Commissioning Software

Email from boss: Is our power plant construction project on schedule? Can you provide percent complete details please? Email Response to boss: We are 49.2% complete on mechanical/electrical, and 36.5% complete on instrumentation. Most systems are slightly behind schedule, with the Auxiliary Steam Boiler system the worst at 24.35% complete, when it should be 38% complete by now. For that particular system, we have fully commissioned 41 of the 244 devices, and partially completed 10 more devices. Engineering Area 41 (Ammonia Storage and Transfer) is also causing some trouble, mostly related to motor megger problems. We are working on those discrepancies now.  Attached is a spreadsheet with summary-level information as well as system-level and engineering area-level percent complete data that includes all commissioning completed through yesterday, including resolved as well as open punchlist items.  Let me know if you’d like device-level inspection forms and if so, I can forward you the completed PDFs for those devices right away. Most of the time, percent complete estimates are just guesses The above scenario is usually the exception to the rule. In most cases, percent complete commissioning details are best guesses and rough optimistic estimates, with only high level summary information.  Sure, best guesses and high level summary info works fine for smallish, short-timeframe jobs, but not for large-scale multi-year projects, where each day of delay might mean another $100K of cost overrun. So why settle for a paper-based system that provides none of the above details at the push of a button? Why use old labor-intensive methods to collect commissioning data from complex construction projects? Why use best guesses?  Aren’t those merely opinions anyway? Use smart commissioning...

An Online Lab Reports Alternative to EQuIS

  Beyond .exe A lot has happened technology-wise since the Windows XP days, when most software was expensive, had to be installed on your computer, and was not exactly easy to use.  Most of that stuff had substantial learning curves.  Some required server software to be installed on-premise, meaning it was out of the realm of possible for smaller consulting shops looking for something inexpensive and quick.  EQuIS fell into this category.  Unless you had an IT department and large enough projects to justify the cost, implementation phase, and learning curve, migrating from Excel or other simple tools to something like EQuIS just wasn’t feasible.  So most of those smaller shops just kept using the same tool they used before: Excel. Are you one of those?  Are you still using Excel for this stuff because the alternatives “ain’t worth it“?   Browser-Based Software Alternative Well, that was then.  Today, there’s all sorts of software that runs right in your browser.  No need for super expensive installable and complicated software with huge user guides.  No need for admin rights to install something.  No need for server racks.  No need for an IT department.  Heck, even the billing for these newer breed of tools is simple and affordable, sometimes even free! DataConcourse is one such modern tool built specifically for the environmental scientist and consultant.  It does one thing and one thing really well: it produces environmental lab reports. And it runs inside any browser, with nothing to install, no need for an IT department, and even no need for a thick user guide.   Lab Reports Right From Your Browser The DataConcourse user-interface is simple...

An Alternative to Excel for OSHA Safety Stats

If you are still using Excel to manage your contractor safety statistics such as craft count, manhours, incidents, OSHA incident rates, and DART rates, maybe it’s time to take a look at something a little bit more powerful, more accurate, and less painful without having to implement something as beastly as Intelex.  We helped AEP do just that a few years ago.  Let me explain what their old process was like, and what their new process is now like. The old way they tracked this stuff, and how it became unwieldy There was an accident at a plant, and someone died.  It was a big deal.  Everyone at the top said “we need to improve our safety.  Bob, you are now in charge of improving safety.  You need to improve our procedures, and start tracking all our statistics so that we can continuously improve our safety record.” So Joe started tracking things.  Things like the number of hours worked at each plant, the types of workers working at each plant, their seniority (Journeyman, Journeyman +, etc), the subcontractor, and so forth.  And when a near miss occurred, or a recordable, a lot of details got written down, like what body part was injured, during what shift, at what plant, what time of day, what day of week, what type of work, etc. All of this info had to be stored somewhere…so Bob thought of the obvious choice for this: Excel.   It’s easy and powerful.  And it worked really well for a long time!  However, as time went by and more people were involved, the spreadsheet with a single worksheet grew to multiple...

Call for Speakers: Environmental Tech Summit, April 2016

  What it is A new conference in the works and it’s called the Environmental Tech Summit.  It’s mission is to put a bunch of software developers/vendors and environmental consultants into the same room and see what happens.  Ok, so maybe not quite like that, but the idea is simple: to promote the use and development of software technology in the environmental sector. Why it’s important I’m not alone in believing that the use of software technology—particularly smartphone and mobile tech—is lagging within our industry as compared to almost every other industry. I’m not entirely sure why, but I have some theories.  Inertia comes to mind. Fear of job or revenue loss also comes to mind. But let’s face it: from the long view, all of us that have been working in this industry for 20+ years will inevitably retire, and younger folks will take our places.  And with that will come sweeping changes, technology acceptance among them.  So this particular conference is being held in the hopes that it can serve as a catalyst to make this happen sooner rather than later. We need you Since this will be the first annual event, it’s success or failure will depend greatly on the quality of the speakers we can get.  So we are currently looking for two basic types of folks as speakers for this event: Environmental consultants that have used software technology in an innovative way.  Examples: improvement of a process in a unique way through software or hardware, use of a tool to do something that couldn’t have been possible without that tool, use of  a tool to speed up report completions and/or data quality and...

