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Project Management Articles

Important Disclaimer: All of these articles on this web page are focused on observations, experiences, and lessons learned in the field of Project Management. These articles are not to be used for any guidance for the Practice of Engineering. Practice of Engineering should conform to all expectations of organizational, jurisdictional, accredited educational, licensing, and permitting requirements of qualified Professional Engineers and their governing bodies.

Co-Author:
J R (Ric) Massie, Jr., PE, PMP
Senior Executive Consultant
DLJ Engineers & Consultants
Houston, TX, USA
Co-Author:
Gary Kennedy, P. Eng., PMP
AvaLantic Alliance Chair
St. John's, NL, Canada

Capital Project Front End Review Roles of Operations & Maintenance Representatives

- Part A - (2020-10-05)

In ongoing process plant facilities, such as in mining, LNG, petrochemical, refining, and other sectors, the operations and maintenance representatives (Ops-Maint reps) assigned to capital projects have a variety of expectations that they may not realize without training, mentoring, or previous Capex experience. This includes activities in the concept selection, front end design, detail design, and the remaining execution and closure stages of the capital project. 


This article does not give “practice of engineering” advice, but provides a commentary of how project management team members from operations and maintenance departments typically interface with the engineering processes. Organizations and jurisdictions vary, but it is important for each situation to adhere to strict practice of engineering requirements and to the respective governing bodies.

In engineering design processes, unlike many replace-in-kind efforts of non-capital work, there are typically prescribed steps such as front end studies and iterative design reviews that call upon attentive participation by the Ops-Maint reps of the plant, not just of the design engineers.  As a typical example,  a preliminary design stage may commence that could include, but not limited to, the following design activities:

  • Site Survey – Complexity and risks in brownfield plants;

  • Preliminary sketches & concepts, process flow diagrams (PFD’s), constructability,  power, water, steam & fuel sources;

  • Sequences requiring iterative reviews of sketches, and documents 'Issued for Review' (IFR): 

    • Functional Description;

    • Degree of Automation;

    • Piping & Instrumentation Diagrams (P&ID);

    • Mechanical/Civil/General Layout Drawings;

  • Hazops, Risk reviews early in FEED stage (followed by a major Hazop review after P&ID’s are essentially finalized);

  • Preliminary Operational Readiness Requirements;

  • Comparative  Operational Readiness Requirements.

CRITICAL MESSAGE: In the above typical review line items, there is usually a critical and timely need for input and review by:

  • Operations Representative and their subordinates; and,

  • Maintenance Representative and their subordinates.

 

Time is often very challenging to obtain from these Ops-Maint reps for pre-scheduled meetings & meeting preparations. They are typically moving on their feet all over the plant handling urgent daily issues. They do not necessarily have backgrounds in design reviews or trained/licensed in the "practice of engineering". They are not likely set up with the newest work stations (and time allowances) to review drawings or computer models in virtual meetings like their co-workers.  Hence, strategies must be in place to support their thorough and timely inputs to the review process.

For example:

  • Support good Project Team Alignment, Role Assignments, Project Org Charts, and Communications Plans with the expectations clearly mandated by the VP;

  • For upcoming projects, apply resource loading constraints with these Ops-Maint reps so that they are not spread any thinner than necessary across their existing repair, maintenance, shutdown, turnaround, and other capital project responsibilities;

  • Consider bringing in more Ops-Maint resources into general staff during peak times to allow reasonable reviews;

  • Get Executive support, such as from the VP, to mandate that these design review processes are effectively followed.  This would be well-placed at the beginning of Kick-Off and Alignment meetings at the start of the project and at each early stage.

 

(END OF PART A)

Author:
Gary Kennedy, P. Eng., PMP
AvaLantic Alliance Chair
St. John's, NL, Canada

Project Teams Interface with PM Systems and PMIS (2020-09-24) 

 

I have been fortunate to work on the development and implementation of analog project management systems (PMS) in both the refining and shipbuilding industries. I have also performed directly on work packages within project front end stages and execution stages in offshore petroleum, mining, and other sectors.


