Why do clients believe that contractors do not know instrumentation

  • Thread starter Anand Krishnan Iyer
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Anand Krishnan Iyer

Having worked in maintenance in some good companies. And then having switched to consultancies and now in an EPC project for a petrochem.

Recieved a letter where the client tried to change his requirements after the order was placed and an out of the world technical excuse on a document that was given at bid stage, made me wonder,

why do clients think that contractors do not understand instrumentation and are there to take the bait in a need to satisfy the client at all
costs and accept their lame excuses and things like that.


Hakan Ozevin

They DO know that you know instrumentation.
Possible problems we meet:
1) They think that they know better than you (which is the rare case),
2) They found someone who says he will make it cheaper and better and says he knows better than you (which is the frequent case).
3) A friend of the boss/CEO wants to take the order, they are just trying to find a reason to get rid of you (which is frequent or rare, depending on the company)

Glenn Wrightsman

I find that most problems associated with clients stem from someone else in that department that feels you are moving in on their territory. But, if you prove yourself you should show the upper level management that you are who they want! Most times the clients staff will throw something together to make it look good, but in many cases does not work correctly and will eventually cause issues in the process. Politics is the main focus I believe you must look at. People need to know who you are and what you bring to the table.

Bruce Durdle

There is also the issue that many contractors may know "instrumentation", but a knowledge of instrumentation on its own is not enough to do the job - contractors rarely have a fully detailed knowledge of a client's business
operations, operational procedures, staff competencies and capabilities, or the process to be instrumented.

A successful instrumentation project requires that the contractor, the client (management) and the client (operating staff) all work intimately
together to make sure that the needs and capabilities of each are fully utilised. If any one of the parties takes a prima donna attitude, the project is doomed to failure.

a) The customer ALWAYS wants to be able to change his mind later and at no cost if at all possible. They want to have maximum flexibility on everything but the price, unless of course the price can be lowered. That's just the way it is!
b) In my opinion, most contractors DON'T know much about instrumentation, unless they have an instrumentation group. That's probably why they hired you!

Rick Lamb

James Ingraham

Everybody likes to blame everybody else. Some contractors suck, some in-house people can't tell an electrical outlet from a urinal, and some systems integrators only want to suck up cash. The world is not a perfect place, and no one's going to blame themselves when there is someone else around to blame. Contractors are an easy target; just fire them and get a "better" one! Good contractors will take the heat for bad ones.

Sage Automation, Inc.

Michal Casterline

I've been a contractor and an employee.

I've worked with good contractors and poor ones.

Equally, I've worked with good employees and worthless ones.

When evaluating a contractor, you should consider whether they are prepared to bring people in that understand not only the individual procedures, but
how each applies to your particular process.

Or, do they simply bring warm bodies with the minimal required credentials?

Competence is not necessarily a function of the pay arrangements.

Michal Casterline

Bob Peterson

I am not all that sure quite what the original question really was, but I continue to be astounded at the lack of skill, knowledge, and competence displayed by contractors who typically install instrumentation. Often the installations are sloppy, both mechanically and electrically, they are unable to calibrate the stuff they install, and they can rarely troubleshoot the
stuff they install when it needs to be fixed. And forget about texting the stuff after they have installed it. Best sometimes to just get them out of the way.

I can't begin to tell you how many times I have had to debug/fix wiring mistakes (everything from wired backwards to wired to the wrong device),
mechanical installation problems (devices cross threaded in place, tubed wrong, installed upside down, forgot the 5 valve manifold, etc.). And do
they have calibration certs for the instruments, or the tools to calibrate them? Not often.

My experience with contractors has been BAD (with a couple exceptions). In fact, I do not know of any control engineers who are generally happy with the quality level of the contractors they work with (although there are occassional exceptions - just that in general it is not ideal).

I get tired of spending days or even weeks in the field testing, debugging, and fixing this stuff. Its not rocket science, yet they seem to be unable to get it right on any regular basis.

Bob Peterson
I must second what you're saying, Bob. I have spent 25 years working in this field. I have seen instruments wired up backwards. I have seen
instruments with no power wiring. I have seen instruments and controllers wired incorrectly just about any way you can think to do it. Many
electrical and mechanical contractors have always done the "commissioning" thing...The rep or distributor who sold the systems is often by
specifications required to provide "one day of startup supervision and operator training." The contractors often take this as meaning that the
factory will actually do the commissioning of the products. Getting paid for the additional days is pretty hard, too.

This is one reason that the IBEW jumped so hard on the bandwagon when ISA created the Certified Control Systems Technician program. And it is why
CSIA has created the Registered Member program. You have to establish third-party benchmarks for who "is" a technician qualified to install stuff,
and you have to establish benchmarks for who is qualified to perform control system integration. Otherwise, just anybody can set up to do it, with the expected negative results.

Walt Boyes

---------SPITZER AND BOYES, LLC-------------
"Consulting from the engineer
to the distribution channel"
[email protected]
21118 SE 278th Place
Maple Valley, WA 98038
253-709-5046 cell 425-432-8262 home office

Bruce Durdle


As an example of a communications problemm which has both parties cursing the incompetence / stupidity / arrogance of the other ...

I worked on a plant, built in New Zealand, that had been specified and designed in North America (both sides of the 49th had input). NA codes use black as hot, white as neutral. NZ codes use black as neutral. NZ electricians wired up their parts of the circuits according to their standard practice and as dictated by their training. Commissioning time exposed the problem - with a whole lot of circuits to be rectified, a "patch" was done that did not satisfy either (but is still perfectly safe).

But the maintenance electricians, and those associated with the project, still make quite rude comments about the plant designers, and I'm sure those involved with the design still make similar nasty remarks about bloody-minded and inflexible installation workers ...

Probable what was told to you is a lame excuse.
But in real world, you find the people who take the order or who design or who purchse and who install are different. The expectations of the customer is not met until the installtion. The people who install and hook up the system are really lousy. If they are good, they will go to the higher levels. Wrong wiring, wrong instruments, wrong connections, wrong instrument voltages bought, wrong panel, wrong location, no knowledge of controls, power and safety are some of the things I have seen. I will not allow a contractor to power up until I verify all.
If you are in charge trust no one