Wait, What Plan?

May 12, 2017 -

Get A Head Start on Startup and Commissioning

Recently, I was meeting with a client about the detail design for a DCS migration, and I asked for the Project Execution Plan (PEP), which is typically established in the previous phase of the project. The client looked at me and asked why. I explained that I needed to know what the previous team had planned for commissioning and startup. The client said, “We don’t put that in the PEP.” Unfortunately, he was not kidding. I knew this was a big task and we were starting from scratch, but the client had not yet come to the same realization. This illustrates how often I find myself in a teaching position when it comes to commissioning and startup (CSU), and it isn’t always ideal on a project schedule.

When I am confronted with these opportunities, I am reminded of Winston Churchill’s saying, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” The PEP should be formally and thoroughly developed in front end loading or in the early phase of the project, and it should absolutely include the CSU plan. This gives direction to the team – and we can’t forget the “team”. This is not a solo undertaking. It requires input from all levels including Operations Representatives, Project Discipline Leadership, and Managers, Contractor Project Management, Planners, Schedulers, etc.

In order to plan effectively, a PEP plan should address the following:

  1. Establish the criteria for quality gates; system identification; needed resources for startup; responsibilities by client, suppliers, and operations
  2. Establish a conceptual schedule - addressing processes, areas, utilities, etc...
  3. Address training needs by Maintenance and Operations
  4. Address raw material needs for commissioning and startup
  5. Identify startup risks
  6. Create a plan for check-out / commissioning and initial operations

I would also recommend including prioritization of systems and activities and consideration of any scheduling phases and sequencing that could impact CSU activities. Any project team should recognize that they are not working in a vacuum - there are other activities in the environment impacting their current project. The PEP is the place to discuss those items in detail and mitigate the negative impact they may have on your project. Without this key information, you will likely run into issues when CSU activities begin.

If you take one thing away, it is this: Next time you are in the position to read, execute, or draft a PEP for a project, be the champion for planning for commissioning and start. Ask the questions about the schedule, sequencing, and players – you’ll be glad you did. 

Does your team need help to realize their goals of successful commissioning and startup activities? 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 startup@hargrove-epc.com. 

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