As many know, a PMS is a documented structured methodological approach (usually with flexibility options that require competent navigation) to organize the various project management processes with steps, procedures, role assignments, deliverables, and other items using mechanisms such as TTGFG’s (Templates, Tools, Guidelines, Forms, and Go-By’s). Quite often, the PMS is broken down into a project stage gate system that includes, but not limited to, Initiation, Prelim Design, Design, Execution, Commissioning, and Closure stages. This is an oversimplification of a PMS, but a summary “elevator speech”. Further information can be found through industry references, including in the latest PMBOK® Guide of the PMI®.


On some of my projects I’ve experienced working with digitally automated (or partially automated) PMS, known generally as a Project Management Information System (PMIS).  There are plenty of configurations possible in these centralized information systems, but they tend to connect with (or provide) scheduling modules, procurement modules, earned value and other performance reports, real-time dashboarding, automated distribution of change requests, requests for information, change notices, decision support packages, online stakeholder review processes, and other helpful features.


One of the many benefits of using this automated system is that it can serve as a backup system for ensuring the correct implementation of role assignments. Default and customized settings can be established for specific action and approval permissions for the project team/stakeholders. For example, if the Planning Manager reviews a certain type of schedule and attempts to confirm her/his approval on the PMIS, the approval might get denied in the system because it has to go (or also go) to another team member for final approval on the system. 


As helpful as this PMIS permissions feature is as a conformance, authorization, and navigational tool to reinforce the role parameters, I feel that the PMIS benefit will be further enhanced for the project team when they also receive access to good PMS training, coaching, and mentoring. The team thus learns not to trigger quite so many digital safety bumps because they really do understand the logic and roles in the project management processes. Likewise, I feel the training, coaching, and mentoring will make the top notch PMIS shine even better.

 

As mentioned in previous articles, this is where the project champions can step up to make a difference to enhance alignment, safety, and success. Hopefully we can find these champions in roles such as the Project Manager, Sponsor, Project Interface Manager(s), PMO Training Manager, SHER Manager, VP, and others.


 
(End of Article)

Co-Author:
J R (Ric) Massie, Jr., PE, PMP
Senior Executive Consultant
DLJ Engineers & Consultants
Houston, TX, USA
Co-Author:
Gary Kennedy, P. Eng., PMP
AvaLantic Alliance Chair
St. John's, NL, Canada

Capital Cost & Schedule Fundamentals for Process Plant Representatives  

(2020-09-11)

Further to our previous articles, negative issues can occur with capital projects in process plants when operations or maintenance capital project representatives do not adequately understand cost estimates and schedules. Even though the front line cost and scheduling team on the capital side is considered to have top notch expertise, at least some of the fundamentals need to be understood by the operations and maintenance representatives (Ops-Maint Reps).

The complexities of capital plant work, whether small, large, or mega-projects, has increased exponentially over the years. Additional internal reviews, external reviews, environmental impact statements, permitting for air, water, and site, to name a few, have extended the time required to move the project forward and obviously increased the cost. Ops-Maint Reps must understand their role in providing very important plant input into a project and the impact that they have on the success or failure of the project.

Project participation is essential at the plant operations and maintenance level. Good and honest communications between the project team and Ops-Maint Reps means using common language without a tremendous number of acronyms.

While the capital project team generally understands estimates and schedules, other personnel from the long-running plant may not. Such terms as allowances, takeoffs, unknowns and others conjure up different ideas by different people. Typically, the word “allowances” tends to be interpreted as “padding” the estimate; when in fact, it is usually designed to be funds associated with an activity that must be done but is not effectively described in terms of person-hours and materials. For example, an “allowance” for typical concrete spillage, testing, and slight formwork variations is not an option to drop as a “padded” amount. If this is not retained in the contractor’s estimate then somebody is going to be a few loads short of enough concrete after a long pour and may result in cold joints, magnified delivery problems, or other misfortune.

