Four Big Benefits of a Front-End Engineering and Design (FEED) Study

When building a new facility-wide automation system or a control system upgrade, the planning stage is perhaps the most important part; it creates the foundation for the entire project. In-depth planning can set you up for success, where poor planning can make the design/build process fraught with issues. You wouldn’t build a house without blueprints, a survey or using licensed contractors, right? 

In any project, without the upfront evaluation and design you could encounter a number of issues that have the potential to negatively impact the project, and the field of industrial automation is no difference. So, why would you begin engineering, procurement and construction without a Front-End Engineering and Design (FEED) study?  Short answer: you wouldn’t…..or at least, shouldn’t.   

What is a FEED Study in an Automation Engineering Project?

A FEED study is designed to assist in producing all necessary technical documentation, validating hardware and software specifications, and accurately defining project scope. It should be performed before the design phase of the project. A FEED study typically includes:

  • Project definition: Setting the project’s objectives, scope and constraints
  • Process design: Defining the process that will be used to produce the new/upgrade system
  • Product selection: Deciding which equipment and software would create the ideal process automation solution
  • Cost estimation: Predicting the total cost of the project, including capital costs, operating costs and contingency costs
  • Schedule development: Creating a schedule for the project, including milestones and deliverables.

Why is a FEED Study Important in Project Planning?

The FEED Study is an important step in the project development process because it helps to ensure that the project (1) is feasible, (2) can be completed within budget and (3) can be delivered on-schedule. These studies also help identify any potential risks to the project, which allows you to develop mitigation strategies ahead of time.

There are a number of short and long term benefits any project could see from a FEED study, most of which directly correlates and circles back to maintaining timelines and avoiding negative impact on the projected budget:       

1. Reduced Execution Costs Support Internal Funding 

Often, projects can hinge on a shoestring budget, and every penny counts when requesting internal funding. Incorrectly calculating cost has the potential to negatively impact decision making or progress: 

  • If material cost is overestimated, it’s easier for a facility to decline knowing that the identified cost isn’t in their immediate budget.
  • If underestimated, could cause delays as material runs short and pushes the completion date out, impacting other deadlines, and ultimately reducing or delaying ROI.     

When proper time and planning is taken to accurately identify the cost of critical componentry and measurable material, it’s less likely there will be any adjustment or changes needed as everything has been evaluated through data driven decision making.  FEED helps mitigate the possibility of rework, in effect helping support the internal funding process and reducing execution costs over the length of the project. 

2. Reduced Technical Issues, Schedule Impact & Associated Costs 

Hand-in-hand with the reduction of execution and lifecycle cost, the FEED process allows for a more complete iteration of the detail engineering and design schedule.   

Just like identifying the correct material in model and quantity, the planned equipment layout and installation when part of the FEED process provides an earlier opportunity to identify potential technical issues that could impact the construction schedule.   

Preemptively mitigating unforeseen changes to the schedule can keep it from slipping, maintaining the originally forecasted completion date, and help uphold the proposed budget. 

3. A More Efficient Process and Plant Start-Up and Handoff  

The proper preparation achieved through the FEED process provides a higher likelihood that the combination of reduced execution and life cycle costs coupled with the reduction of technical issues will accommodate an easier start-up.   

When the time is taken upfront to account for and plan for potential challenges that might delay start-up, resulting in design and equipment changes, remedy inefficiencies, etc, it’s less likely issues will arise in the construction and installation phase ensuring initial start-up and ramping to full capacity is efficient as possible.  A more efficient start-up means an easier handoff to the client, and often a better experience overall.  

4. More Easily Identify and Mitigate Risk; Environmental, Health and Compliance 

Unidentified risks in project planning can halt forward progress, extend critical deadlines, delay project completion, and drastically inflate the originally assessed budget. Not finishing on time and over budget is never ideal, and can potentially sour a working relationship, making it more difficult to get future projects from a client.  

Risk evaluation, especially Health Safety and Environmental (HSE), is a large component of the FEED process and is intended to identify and mitigate potential risks of any kind that could negatively impact the project.  Projects that have a FEED study completed tend to have fewer unknown variables that can manifest into risks as they have been preemptively mitigated, helping to minimize complications. 

All Things Considered, Why Wouldn’t You Do a FEED Study? 

While a FEED study isn’t an absolute guarantee that nothing will go wrong during engineering, procurement and construction, it’s a step in the right direction. When it comes to automation – everything from initial analysis to startup and on is about mitigating risk, and that’s where the value of a FEED study lies.  

This study, when done in advance, lessens the likelihood of any potential risk materializing into a reality, the chance of negatively impacting critical benchmarks, or causing the allocation of resources where they weren’t originally planned.  

Knowing everything that’s potentially at risk, it would be irresponsible not to do everything in your power to ensure success at every level. A FEED study can improve your client’s experience and streamline project development. Work smart, right?