Taking the Pain Out of Requirements Management and Traceability
- Adrian Park, Business Development Manager, Process, Power & Marine Division, Integraph

Long gone are the days when you could just get a plot of land, bolt some equipment together and call it a plant. Nowadays a plant has to be designed and maintained in accordance with a wide range of requirements, imposed by numerous authorities and standards bodies. Plant owner/operators also have to demonstrate how they identified each requirement and how it is implemented in the plant (traceability). An effective RMT tool should ensure cost-effective regulatory compliance and support change management and the construction, operation and maintenance of a plant.

Requirements Management and Traceability has its roots in the highly-regulated nuclear power and life sciences industries. Operators in these industries have long had to demonstrate to the authorities that their proposed and operating plants comply with all relevant safety and environmental regulations. They also have to provide extensive audit trails for the design and modification of their plants. Although RMT might at first seem a costly, bureaucratic burden, it can actually be a valuable tool for plant owner/operators. Hence, other industries (conventional power, oil & gas, chemicals and process) are implementing RMT, not just for regulatory compliance, but also to improve control of the design and operation of increasingly complex plants which involve dozens of contractors, consultants and other parties, spread all over the world. Increased focus on Asset Integrity and Process Safety Management is a significant driver of this interest in RMT.

In essence, RMT means knowing what you are supposed to do (requirements), on what grounds you are supposed to do it (underlying regulations), and who said you had to do it (traceability/audit trail). In addition, it traces how individual requirements are to be satisfied by design specifications and plant configuration items such as tagged equipment.

In the past plants were smaller, regulations were fewer and the owner and the contractors could meet around a conference table. In those days, RMT could be implemented using standard office software such as spreadsheets and word processing documents. However, these tools are inappropriate in today’s environment. They cannot cope with the number of requirements, cannot effectively define relationships between the requirements or deal with changes to requirements, and cannot provide audit trails. Hence, there is a clear need for RMT software, which should preferably be tightly integrated with an enterprise engineering software suite to improve efficiency.

Drivers for the introduction of RMT in the process industries:
• Growth in regulations
• Need to demonstrate compliance to regulators
• Larger, more costly and more complex plants
• Plant engineering/procurement construction involving many parties, worldwide
• Expansion of process safety management and asset integrity programs
• Need for better management of change to avoid rework and overruns

Owner/operators are faced with a range of different requirements. Some are binding and imposed by the authorities, eg, laws, health and safety regulations, environmental requirements, permit/ license conditions, etc. Compliance with such regulations is monitored by these authorities who expect owner/operators to demonstrate that they have identified the relevant requirements and that the plant is designed and operated in accordance with them. Other requirements may not be legally enforceable but any responsible plant owner/operator would want to comply with them as being good practice. These includes standards set by standardisation bodies, industry organisations (ISO, IEC, ASME, API, etc,) and Company best practices. There may be requirements relating to other stakeholders such as plant personnel or local residents. The basis of design of a plant also introduces a large number of demands, which may be dealt with in a similar way.

Identifying requirements
The implementation of a RMT solution starts by identifying the requirements using the Document Decomposer. This software component can process Word, RTF and structured PDF files, as well as any other file format which can be converted to RTF. Essentially, the Decomposer treats documents as containers holding requirements. It allows subject specialists to go through all relevant documents and highlight the requirements in them. These requirements are then assigned a unique identifier based on a configurable numbering scheme. The subject specialist also classifies each requirement (regulatory, functional, performance, safety, etc,) and enters other data such as a description, priority etc.

Internal company requirements are identified in the same way. These may include design specification documents, design control documents or the design basis.

Once the requirements have been identified and entered into the system, they are reviewed and approved. The next and essential step is to relate the requirements to each other and to aggregate them, where required. The requirements are also related to design basis items such as design specification items and items in the plant configuration: units, systems, tags etc.

When requirements change, the defined relationships are traced to clearly indicate the impact of the changes on the engineering design basis. Any property changes and relationship changes are date/time stamped and identified by user to provide a complete audit trail for traceability.

Once the data is entered into the system, demonstrating regulatory compliance and traceability is relatively straightforward as all the information is available through the system RMT solution and its data analysis tools.

Conflicting requirements & Change
A key issue in RMT is that requirements (internal or external) may well conflict with each other. Such conflicts need to be resolved at an early stage so that the design can progress efficiently, and avoid unnecessary redesign effort. This may require further analysis of the requirements or discussions with the stakeholder who contributed them. At the end of this stage, all requirements should be captured, clearly defined, unambiguous and compatible with all other requirements.

RMT solutions also reduce the amount of time wasted addressing questions such as “Are we sure that’s the appropriate component?”, “Why are we doing it this way?” and “Who changed that?” Improved relationships with the authorities (and insurance company inspectors) during inspections and investigations, and the ability to answer their questions promptly and correctly are also major benefits. It is a valuable tool for Management of Change.

Management of Change is facilitated as regulatory requirements and design requirements are managed together. This means the impact of an envisaged plant modification can be analysed quickly, as can the implementation in the plant in terms of systems, structures, and tagged components – simply by following the relationships managed in the system.

Bringing all together
One of the solutions in the market that provides data relationships between the requirements and manages conflicting requirements and change is Intergraph SmartPlant Enterprise for Owner Operators (SPO) software suite, which includes packages for all aspects of process plant design, operation and management. The SPO Requirements Management and Traceability Solution (SPO RMT) package integrates tightly with the work processes supported by the rest of the suite and ensures that data only needs to be entered once. SPO RMT builds on and uses the engineering design basis managed in the SPO Core solution.

The tool creates a direct link between every requirement or design criterion and the affected plant systems, structures, and components (SSCs) and associated documentation. This makes it straightforward to identify requirements which have not yet been met (orphan requirements). Similarly, the impact of any changes to the requirements or the design basis can easily be identified. Consequently, owner/operators can reduce the costs of ensuring full regulatory compliance, while at the same time improve the safety and efficiency of their operations and practice better Management of Change (MoC), SPO RMT Solution. There are also efficiency gains from the integration with other Intergraph SPO solutions such as SPO Project Execution, SPO Systems Completion, SPO Operating Plant etc.

Using such highly automated solutions throughout the lifecycle of a plant, from initial design through to decommissioning, can give owner/operators effective and efficient control of plant data at all stages, hence reducing costs while improving safety and efficiency. In a broader context, SPO RMT supports industry-standard taxonomy structures such as the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) Plant Information Model as well as proprietary structures.

Although RMT may have its roots in regulatory compliance, as part of an integrated software suite it offers opportunities to build, operate and maintain a plant more efficiently and safely.