Here are various terms for cost and schedule topics that not only need definitions documented for the project, but should be repeatedly discussed and aligned between the front-line cost and scheduling subject matter experts (SMEs) and the remainder of the project and plant team. This includes, but not limited to:

  • Cost:

    • Allowances;

    • Takeoffs;

    • Unknowns;

    • Contingencies;

    • Risk funds;

    • Management reserve;

    • Local productivity factors;

    • Local labour rate factors;

    • Local equipment rate factors;

    • Procurement shipping cost factors;

    • Risk factored estimates;

 

  • Schedule:

    • Critical path;

    • Finish-to-start and finish-to-finish logic;

    • Schedule analysis;

    • Duration calculations and assumptions;

    • Direct person-hours (& indirect person-hours);

    • Field overheads (may include lunch facilities, restrooms, hand tools);

    • Procurement shipping time factors;

    • Local productivity factors;

    • Allowances;

    • Unknowns;

    • Risk factored schedules;

 

All members of the entire project team and plant team are not expected to know all of the technology or understand it. The Ops-Maint Reps should understand risk probabilities for alternate technologies which should be communicated to them by the project team who are the technical experts.

Understanding capital cost versus maintenance cost trade-offs is a critical aspect of projects, as well as operating cost versus capital cost. Guidelines for the development of projects must be made early on in regards to expected energy costs, raw material costs (yield impacts), and energy utilization. Project requirements identification (framing) should be done in the initial steps of the project, covering  aspects such as the life of the plant, operating and maintenance labor costs, automation, future upgrades, and other parameters.

 

(End of Article)

Co-Author:
J R (Ric) Massie, Jr., PE, PMP
Senior Executive Consultant
DLJ Engineers & Consultants
Houston, TX, USA
Co-Author:
Gary Kennedy, P. Eng., PMP
AvaLantic Alliance Chair
St. John's, NL, Canada

Capital Projects Representatives of Operations & Maintenance for Process Plants

- Part A - (2020-07-29)

Q1: What does it mean to be the operations or maintenance capital project representative?

Q2: Why are these roles critical on most process plant capital projects?

Q3: How do we prepare to correctly perform these key project roles?

These are questions that continually face operations and maintenance personnel in facilities being upgraded via capital project. These facilities could range from complex plants like a refinery or mine to traditional infrastructure like a ferry terminal at a border crossing. Projects need considerable and knowledgeable input from the operations and maintenance side of the facility. They need key people who understand how the operation works, what is feasible to achieve, and who will serve as the champions for the project within the facility.

Most plants have an Operations Representative and a Maintenance Representative for assignment to the Project Team. However, relatively simple plants, like a water treatment facility for a small town might combine the two roles into one.

Operations Representative:

The Operations Representative manages project interactions on behalf of the operations department. For example, planning for operation, commissioning, and staff training to commission and utilize the facilities.

Maintenance Representative:

The Maintenance Representative oversees project interface on behalf of the maintenance and reliability groups.  For example, considerations for both routine and large maintenance efforts for the facilities, ability to access the equipment’s key locations, and contingencies for upcoming planned (and possibly unplanned) outages. 

The chosen representatives need to have an understanding of:

  • how projects work;

  • what are the business goals;

  • what constitutes the scope;

  • how to “sell” the project to the facility personnel and to the outside world;

  • how project decisions are made, the timing of decisions, and the quality of those decisions;

  • the meaning of schedules and budgets and how they are used in driving the project work (Most operations and maintenance personnel should already understand schedules based on having had turnaround experience).

 

(END OF PART A)

Capital Projects Representatives of Operations & Maintenance for Process Plants

- Part B - (2020-08-05)

 

(... Continued from Part A)

The Operations Representative assigned to the Project Team typically receives technical material for review and comment, such as: 

  • drawings; 

  • sketches; 

  • process control narratives;

  • schedules;

  • other material.

