Who is an Equipment Manufacturer?
A manufacturer produces/fabricates and/or assembles the pieces of equipment parts for the end-user. A manufacturer may not assemble the equipment pieces. Many a time, a third party who conforms to the assembly requirements of the equipment pieces as specified by the manufacturer does the assembling. Many experienced engineers use the acronym “OEM” which stands for “Original Equipment Manufacturer”.
Who is an Equipment Vendor?
An equipment vendor could mean a party like a manufacturer, an assembler, a trader or a combination of the above. The term Vendor is mostly used in process industries by the most experienced engineers.
Where does all this begin?
It all starts when a piece of particular equipment is required for a specific chemical process plant and for a given chemical manufacturing process.
How does it appear as information in the first place?
The equipment information is represented in a “ PFD (Process Flow Diagram)” in the initial stages. In the next step, the equipment qualifies the function of the equipment in terms such as exact type, capacity, power requirement (rotary equipment), the material of construction, operating and design conditions (pressure/temperature), properties of the process material entering/leaving the equipment, compliance to statutory requirements (if any), HSE requirements and any special considerations.
A Process Engineer captures the above-mentioned information in a “Process Datasheet”.
The third step is the preparation of a specification or material requisition (MR) mentioning further details for the requirement that need to be fulfilled.
Other information that must be a part of a specification could be as follows:
- International / Company Standards based on which the equipment should be designed and manufactured.
- Quantity and type of Vendor Documentation in terms of number of paper / electronic documents
- Requirements of Spares and consumables during commissioning and operation of the equipment
- Material testing and test certification requirement
- Guidelines and standards for Inspection and testing of the completed equipment.
- Packing and Shipping Instructions
- Site Information for equipment storage, erection, and commissioning, if any
- Erection / Commissioning / Operation / Maintenance instructions
- Lubrication Schedule
Depending on the type of equipment and project-specific requirements, There could be many more.
Managing Technical Information Exchange With Vendor
Now let us discuss how to improve the communication with the vendor to expedite the procurement of the equipment as required or suited for the particular application and in a timely manner. Please note that the emphasis is on the suitability of the equipment for a particular function and an adjective such as “best” has not been used to describe the equipment.
Provide Specific Information
Avoid providing data as a wide range as no equipment can perform well over a wide data range. So always study the subject and arrive at precise data and parameters for the equipment. Without proper data, It is difficult for the vendor to come up with suitable equipment design. The operating or rating case of the equipment should be known beforehand.
Fill the Equipment datasheet
The datasheet should be filled with the appropriate information as much as possible. A thorough analysis must be conducted beforehand of what information can provide and what cannot. Inform the vendor to provide only the equipment specific relevant information that is necessary for the selection of the equipment.
Do not waste time by asking Proprietary Design parameters
You will be simply wasting your time if asking for design information related to any proprietary design. It is always preferable to agree with the vendor to provide performance guarantees for a proprietary design. However, do your homework to be sure about what the vendor is claiming to be a proprietary design, is really a proprietary item, and not something that is an open design.
Don’t provide incomplete or incorrect information
Incomplete or incorrect information can lead to the wrong equipment selection and can be disastrous. It will be allowing the vendor to escape from his contractual obligations for the performance guarantee of the equipment.
One of the most common examples of this would be the selection of a wastewater treatment plant. Incomplete or wrong chemical and biological analysis of the influent wastewater would certainly lead to the selection of the wrong treatment unit or units. This would be specifically true when the specifications of the discharged effluent from the treatment plant are very stringent and there are practically no margins on the discharged effluent quality as specified by regulatory authorities. It also gives the vendor the excuse of escaping from the performance guarantee clause of the contract by proving that the influent water quality is not correct or incomplete for his specific design. In a nutshell, wastewater analysis in terms of multiple samples over a spread of time would be the ideal way to ensure that the treatment plant selected gives the optimum performance in terms of quality of discharged effluent.
One major problem related to providing such data is how to manage this in case of a Grass-roots or Greenfield project. This is also manageable. Most reputed vendors maintain an extensive databank of projects they have executed in the past. It is very likely that they would have data related to a similar project executed in the past which could be used for your project. Here my emphasis is on reputed vendors with an extensive portfolio of executed projects.
Raise your concern (if any) immediately
If you find an error in the vendor documents or something which does not fit into the scheme of your plant or unit, Always act promptly to raise queries to the vendor. Keep in mind that the vendor is in the market to do business and earn a profit. So always precisely understand your requirements. Most of the times the vendor would try to sell you something extra which may not be required for your application.
The analogy goes like this:
“I only need a sedan. Why are you trying to sell me a limousine?”
The above-mentioned guidelines should provide an insight into the new upcoming engineers (Beginners) on how to effectively communicate with vendors in order to ensure a proper and timely selection of any equipment or package.
About the Author: This article is written by Mr. Ankur Srivastava, a Chemical Engineer with more than 32 years of process engineering experience in oil and gas, refining, polymers and petrochemical industries.