Packaged, skid-mounted equipment offers several advantages over a piecemeal installation, including simplified purchasing, high-quality components, and quick installation.
Two methodologies are typically used when installing new processes or equipment at a facility. The first is the stick-build approach, in which the entire installation takes place at the site, with each component installed individually and joined after everything is in place.
The second methodology is to use a packaged, or modular, system. With this approach, the system is assembled offsite at a manufacturing location, where all components and process connections are fabricated and installed on a frame or skid.
Upon completion and testing of the assembly, the entire package is shipped to the customer location, where it is tied into the facility process. This approach offers several advantages over the stick-build methodology.
Single point of contact. Arguably the most significant advantage of a packaged system is the ability to manage the project through a single point of contact. Rather than dealing individually with designers and electrical and mechanical contractors, ownership of the entire design, procurement, manufacturing, testing, and start-up process is controlled and managed by a single group.
Communication. Having a single point of contact allows efficient information flow and communication for the customer. With a packaged system, the customer can ask all project questions and receive project updates from the same contact person. This provides the customer with a high degree of confidence that nothing will slip through the cracks between design, procurement, and construction since each project element is managed by the same entity. Single-point communication also allows changes to be made easily and with a high degree of accuracy since there is no need to notify multiple parties to assess and approve design changes.
Liability control. Single-source contracting also has reduced liability concerns. Having all aspects, from design to fabrication, handled and maintained by a single contact puts ownership of all elements on one company, rather than spreading responsibility across multiple, completely separate entities. This means that, should any future service questions arrive, the customer has a central contact with full knowledge and documentation for the system.
Lower administrative costs. Another significant advantage when choosing packaged systems is reduced administrative costs. Having a single, comprehensive design submittal allows a single design review to capture the entire system, rather than taking the time to review multiple system components.
Working with a single contractor also reduces the administrative accounts-payable costs. Over the life of the project, there will be fewer purchase orders required and fewer vendors to be set up and tracked in a customer-payment system and approved-contractors list.
Single source for component ordering. Companies offering packaged systems source all of the components for a system. Unlike manufacturer representatives, who have specific product lines and territories, packaged-systems manufacturers have no limitations. This allows the customer to customize a system with a specific choice of equipment manufacturers.
Many people decide to install packaged systems because they can offer significant scheduling advantages.
Faster project-completion times. Packaged systems allow parallel fabrication, which reduces project-completion time. For example, a customer may plan a building expansion with added process equipment within the structure. If the process equipment is being stick built, the civil work and building construction would need to be completed before the process-equipment installation can begin.
Modular systems include associated process components, piping, and electrical. This allows the process equipment to be assembled and tested during building construction, leading to an earlier project-completion date.
Schedule changes. Any project can face scheduling changes for a variety of reasons. A delay by one group usually has a domino effect on the other contractors. If the customer needs to modify the delivery schedule for a packaged system, the change process is streamlined and easier to coordinate because all aspects of the system are being handled by a single source.
Off-site construction: Packaged systems also minimize scheduling conflicts during the construction phase because the packaged system is manufactured offsite, which eliminates interference with facility production and personnel egress in a restricted construction zone.
Quality control and design
Packaged systems also offer significant quality and design benefits.
Ideal design. A single-source design captures all necessary system components, including process piping and electrical. Developing a full design in this manner ensures proper system function and component sizing. It also guarantees that all of the system elements are compatible and will satisfy specifications.
Small footprint. To accommodate shipping a completed packaged system, skid-mounted systems are, by nature, designed for a compact layout. On average, packaged systems have a smaller footprint, compared with in-field assemblies.
Controlled fabrication. Fabrication of packaged systems takes place within an interior, dedicated-production location, allowing work to be performed under ideal shop conditions. This provides the construction team with full access to manufacturing equipment and enough space to construct the package unit in the most efficient manner. Fabrication in a fully equipped production facility, compared with an in-field assembly, is a particular advantage when the system’s final installation location is outside or in a hard-to-reach location.
It is a standard practice to test the complete packaged system before shipment to the customer. Testing ensures that the entire system will operate as required upon arrival to the customer and limits the need to have installation contractors return to the site or stay longer during installation to troubleshoot leaks or system problems.
Comprehensive quality-control testing of the packaged system is documented and this documentation can serve as a vital record that confirms system operation and testing standards. In addition, customer representatives can be present at the factory testing to learn, in a controlled environment, how to operate the system.
Some of the most visible benefits of packaged systems are apparent during the installation process. During stick builds, installation requires contractors to be on site for assembly and tie in. For packaged systems, installation consists of setting the pre-assembled unit in the desired location and tying it into the existing process.
In addition, receiving a completely assembled system minimizes the on-site work that is required during installation and allows the installation portion of a project to be greatly reduced. Faster installation minimizes downtime that occurs when joining processes and shortens construction-zone-access restrictions on facility personnel. Finally, packaged systems are designed with single-point process connections to simplify the installation process as a whole.
Fewer on-site contractor man hours reduces company exposure to potential safety incidents. In addition to the reduced time exposure, removing assembly activities leads to a significant reduction in high-hazard tasks (welding, working at heights) needed on the facility premises during installation activities.
As business needs change, it can be advantageous for processes to be altered, relocated, or even moved to other production facilities. Having a skid-mounted system maximizes a customer’s ability to relocate systems easily and intact. A packaged system provides benefits throughout all stages of a project when compared with more-conventional stick-build methodologies. MT
Information for this article provided by Paul Bement, application engineer, Cummins-Wagner Engineered Process Solutions Group, Annapolis Junction, MD, cummins-wagner.com.