 
Frustratingly, much of the time these documents are only given a cursory look with no real understanding of what is there. This limited review is often caused by: 

  • the lack of time available for the operations representative;

  • the fact that keeping the plant safely running has priority over everything;

  • the operations and/or maintenance representative may be unaware of the review/comment expectations because that person is newer than the last significant capital project done in that plant;

  • the operations and/or maintenance representatives have not received training in their function on the Capital Project Team, or the plant does not have an updated internal capital training module; 

Unfortunately, the only real review comes in with the panicked halt in the middle of installation when the representative says “we can’t do that” or “that won’t work” or “we need to do that this other way”. In other words, the representative never really looked at the documents nor understood them. The project team is faced with the untenable position of modifying the system with a half-baked design in the middle of construction (usually during a turnaround with limited time for execution). Everyone ends up swimming in Change Requests, Change Orders, and Change Notices. Expenditures of time and money go through the roof.
 

Since the project team’s engineering sub-team is typically located off-site, and often long distances from the facility, it is necessary to have eyes on the ground in the facility. This person is typically labeled as the Operations Representative. The Project team must make the Operations Representative a fully functioning member of the team who is relied upon to provide necessary and timely information into the development of the project.


In order to get the Operations and Maintenance Representatives fully integrated into the project, the project team must both:

  • bring the representatives to meetings; and,

  • bring the meetings to the representatives;

Support of the Representatives should be from the “C” level of the organization in order to put effective emphasis on the position both within the project team and within the operations facility. On large projects, the “C” level is usually a member of the project steering committee.

It is critical for these operations and maintenance representatives to understand the scope of the project and that the project cannot address all the ills in the plant. While they will get tremendous input and pressure to fix things and change things in the existing facility to make it better or in the name of “safety”, adhering to the scope and goals of the project is essential.


It is important that the choice of personnel for operations/maintenance representatives not be “who we can live without” for the duration of this project. They must be knowledgeable about the facility and understand operating procedures and methodologies as well as maintenance procedures and methodologies. They must be able to effectively communicate the situations to the project team and the designs to the operating team. 


Another source of pressure will be the business team. Even though the business team determined the initial scope, objectives/requirements (as in production needed, energy efficiencies and costs), as the project goes on, they will want to expand the flexibility in operating rates, product spectrum and raw materials used. All of this drives the capital cost up and increases the time expended to answer all the questions of “can we do this?”.


Timely decisions in a project can make or break the schedule, the cost, and the quality of the design.

The Operations and Maintenance Representatives, must be: 

  • experienced, or trained & coached, in performing their review functions with the Project Management Team; and,

  • presented with the: 

    • resources; 

    • solid support; and,

    • firm expectations from the Executive level to: 

      • attend project meetings; 

      • review and comment on project plans in detail; and, 

      • follow up on their respective project action items.

 

Watch for related discussions in future articles.

 

(End of Part B)

Capital Projects Representatives of Operations & Maintenance for Process Plants

- Part C - (2020-08-24)

 

(... Continued from Part B)

The preceding sections Part A and B, also co-authored by Ric Massie and Gary Kennedy, lay the foundation for the types of preparations required to perform Capital Projects in an Operating Process Plant. 
 

This kind of wisdom can assist owners with getting better value out of hiring a PM and the rest of the project team for a plant capital project.  For example if a particular facility has not had a significant capital project for several years or more, experienced human resources are scarce in the fairly remote location, the operations and maintenance personnel have had high turnover, and project managers (and discipline/other engineers) are sometimes hired ad-hoc when projects arise, then the owner could have a recipe for major project problems with interfacing the operations-maintenance representatives with the project team.
 

