Hurry Up and Send It!

Apr 28, 2017 -

Understanding the Need for Pre-Shipment Testing

With today’s accelerated project schedules comes an ever-increasing need to get items to the site more quickly and in time to meet the scheduled startup date. In order to meet these deadlines, engineering groups push to release purchase orders to vendors hoping to secure a spot in the vendor’s production queue. In this push, I have found that there is usually something left undefined – or worse – an unspoken reliance on the vendors to perform pre-shipment testing. Although this may not pose a huge problem in simpler systems, not performing the proper quality tests on new technologies and more complex systems could mean potential disaster during startup.

There are a number of challenges that face the project teams during this stage of the game and making sure that the pre-shipment testing requirements are fully defined is not typically at the top of the list. However, pre-shipment testing comes with its own list of challenges, including:

No time in the schedule to have the vendor perform a pre-shipment test or have them fix problems that they may uncover during these tests.

The inability of the suppliers to conduct a pre-shipment test to the owner’s needs or a lack of understanding of the supplier’s capabilities for pre-shipment testing and how it fits into the owner’s QA/QC plan.

A potential unwillingness of owners to witness pre-shipment tests or know what to ask for these types of tests.

In understanding these pre-shipment testing packages, risks can inherently be better understood. I tend to look at five areas of best practices for pre-shipment testing:

1. Items to be addressed in the proposal/estimate stage:

  • Inspection levels and coordination defined
  • Basis for testing is established
  • Duration of the testing required
  • Sampling methods documented
  • Metrics for all tests are understood
  • Evaluation of in-plant inspection vs. shop inspection
  • Witnessing of testing and hold points for test notification procedures

2. Performance Rated Testing Topics:

  • Safety
  • Quality
  • Quantity
  • Documentation Complete
  • Schedule

3. Items to be addressed by the vendor when pre-shipment performance testing is not possible:

  • Execution strategy risks
  • Additional field cost
  • Impact on commissioning and startup activities

4. Items to be checked during pre-shipment testing:

  • Any software package with full documentation
  • All manuals that deal with training, operations, and maintenance
  • All coatings, materials, and finishes meet the required specification
  • All appropriate limits of the supplied services such as water, oil, gas, power, etc. and what will need to be replaced during or before startup
  • Any safety devices installed and verified (e.g. guards, disconnects, fuses, safety valves, E-Stops, emergency cut-off valves, etc...)
  • Any special tooling that will be needed to commissioning or startup the unit
  • All documentation of alignment status of the equipment and lubrication that is needed for the equipment
  • Full maintenance functionality demonstrated for every piece of equipment

5. Verification of outstanding provisions of the scope of work:

  • Shipment procedure understood by all parties
  • Confirmation shipment method and final shipment dates
  • Understanding of shipment handling by contractors or installers
  • Confirmation of Commissioning and Startup activities and date of final startup
  • Any deviations in documentation or other technical writing/documents
  • Warranties fully understood and follow-up plan in case of warranty work

Planning for the right level of testing and quality checks and communicating with the suppliers is integral to a successful startup. Don’t let the urgency of meeting the schedule for equipment delivery prevent you from planning for proper checking. The risks of a “hurry up and send it” style procurement outweigh the rewards. The Hargrove Team can help define a startup responsibility matrix including pre-shipment testing to be shared with suppliers, contractors, owners, and consultants to ensure no step is overlooked.

Does your team need help to realize their goal of a successful project? Do you have questions about how to plan and execute a successful project startup? Reach out to the experts at Hargrove by contacting us at

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