EnviroChain Mobile for Android Updated, Supports Custom Field Parameters

  Yay!  After quite some time updating the Android version of EnviroChain Mobile, it is finally available for download. This latest version includes support for custom field data, meaning that if you want to display certain field parameters on the field data capture screen in a particular order, or your own custom parameters, you can do that now on Android.   To set this up: Log into the web application from here: https://envirochain.promium.com/welcome.htm Go to My Account > Preferences > Standard Field Data Preferences Set up the parameters you want to make visible and in what order (you can add your own custom parameters on that screen) Save your changes (duh) Launch EnviroChain Mobile on your Android device Sync your app by tapping on the sync icon displayed on the top right of the home screen Start entering field data (available from the Advanced tab of the Samples screen) That’s it!  All of your custom field data that you enter on your Android phone or tablet will appear on the Field_Data_WorkSheet of the Excel file that you and your lab will receive via email.   If you are in Florida and need Florida ADaPT field data, this application also supports that.  I will write up a separate article specifically about Florida ADaPT at a later time.   Download EnviroChain Mobile for Android...

No paper chain of custody form inside the cooler? Blasphemy!

“DUDE! You can’t send environmental samples to a lab without a paper chain of custody form inside of the cooler.  That’s like…illegal or something.”     “if you don’t put a paper CoC inside of the cooler, how is the lab gonna know what tests to run on the samples, and which company sent them in?”   Use a custody seal Well, have you ever heard of custody seals?  You know, those stickers that all of us environmental scientists and geologists have used that go on the outside of a cooler that would indicate if a cooler seal was broken? Did you know that you can write stuff on those stickers?  Like the CoC ID #, a unique number that corresponds to an electronic chain of custody record that describes in detail what is inside the contents of that cooler? That’s what we tell folks that use EnviroChain for environmental sample chain of custody control:  Write down the CoC ID# on the custody seal, stick it on the front or top of the cooler, and you are done.  When the shipment arrives at the lab, the lab techs responsible for sample login will know what is INSIDE the cooler without even cracking it open.  I know.  Genius! It’s a tiny change, yet a hugely profound one at the same time.  Sometimes it’s the little things that matter most. This is especially true at larger labs, where the login area is very busy in the mornings when the FedEx trucks arrive.  The sample login department of a lab—or cooler delivery area—is commonly referred to as the sample triage area because of the critical tasks that need to immediately...

Seven cool features in EnviroChain to make your environmental sampling event more enjoyable

Disclosure: EnviroChain started out originally as my idea, so obviously my opinions are somewhat biased about how cool it is.  Ok, now that that is out of the way, let’s talk about the features of EnviroChain that I think are really cool and that should make your life as a sampling technician or environmental scientist easier. 1. It’s tightly integrated with Promium’s Element LIMS When you use EnviroChain, all of your CoC data is immediately available for insertion into your lab’s LIMS via the EnviroChain APIs. If your lab uses the latest version of Promium Element, it means that your CoC data is automatically inserted into the lab’s workflow, without the need for anyone to re-type anything.  That means that your lab knows about your incoming cooler shipment the minute you submit your CoC.  That also means that when the lab tech at the sample login station receives your shipment, he/she only needs to verify that what you stated on the CoC is actually what arrived at the lab.  There’s no need for the lab tech to try to figure out your chicken-scratch hand-writing on that paper CoC and accidentally type a 1 instead of a 7 or an i.  If your lab doesn’t use Promium Element, the lab can still insert your CoC data automatically as long as their IT department builds a simple script to access the data via EnviroChain’s APIs.   How does this help you the sampler? Well, how many times have you had to contact your lab because they screwed up the sample ID on your report because they typed it in wrong? Or had to yell at them because...

Using EnviroChain® to Collect Field Parameter Data

Custom field parameters A new cool feature was recently added to EnviroChain®: custom field parameters.  With this new feature, you can add your own parameters to the field data screen of EnviroChain, sort them in whatever order you want them to be in, and push those out to your field crews.  That way, only the field data parameters that you are interested in appear in the field data screen.  In the old version of EnviroChain, you could either display (and use) our standard field data or the Florida ADaPT field data set, but you could not enter your own. This new feature was added at the request of several labs who perform a lot of drinking water field sampling.  As such, they were interested in collecting chlorine data, but not interested in all of the natural attenuation parameters that are included in the standard field data that came embedded within EnviroChain. How to get started: set it up on the web app     Getting started with custom field data is easy.  Log into EnviroChain as a sample generator and then go to My Account > Preferences > Standard Field Data Preferences.  From there you will see three tabs: Field Instruments, Hach Test Kits, and CHEMetrics Test Kits.  These were set up this way mostly to handle natural attenuation sampling events.  However, if you are not interested in these parameters, just uncheck them from the “Active” column.  Only parameters that are “active” will appear in the field data screen on the web app and mobile applications (note: you have to sync your phone in order to to see this change in the native mobile apps)....
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