtrack the exchange of information between projectparticipants and to monitor the performance ofall participants in making available the requiredinformation. The process involves Identification and recording an interface Creating an interface agreement Agreeing / Resolving Conflict Monitoring the status Reporting the status Closing the interface agreementInformation required is identified by the receivingparty and advised to the interface manager,whom in turn will develop an electronic registerof all identified interfaces, usually in a databaseformat, with each interface agreement having itsown identification code such that the receiver andsupplier are easily identified. For example, in thecase of an external party, MAC/MEC-EPC1-001depicts an interface agreement that MAC/MEC isrequesting from an EPC1.A formal interface Agreement document is generatedfrom the Interface Management database by theinterface manager and signed by the receiverand issued to the supplier via formal documentmanagement process with the necessary dataelements such as Interface Agreement IdentificationNumber, Priority (whether it is highly critical orinformation only), Date Raised, Supplier Organizationand Interface Contact, Date information neededby the receiver and date agreed by the supplierand the status of the Interface Agreement as eitherbeing OPEN or CLOSED.Once the created Interface Agreement is issued bythe “Receiver” the “Supplier” will either accept it orwill ask for a discussion for clarification. The InterfaceAgreement is then discussed with the “supplier”and either accepted, modified, or deleted. If thereis a dispute over the legitimacy of an identifiedinterface, the interfacing parties will make everyeffort to resolve the issues. The client may interveneto provide final arbitration of any unsettled issues.The supplier will sign the Interface Agreement bya formal signature on the form and issue it back toExternal orInternalInterfaceIdentifiedExistingNew or ExistingStatus: Open /Closed / PendingPriority: Critical /High / LowNewInterfaceAgreementCreated andIssuedStatus: Open /Closed / PendingPriority: Critical /High / LowExternal PartyAgreed on theInterfaceAgreement?Create NewRevisionNOYESMonitor Statusvia InterfaceMeetingsStatus: Open /Closed / PendingPriority: Critical /High / LowRequiredData / Info.Received?YESClose theInterfaceAgreementand IssueLog in the IM DB andreport the status to theclient periodicallyNO
ABB Value Paper Series“receiver” The database is modified as required. Inorder to simplify the process an Interface Agreementmay be revised only once.Each Project Interface manager monitors the statusof the interface agreements on a regular basis byhaving periodic Interface Meetings or teleconferencesbetween the parties to review the progress on theInterface Registers that are derived form the InterfaceDatabase. The Interface Agreements with “Critical”Status are prioritized and the respective ProjectManagers will develop contingency plans for the“critical” data that is deemed to be “late to minimizethe impact of the critical late data.The interface manager is responsible for producingregular reports from the electronic log indicatingthe interface progress. The frequency of reportswill depend on the project reporting requirementshowever, as a minimum a status report will begenerated monthly and included in the monthlyproject progress report. Reports can be either ina tabular format as an Interface Register or in astatistical format as a high level report.When the “Receiver” receives the requestedinformation by the required date and considers itacceptable then the “Receiver” can sign the InterfaceAgreement as “Closed” and issue it back to the“Supplier”. In turn, the “Supplier” signs the interfaceagreement form as “Closed” and the document isrecorded as such in both the “Supplier’s” and the“Receiver’s” interface databases. The “Closed”interfaces are omitted from future InterfaceAgreement reporting.AdvantagesUsing a formal Interface Management processhas many advantages, particularly when there arenumerous participants and stakeholders involvedin a project. Having a structured process for theexchange of information means that performancein satisfying the requirements can be monitoredin detail and any shortcomings highlighted andaddressed immediately they become apparent.A secondary benefit of implementing the processis that it encourages meaningful communicationbetween the supplier and receiver participants. Therequirement to provide specific, detailed requeststhat are not capable of further decomposition meansthat the party making the request must give carefulthought to the detail of the information requested andto the timing of the delivery of the information. Therequirement for both parties to sign the formal agreementmeans that a dialogue regarding the information and itsdelivery must take place between the parties in orderthat agreement can be reached. If the receiving partyasks for too much, too soon in the data generationcycle, agreement with the supplier party is unlikelyto be reached. The supplier party will require furtherdecomposition of the data into more defined partsresulting in detailed discussions/negotiations betweenthe parties regarding the information required. Theformal interface agreements are the product of thiscommunication process.Fostering this communication between projectparticipants early in the design cycle is an importantfactor in achieving execution excellence. Very oftenthe information a participant requires is either illdefined resulting in confusion and lack of focus, orit is all encompassing resulting in the delivery beingunable to be achieved. This leads to conflict within theteam and gives rise to unproductive finger pointingor laying blame for something not happening ratherthan cooperation to ensure that the work progressesto meet the schedule objectives. Examples of this arethe MAC requesting delivery of the AFC P & ID’s fromthe process designer by a certain date. This is anideal situation but in today’s fast track projects theprocess designer is very often unable to deliver all P& ID’s at the same time. By focusing on the actualdata needed, the MAC and the process designercan reach an accommodation that will provide thenecessary data in an acceptable timeframe. The useof the interface process captures the details of theseagreements, makes them visible to all participantsand tracks them to a successful conclusion.ConclusionEffective exchange of information is crucial to thesuccessful execution of any project and the largerthe project and the more participants there are, themore difficult it is to achieve this. Use of the InterfaceManagement Process allows early identification ofcritical interfaces through a structured process leadingto early definition of issues with potential for impact tocost or schedule. Once identified, action can be taken
ABB Value Paper Seriesto minimize any impact and with constant monitoringareas of criticality that deviate from the plan can bequickly addressed and brought under control.Interface Management also encourages communicationbetween the participants providing each with anunderstanding of the constraints inherent in theirrespective data generation cycles. Identifying specificdata requirements and understanding the importanceof the requirement leads to more effective cooperationand thus an improvement in execution performance.The Interface Management process can only be effectiveif all project participants embrace the concept andincorporate it into their work processes making it aformal project communica