Simple, comprehensive guidelines ease the stress of change

March 13, 2006
Simple, comprehensive guidelines can prevent problems with facilities.

Some deep thinker from long ago came up with the truism “the only constant in the world is change,” and it has held fast through the eons as undeniable. As plant and facility professionals, we’re constantly facing the problem of integrating new technologies and systems into our operations. For most of us, the challenge of learning new things keeps us in this field. While we might enjoy the challenge, we, like so many people in the world today, are striving to get 28 hours out of a 24-hour day and trying to minimize the effect of change on our ongoing operations.

Consider for a moment a project to upgrade or replace part of the HVAC system in the plant. You’ll have a lot of outsiders working onsite and the last thing you need is for your maintenance department to be blindsided by something unexpected. Defining maintenance department requirements early can prevent the risk of future embarrassment.

Off the line

The first step is also the most difficult. Set aside some time to take stock of your current situation and document what information and data you require from both existing and new systems. We suggest approaching this exercise as if the boss just informed you that a subcontractor will be installing a new process line in the B wing six months hence.

Your task is to have your team ready to operate and maintain the new process immediately after the ribbon-cutting ceremony. What would you need to prepare your team for this additional line?
Answers at the top of the list probably include training, operating and maintenance manuals for the equipment, operating procedures, maintenance procedures and spare parts lists. Now, take it a step further and consider what you will do with this information. Will you put it on a shelf in a binder or will you place laminated copies of the procedures at the machines? Who will enter information about parts and procedures into your CMMS? Take this exercise to its conclusion and you’ll have the final form for the data and information you need to integrate a new system into your organization.

Collect your notes and observations, sort them into related groups and begin developing your facilities standards document. If you already have a document of this nature, now is a good time to update it. This document is the guideline for your suppliers and installers that indicates what they need to provide before you will consider their work complete.

For example, if you’d like a vendor to furnish information on parts and procedures for your CMMS, clearly identify the fields, headings and format that will simplify uploading the data.
If you want your team included in project or system development, clearly identify who should be involved, when they should be involved and the limits of their authority to make changes. Project teams operate under severe time and budget constraints. As your project gets further along, seemingly minor changes become costly to implement. With this in mind, document when your team will be involved and what they will contribute.

Your standards documents can be organized in one of three basic formats (Table 1). Each option has pros and cons. Once you have a document that’s ready for review, solicit input from your capital projects group, procurement, engineering and quality control departments. This document gives these groups a better understanding of your needs. The feedback they offer can provide insight into how to further optimize the document to coincide with their requirements. After you’ve incorporated this input, you’ll have a solid tool that will help your team get what they need for integrating a new system into your ongoing operations quickly and effectively.




CSI MasterSpec format (16 Division)  

Integrates with most design firms’ current standard specifications

Requires extensive coordination between sections, contractors may overlook unique requirements

CSI MasterSpec 2004 format (42 Division)   Will remain current as industry adopts new standards Requires some coordination between sections, timeline for adoption of this standard by industry is unknown
Narrative format  Free to organize the standards to match your organizations needs, brings designer’s and contractor’s attention to standards  Will require additional work by design team to integrate standard into contract documents.

With the preparation work completed, simply sit back and wait. When the new project is approved, you and your team will be ready to spring into action. Remind your project team of the facilities standards document and the need to incorporate it into the project.

Leave some space

During the design phase, it’s a good idea to review the project’s general arrangement drawings with a particular eye on equipment clearances. Document any need for access platforms and walkways to allow easy access for service and maintenance. For example, if the project plan calls for high bays with HID fixtures, make sure your team has a lift platform that can reach the fixtures safely. If you don't, now is the time to ask about alternatives. Be sure to have a storage area allocated for the lift and equipped with appropriate power connections for charging.

As the design process draws to a close and the construction bid documents are being compiled, be sure the general contractor(s) attend a pre-bid meeting so you can explain your requirements to them. Provide them samples of the documents and information you require. This helps to reduce confusion and uncertainty. Remember, if contractors have any uncertainty when preparing a bid, they’ll assume the worst and you’ll get a higher price than necessary.

When your list of bidders has been reduced to a short list or down to one, insist on an interview with their construction team. This is the time to ask them to explain their understanding of your requirements. Address any gaps before issuing a contract. Remember the project management mantra: An hour of planning saves a hundred hours in the field. Make the time available during planning and design and you’ll see great benefits during construction.

Into the fray

As the construction team makes progress, stay involved. Schedule site visits for your staff so they can become familiar with the project at each stage of its completion. If the project is being built from the ground up, the early stages of construction involving the foundation and structural work won’t require frequent visits. A good interval is a visit every two months.

As the installation of the building systems begins, increase the frequency of visits to once a month. During the visits, your staff should note piping and conduit layout and locations of equipment and valves. Bring them to the attention of your internal capital project manager as well as items that your team takes issue with or seem amiss. The lines of communication between construction team members are rigid and have contractual implications. Respect this fact and let your internal project manager handle the issue.

At the midpoint

Approximately half way through the project is when the contractor should deliver a preliminary submittal of your turnover items. Usually, at this point in a project, the majority of the equipment and material selections have been made and approved. Therefore, it’s an appropriate time to have the construction team submit preliminary copies of the training program and the operation and maintenance documents.
It may seem early to require them to submit these items, but it allows you to review the documents and provide feedback to the submitter while there’s ample time to correct content and format issues.

Waiting until the end of the project to think about the turnover severely limits your ability to get it right. At the end of a project, the construction team is focused on completing the work and setting up their next project, not supplying your team with parts lists and procedures.

Continuous improvement

Completing your first project with the benefit of facilities standards will be a trial-and-error experience. As lessons are learned, revise the standards to reflect these pearls of wisdom. Solicit input from your team as well as members of your capital project team to produce a comprehensive set of standards that can reduce the total cost of ownership of the new facility or system within three or four iterations.
Getting started is the most difficult part. Visiting relevant Web sites (Table 2) may give you some inspiration on setting up effective in-house standards.

Organization Resource Web site
Construction Specification Institute   
MasterSpec Construction Specifications
University of Florida Facilities Planning & Construction Standards laid out in traditional MasterSpec format
Princeton University Facilities Department Standards laid out in a narrative format

Jim McEnteggart, P.E., is president of FM3 Group – A Dome-Tech Company, headquartered in Edison, N.J. Contact him at [email protected] and (732) 590-0122 x 152.

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