When considering a sampling system, it is easy to think about the scope of the project as the writing of an order and the installation and operation of the system. In reality, these items are the final steps in a larger project scope that begins with investigating what options are available and how these options will best suit your needs.
Most things start with a simple idea. In sampling, this simple idea is the basic identification of a need for sampling. We could discuss why sampling is important, but if you have already identified a need to implement a sampling plan, you likely already recognize this importance. So, once the basic need is identified, what is the next step?
Learning through research
If you are like most of us, knowing that you need to do something doesn’t necessarily mean that you know how to do it exactly. If you find yourself in this situation, the solution to not knowing is research.
In the past, research may have meant trying to determine what companies produced the goods or services required, and then contacting them individually to have a conversation about your application. From these conversations, you would need to determine which company (or companies) offered a solution that best suited your needs and then determine which company you would like to work with.
In recent years, this process has become more streamlined on the front end, with most reputable companies offering a great deal of information regarding their product offerings on the internet. Answers and other information are available with a few keyboard strokes and mouse clicks. Determining what company’s offering matches up with your needs, making a preliminary selection for companies to work with, and developing broad strokes of a solution that meets your needs can be accomplished in minutes.
Once the initial phase of research is complete, however, it is still very important to have a person-to-person conversation.
The lost art of conversation
For all the ways that the internet has streamlined and improved our project work, saving untold amounts of time, there is a potential negative impact: the potential to miss out on a good ol’ fashioned conversation. Drawings, questionnaires, datasheets and other literature (yes, blogs), may be an important part of transferring information, but there is much that can be learned and many issues that can be addressed — quickly — during a discussion of your application with your chosen sampling system vendor.
A discussion with a subject matter expert can bring specificity to the broad strokes you put together for yourself during the initial research stage. Multiple operating scenarios, potential process issues, other items that may be worth considering for your application and any number of other useful facts can be uncovered and discussed. Oftentimes, these sorts of “extras” cannot be captured on the usual drawings, questionnaires and datasheets.
At this point, you should be feeling pretty confident that you’ve gotten your project requirements defined and that you have acquired the necessary knowledge to be successful in your project. Now, it’s time to let your chosen sampling solutions partner do the work.
The project takes shape
Now that the project has been well defined, it is time to figure out how to make it work in a practical sense. This is where your selected sampling manufacturer will put together the necessary drawings, equipment selections, operating parameters, pricing, etc. to complete the solution to your particular, unique sampling problem.
Generally, there is more than one iteration to this step, as it will often take more than one attempt to find the ideal blend of sampling solution, equipment design, system layout and pricing. After this fine-tuning process is complete, you can place an equipment order with the confidence that the sampling solution you purchase meets your needs and requirements for correct sampling for years to come.
With your purchase order, the work will once again fall to your selected equipment supplier as, at this point, we have reached the manufacturing phase of the project. Purchased components will be sourced, fabrication drawings will be produced and equipment manufacturing will begin. As the purchaser of equipment, you should feel welcome to stop by or otherwise check on the status of the project if you would like; at the end of the day, it is in everyone’s best interest to be certain that the client is happy with the end product, and the sooner in the process any concerns are identified, the better.
At the end of the manufacturing portion of the project, the equipment will undergo final inspection and testing. This is where the manufacturer will be sure that the equipment produced meets any internal corporate requirements for design and quality, and also verify that any specific needs and requirements of the client have been adequately addressed. When final inspection is complete, equipment is packaged for shipment and dispatched to the jobsite.
Getting it done
Training and support
An idea realized
If you think back, all of this started with a simple idea – the realization that a need existed for a sampling solution. The journey could be long and may be complicated, but with research and the selection of a quality partner, the project development and implementation of your correct sampling solution is well within reach.
Once equipment arrives on-site, installation usually begins. In the event that installation is delayed, be sure to correctly store your equipment. Assuming installation does move forward right away, the contractor will begin placing and mechanically connecting the equipment according to the general arrangement drawings that have been developed for the project. These drawings will show the same system arrangement and orientation as the drawings put together at the proposal stage, but they will have additional final details that have been developed in design engineering. When mechanical installation is complete, the electrical installation can begin. This involves running and terminating various cabling to any equipment and components that have not or could not be pre- wired in the shop. When electrical installation is complete, it is time for commissioning.
Commissioning usually takes place in two steps: dry and wet commissioning. Dry commissioning takes place first and involves checking the installation and adjustment of the machines individually, prior to attempting to operate a system as a whole. This step ensures that individual system components, sensors, etc. are mechanically sound, wired correctly and will operate correctly once the entire system is energized. Programmable logic controller inputs, output, and other sampling system controls are checked in preparation for initial operation. The final step in dry commissioning is to operate the entire system together, but without material present, to ensure that individual machines will work together correctly as well as to verify that system programming is functioning as intended.
Once it has been verified that the system and its associated equipment will operate correctly, material is introduced to the system and wet commissioning gets underway. During wet commissioning, it will be verified that samplers are correctly collecting sample increments, conveyors are properly handling material, and crushers are producing the appropriate output sizes. Any issues noted are addressed, and any other fine-tuning that may be required to achieve correct sample flow through the system and collect correct final samples is completed.
The final step in wet commissioning is a period of “normal” operation where system operation is observed and any potential issues that may arise can be addressed. Often, this period of run time at the end of wet commissioning is also used to collect samples that will be used to verify the representativeness of the final samples collected (sometimes referred to as bias testing). Other times, the system will simply be turned over to the end user for operation in their normal process, with any performance testing that may need to be performed scheduled for a later date.
This takes you to what is very nearly the end of the project. The term “very nearly” is used because, while the vast majority of project activities are complete, there are still a couple loose ends to address.
It can be said that the ultimate success of a sampling project is directly related to the familiarity and dedication of the individuals whose job it will be to operate and maintain the new sampling system. Given this, it is critically important that operation and maintenance personnel be made available for training on the new system. Ideally, this will take place throughout the total commissioning phase, but any opportunity to provide system operators with some hands-on experience is very important. Sampling equipment is no different than any other type of equipment – issues that may arise during operation and maintenance are a part of any equipment ownership. Discussing issues and maintenance while factory trained personnel are available on-site will reduce the learning curve for on-site personnel when the inevitable operational snag does appear.
Ultimately, the operation and maintenance of the new system does fall to the owner, but the owners are certainly not left to their own devices. For any issues that may require consultation with the manufacturer, help is not any further than a phone call (or in some cases, a mouse click) away. The success of a project from a manufacturer’s standpoint depends on the success of the end user, and helping out after the system has been turned over is part of the process for those items you may not be quite sure about or for those post-commissioning system tweaks.