CLAREMORE, Okla. — flawless (adjective) without any mistakes or shortcomings; perfect; unimpaired.
As I write this, I am reflecting on the many equipment and facility projects that have been executed in our industry during the slower holiday period.
Production generally only ceases on Friday night and starts up again on Monday morning, leaving us with a tight, defined time to complete machine swaps, new installations, testing and start-up.
Achieving this takes expert planning, engagement of all stakeholders and outstanding communication by the engineer.
Most projects are engineer owned and driven from cradle to grave. They are responsible for the planning, execution and communication in advance of the project weekend, and then being the “conductor of the orchestra” over the weekend.
Several key components of project planning and execution must be strictly managed to pull off a flawless installation.
Tasks not handled properly can tank a project schedule and hinder on-time start-up, not to mention cratering the budget.
In all cases, starting up on time is critical to maintaining high levels of customer service and delivery, so there is simply no room for error.
Scoping the job accurately and completely is critical, like the foundation of a house being built.
While the overall top-level scope may be “replace boiler & make-up system,” there are going to be impacts across production schedules (what time can we get the boiler down), permitting, plumbing, electrical and rigging that impact the overall schedule and budget.
This needs to be assessed by the core team, including the lead engineer, production and reliability managers, and vendors/contractors to ensure no area is left unaddressed.
All trades and tasks will be competing for time, space, and money, and it is a major problem if one is somehow overlooked in the planning stage.
After the scope is defined and all stakeholders are identified then the detail planning can begin.
This planning is developed more fully and completely by engaging the known contractors, trades, safety and health, and managers, and then walking through the project in step-by-step detail.
Those producing movies, TV shows and commercials do this via “storyboarding” … not a bad concept to use even for machine installation planning.
At this point, you may identify a missing task or a stakeholder that you need to engage in the project.
The complexity of the project will determine how far in advance you schedule your first team meeting and when or if site visits are necessary. In most cases, a site visit early in the process is helpful while a site visit a couple of weeks prior to installation is critical.
Many advances in virtual meetings can aid in holding these conferences, such as via Zoom or Teams.
Usually, the project engineer will lead the effort and the call or visit and will be responsible for the distribution of schedules, notes and follow-up task assignments.
At this point, production must commit to a time when the work area can be closed and made available to the project team.
This must be dialed in, usually to a very tight period.
It’s necessary to have a detailed agenda to follow. This is your roadmap.
It may vary in complexity and type of plan or schedule by type of job, but every job must have a detailed schedule developed through the planning process.
A simple generic planning call agenda may suffice while a complex Gantt chart may be needed, depending on the project.
All require each stakeholder to have input, discuss critical steps for execution, and review potential time or space conflicts.
This agenda and schedule becomes a checklist of activities, tasks and responsibilities that is built as the project planning proceeds and allows the lead engineer to see and react to gaps in the process quickly.
My engineer will typically arrive on the scene two to three days in advance to be sure that all preparations and last-minute items are on schedule, materials are arriving on time and contractors are on schedule.
Once the project starts, the engineer becomes the conductor, getting things started on time—then sometimes it is best to get out of the way!
Follow-up, track progress and ensure field-engineered changes are assessed and approved as you go.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Great planning, outstanding communication and engaging all necessary stakeholders is a roadmap to a flawless installation.
There’s an old saying: “The devil is in the details.” But so is the opportunity for success at a high level.
“Winging it” sets you up for failure, whereas following the roadmap for success will provide just that.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].