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 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.

(End of Part B)


(Continued in Part C...)

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