Project Management – Commissioning Success

While Project Management / Commissioning processes are well documented I still receive quite a few enquiries how best to manage the process due projects experiencing delays.

Due to enquires received I thought I would put a short article together as there is probably others that may also be having the same issues or wonder how to resolve these problems in projects.

While this short article is not intended to address all solutions, it will look at mainly items that should be planned before a project start to make it successful. It should be stated that this does not in many cases guarantee a smooth project with no delays which I will quickly mention later, especially when the project is a proto-type. It is obviously if there are several projects of the same specifications being constructed then these will get or closer to planned schedule in the later projects due to the lessons learned, however these initial delays are costly and are possible to avoid or minimize.

In a perfect world there is a theoretical process that should be followed however there is also the reality of delays that happen in projects.

All successful projects will require the following elements, this article shall not be delving into these issues as they are well known and defined which all are linked to the information in this article.  

1.      Engineering – Equipment selection – Design

2.      Planning

3.      Experienced project personnel

All projects will have elements of being different pending the company involved or even the project team and individuals in place as each will have their own preferred methods. This here in itself is a danger, I have worked with the same company on different projects and each or the projects are managed different and there has been very little in the way of learning from previous lessons learned.

Before I go into the process let me give you my first insight to a commissioning project around 24 years ago.

I was engaged by a commissioning company as a team of three to oversee the commissioning of a drillship being built in Singapore. The project when I joined was supposed to be for 6 months duration. I will add this was my first commissioning project and prior to this I was a Marine Survey for the Western Australian Government inspecting vessels or all kinds and prior to that a Marine Engineer.

On this project I was mainly engaged developing commissioning procedures and witnessing the commissioning, this was supposed to be my sole job however this would change later in the project as it was evident that the project was suffering major delays.

At approximately 5 months stage of being on the project in one weekly meetings of around 30 people consisting of shipyard, vendors and rig owner personnel the meeting started to get out of control and quite argumentative between the rig owner and the yard. Amongst all the various parties arguing the project lead shouted out does anyone really know where we are? There was deadly silence in the room no one answered, even though there was a schedule which was obviously only developed to meet the client’s requirements and schedule but had no reality to the actual project status. No one answered for a round 30 seconds.

The first person that spoke out was myself, I said I do not know the project status, but I can find out. By this I meant just developing a status of what had been commissioned and what had not been and develop a basic percentage as a total project completed. In putting this together over the next day or so I developed a list of items that was completed. This then was used for the project status.

As the project continued the commissioning team started to get the pressure put on them why various system had not been commissioning as per planning. At this time, it became exceptionally clear to me that if the commissioning was to be completed on time it was needed to get control of earlier stages of the project that was causing the delays, as it was not the commissioning departments fault that the systems were not ready to startup.

From this time, I stated to develop a complete a detailed project information management system on what was needed to be completed that would affect late startup of the commissioning, this included technical queries, construction status mechanical completion and a lot more information. This system was so much more than a schedule was able to develop, plus not subject to manipulation for client requirements. While it was a little late for this project as it would take time to develop. what was put in place was definitely an improvement on the information flow and helped the project.

Over the next couple of years of further developing of the project management system it was fairly easy to identify if the commissioning would start on a particular date and what were the delay factors that needed addressing.  As the system progressed it would manage almost the entire project as it was evident if you wanted the commissioning of a particular system to start by a set date what needed to be completed, this would include piping system, cabling to be connected, tested, engineering issues, punch lists and more.

To consider commissioning it in isolation is not possible to plan as the entire project is connected and will affect the commissioning. From my standpoint it is essential that the commissioning team must be involved in the very early stages of the project planning so that all the interlinks are connected. One delay in any of the earlier elements will have a cascading effect on the commissioning start-up and hence project delays.

With all the above said, let me ask you what do you think is the most important element of successful project management and commissioning?

Is it planning?

Well yes and no, you will not be successful planning without the correct tools. unless planning is conducted. It is not just planning, so what other element if required for successful planning?

The answer is information.

Without detailed information, you cannot plan properly, now we are not just talking about general information, it is every single detail and element of a project, exceptionally detailed.

This includes every single cable, valve, piping spool, pieces of equipment, various inspections / procedures, processes identified and construction status, i.e., have the cables been installed, inspected, and tested, Engineering queries rectified, piping inspected, flushed, hydrostatically tested, procurement & equipment received, mechanical completion status, punch lists outstanding etc. Not only just this information but it must be linked to each system.

Every single element will affect the commissioning and final delivery of the project.

Detailed Information is King” for the success of projects.

Information is the road map of the project and must be in such details that you can press a button and see what is holding up a system from being completed. With such a system in place then you are in a fairly good position for the success of a project. All this information requires detailed planning for the road map to systems start up.

After all would you invest a huge amount of money without first reviewing all information, NO. A project is no different.

What we have discussed above is the most important element of a project, that is  information as it ties all elements of a project together. You cannot make decisions without accurate information and what is needed for a schedule.  

If we do all the above, will it guarantee a smooth project on schedule??

The answer is no, but it will greatly improve the odds and success of it, and unless you do it properly the project is unlikely to be completed on time.

On a final Note.

The success of a project is dependent on detailed information without it a project has little chance of being completed on time and therefore over budget.

So far, we have discussed one element of information only, however the information that we have discussed so far is only thee quarters of the solution.

Information come in two types namely.

1.      Static information

2.      Dynamic information

This article only deals with the Static information, i.e. that information that is available so detailed planning can be completed i.e. all aspects of the equipment, construction and procedures etc.

Dynamic information is information that is not readily available, and this is more difficult to identify, and no single person can manage this as it is a collective process and it changes from day to day with the project dynamics and changes.  

For Dynamic information in project management this is a completely a separate topic, and no project will go unscathed, all projects will be subjected to dynamic information delays. These delays can be substantial if no management system is in place to try to identify this information.

For static information, now there are systems readily available “Completion Systems or Project Managements Systems” however as with all systems it is the level of detail which is the key for success.

Companies that still use Excel sheets, and manage project information dividedly i.e., in their own departments (engineering, construction, QA/QC, vendors etc.  are at high risk of delays) as nothing is linked.

If anyone would like additional information, please contact me I would be happy to give advice.