Capital Project Front End Review Roles of Operations & Maintenance Representatives (Pt A 2020-10-05)

[Co-authored by J R (Ric) Massie, Jr., PE, PMP, & Gary Kennedy, P. Eng., PMP]

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;

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.