How to streamline startups

by Fred Ward, senior project manager, POWER Engineers
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POWER Engineers

The success of most projects, especially food processing and packaging projects, is measured in good part by the success of the startup of the systems. One of the most difficult stages of project execution is the startup phase. It is during this phase that the design is proven, project objectives are realized and project control transitions from the project team to the permanent operating group.

The proper use of an organized startup planning and implementation process can provide a project delivery system that will reduce design problems and project rework, improve the realization of project objectives and ensure a rapid transition from the project organization to an efficient, cost-effective ongoing operation.

The purpose of using a startup team-oriented project delivery system is to manage a project, or a sub-system of a project, from design to ongoing operation. By carefully structuring a startup team organization, made up of members from various functional areas, the transition process can be transformed from a chaotic unproductive period to a period of training, involvement, and learning that will not only improve the startup performance, but also provide a gradual and smooth transition from design to operation as opposed to the traditional abrupt transition.

The primary difference between the traditional organizations and the startup team system is the early involvement of the ongoing operations team in the project cycle. The startup team organization structure will shift the transfer of responsibility from the startup phase in the traditional organization to the shakedown and check-out phase in the startup team structure, thus providing knowledge, confidence and ownership of the project goals by the operation team. Providing a properly structured system of startup team development, startup planning and responsibility transfer can improve project performance.

Startup team objectives

The following are some objectives of the startup organization and sub-teams:

  • Involve the operations group early in the project
  • Decrease the need for the project team after the initial startup
  • Increase the ramp-up production curve
  • Decrease the overall cost of the startup effort.

Organizational structure

The startup team organizational structure should include the main areas of the capital project that will be separate operating areas such a processing, utilities, packaging, administrative support, maintenance and warehousing. The size and complexity of the area organization will depend on the size and scope of the project, aggressiveness of the schedule and importance of the project objectives to the company organization. Areas can be either equipment- and systems-oriented or personnel- and plant-support-systems-oriented.

Steering committee

The startup steering committee should be made up of the key project team management, site operations management and responsible corporate personnel. Responsibilities might include:

  • Participate in organizing the startup team and supplying resources
  • Monitoring the working relationship of the startup team organization with the project organization and operations management
  • Ensuring that the startup team members have the available time for successful participation
  • Setting the project startup goals for production output and product quality.

Startup manager

The startup manager should be a senior member of the ongoing operations team after the project is completed and should have experience in plant startup activities. Responsibilities might include:

  • Coordinating the startup planning and implementation process and meetings
  • Providing a proper selection of cross-functional startup team leaders and team members
  • Managing the development and ongoing control of the overall startup plan scope, budget, schedule, training and resource plan
  • Negotiating the involvement of startup team members with the company functional managers, the project team, and outside resource organizations.

Startup team coordinators

Startup team coordinators for each project area should be selected from the ongoing operations staff of the project area. The present or future department manager or a key technical support resource is often an ideal candidate. Typical responsibilities of the startup team coordinators include:

  • Managing the development and ongoing control of the area startup scope, budget, schedule, training and resource plan for their project area
  • Coordinating the project area startup meetings and the startup implementation
  • Negotiating the involvement of area team members with the company functional managers, the project team and outside resource organizations.

Startup team members

Area team members should include key resources from the design team that work on the area layout and systems design, future operations resources, area maintenance support personnel, and required technical support leaders. Team members might serve on multiple teams.

Common responsibilities of the startup team members might include:

  • Contributing to the development of the project area design, training plan, commissioning plan and startup plan
  • Attending the area startup meetings
  • Developing and implementing the assigned equipment and systems precommissioning, commissioning, and initial startup operations plans.

The success of the startup will be heavily influenced by the startup team development process. The team and its motivation to strive for a quality startup performance will be enhanced by broad participation of the project resources and the ongoing operations team.

This story is sponsored by POWER Engineers, which has one of the most comprehensive teams of engineers and specialists serving the baking and snack industry. As an extension of its clients' engineering teams, the company provides program management, integrated solutions and full facility design for the baking and snack industry. Learn more at www.powereng.com/food.

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