Luckily, by learning from previous similar situations, there are ways to greatly improve on the cost, scope, safety, and schedule challenges of situations like above. Much of the preparation for the plant capital project can be done before the design stages are progressed very far.
This includes, but not limited to:

 

  • proactive executive support (e.g. friendly but firm VP speech) to enforce timely participation of the sponsor’s team, including ops-maint reps;

  • reasonable, practical, relevant, and interesting amounts of “Capital Project Training” for ops-maint reps and others on the sponsor’s team;

  • provision of a site-experienced general project manager (GPM) and/or project services representative (PSR) to help all participants deal with the project process stage steps. They can help simplify the project process steps that can be addressed in a streamlined way;

  • in addition to the brief training sessions, keep the processes ACTIVE and flowing smoothly with onsite coaching, mentoring, and interfacing between groups by the PM , GPM, PSR, and/or a Project Interface Manager.

 

Personnel who work at remote and/or resource-limited process plant locations may wonder if these are excessive preparations for incoming capital projects, but the principle of “a stitch in time saves nine” will likely prevent significant problems with schedule, cost, and technical deliverables. It would also help the temporarily imported project management team to ramp up their productivity soon after arrival on site and enhance their good relations with permanent staff. 

 

An organized project also tends to be a safer project, not only during site visits but because attention gets successfully focused on sequential staged team reviews such as engineering design, constructability, operational readiness, and various hazard reviews. 

 

(End of Part C)

 

Watch for related discussions in future articles.

Author:
Gary Kennedy, P. Eng., PMP
AvaLantic Alliance Chair
St. John's, NL, Canada

Complex Projects Alignment Part A. (2020-07-07) 

 

QUESTION: What are examples of Project 'Role' Titles that can be functionally unclear on projects?

 

For instance: (a) Project Controls Manager, Controller, (Instrumentation and...) Controls Engineer; (b) Project Engineer, Lead Engineer, Lead Discipline Engineer (c) Project Coordinator, Project Interface Manager, Assistant PM, Deputy PM, (d) Etc ... Other role titles? 

Further to our "Alignment" topic posted on 2019-04-13, simple projects such as placing concrete slabs usually run much smoother & safer with team alignment because the number of stakeholders are fewer.

It could be disastrous for complex projects to try to proceed without ensuring clear alignment of personnel & key stakeholders.

PROBLEM: Even with rigorous documentation of project team roles, these long & boring procedural documents ‘alone’ are seldom read & often unclear. Also, miles of text can still overlook things for your specific project.

To add to this, team members sourced elsewhere might rely on their own unique understandings of these terms, & this might add to serious project gaps, overlaps, & delays. Any disconnects & confrontations at the start of project stages are bad for everyone.

SUGGESTION: Project Alignment Sessions.

(END OF PART A)

Complex Projects Alignment Part B. (2020-09-03) 

(... Continued from Part A)

 

Complex (and many simpler) projects can always benefit from improved alignment not only between the range of project personnel and stakeholders, but also within the assets of each participating organization such as the standard report templates, software, and project management systems. These organizational project assets (ref PMBOK® Guide) are a good topic for future articles.


Some of our earlier discussions include the project team-personnel theme on this page, such as the articles: “Happiness is... an Aligned Team” (2019-03-26); “Capital Projects Representatives of Operations & Maintenance for Process Plants (2020-07-29); and, “Complex Projects Alignment Part A” (2020-07-07).


How does a Sponsor or Project Manager expect a project team to quickly ramp up to perform safely, effectively and at top productivity when various groups of strangers from different organizations, sectors, and locations are suddenly pulled together for a project?  Mountains of checklists, charts and graphs in company libraries, network drives, and iClouds won’t do it alone. Those procedural documents will be slow to learn and will only frustrate the participants.

This is where active project “champions” come in to enhance the harmony, productivity, and safety of an ALIGNED project team.

 

These champions (more than one per project) can be the Project Manager, Project Coordinators, Project Interface Managers, Project Services Representatives, SHER Representatives, PMO Managers, and others. They regularly try to view the “big picture” of the project to uncover disconnects between parties. They proactively coach and mentor personnel on the blended teams. They instinctively conduct informal alignment chats with “departments” whenever necessary, as well as participate enthusiastically in the formal team alignment sessions at the beginning of each project stage.
 

More to follow, including “formal” team alignment sessions.

(END OF PART B)
   

Responding to Covid-19 Business Interruptions to Capital Projects (2020-06-27) 

 

During these challenging times dealing with a variety of business interruptions, organizations may need extra help with their projects to succeed in their tight deadlines with issuing: 

  • schedules; 

  • plans (e.g. communications plans, project execution plans (PEP));

  • requests for proposals (RFP); 

  • expressions of interest (EOI); 

  • tenders; and,

  • other project management deliverables. 

The independent members of AvaLantic Alliance may be able to help those organizations on very short notice for very brief time periods. We do have experienced consultants available at this time and they are enabled with Zoom and Skype.

Thank you.


Contact: Gary Kennedy, P. Eng., PMP
1 (NL Area Code) 685-1900 

 

Please view our full team listing at the following link: 

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In support of the NL Offshore Oil & Gas industry (2020-06-14) 

Gary Kennedy, P. Eng., PMP, recently celebrated a milestone of 30 years of Engineering & Project Management work in Atlantic Canada. See his PROJECTS PHOTO GALLERY at the top of this page.

As can be seen in the gallery, a large portion of his work since graduating in 1990 has been in the offshore Oil & Gas sector of Newfoundland and Labrador. This is also reflected in a press release:

 

"I am proud to have worked on many significant projects throughout my career, in particular, a few historic projects within the offshore oil & gas industry... I believe my photo gallery demonstrates the importance the offshore industry has had on the success of many smaller-sized locally owned companies and freelance professionals in Newfoundland and Labrador. Given the current economic crisis we are facing, it is more important than ever that the offshore industry receive adequate supports to ensure these smaller, locally owned companies can remain viable now and for generations to come." (NOIA Daily Barrel, 11Jun2020)

Author:
Gary Kennedy, P. Eng., PMP
AvaLantic Alliance Chair
St. John's, NL, Canada

Happiness is ... an Aligned Team (2019-03-26) 

 

Working together for multiple projects, receiving thorough training, and getting feedback from a top notch Superintendent... high performance crews are very familiar with who has to do what (i.e. Work Processes) during their many activities, such as silt fencing, dewatering, pile driving, formwork installation, rebar installation, concrete placements (including the meticulous deck pour), and posing for pictures with the young Resident Engineer (I was slimmer in the 1990's, yes?) who's barely out of university, LOL. The team becomes better ALIGNED, more efficient, happier, and most importantly SAFER!!!

Author:
Gary Kennedy, P. Eng., PMP
AvaLantic Alliance Chair
St. John's, NL, Canada

SURVIVAL is ... an Aligned Team (2020-10-04) 

 

Working together on multiple assignments, receiving thorough training, and getting stern leadership from a top notch Chief Petty Officer... high performance crews are very familiar with who has to do what (i.e. Work Processes) during their many duties, such as firefighting training, damage control training, military communications, navigation, person-overboard exercises, range training, and posing for pictures with the young Killick radio operator on the front left (I was slimmer in the 1980's, yes?) who's barely out of high school, LOL. The crew becomes better ALIGNED, more efficient, more confident, and most importantly SAFER!!!

***

Author's Note: When I discovered this old photograph from 1985, it inspired me to write this navy-themed article using the above construction article as the template.  I think it's a worthy comparison to show the alignment similarities. It also reminds me that military training is a great ancient example of how CRITICAL it is to be well trained and well aligned with your team, with clear role descriptions for distinct trades yet have several areas of common training. For example, the entire crew knows how to perform in such critical SURVIVAL areas such as military defense, shipboard firefighting, and damage control. The crew needs to perform like clockwork to SURVIVE harsh or hostile environments.

AvaLantic Alliance -  Project Management Consultants - Email: gkennedy(at)LPSglobal.ca  -  Tel: 1-709-685-Nineteen Hundred
44 Duffy Place, St. John's, NL, Newfoundland & Labrador,  Canada

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