Project Practitioners > We Received The Wrong Equipment Again? Put A Stop To It.

We Received The Wrong Equipment Again? Put A Stop To It.

By Morley Selver, P.Eng IPMA B

What Does The Owner Want?

As a consulting engineer we recently did a project where the specification called out asbestos gaskets. Knowing that asbestos has not been used for years in North America, plus the fact that a different project engineer, working for the same company, on another project did not want to use them, we assumed that this project engineer would do the same. We spent some time researching what was used in the past, made up a specification deviation (asbestos gaskets were still in their standards) and sent it to the owner. To our surprise he refused the specification deviation as his personal preference was asbestos gaskets and that was what he wanted to use.

This is not an isolated incident and is a problem that all service providers dealing with owners have, and that is "what does the owner want"? As a service provider, time and money are wasted when there is confusion and indecision on the owners' side. You don't know which direction to go, so you struggle and spin your wheels. This is not a pleasant position to be in, especially when you figure out one engineers preferences and the next one has different preferences.

Unified Front

This is the issue of uniformity or a unified front. By that I mean everyone in your company should look the same to the outside world. If I am a contractor or consultant, when I look at your company, I should see only one person. All the forms used should be the same, the letterhead, and formatting should be consistent, in other words there should be no deviation between engineers. For CAD, materials and installation there are specifications and standards. These specifications and standards are developed over the years through trial and error, discussion, study, and research. They are to be taken seriously and should not be deviated from. If you need to deviate from them, the proper procedure is to get a 'Specification Deviation' to record and obtain authorization for the noncompliance.

So, to be consistent, amongst other things, your company should have standard forms, specifications and standards, procedures, and all correspondence should go through a common secretary who can format it the corporate way.

Get The Equipment You Want

One way to achieve consistency when working with engineers, vendors and contractors is to use a Plant Conditions and Standard Component List. This document serves two purposes:

  1. The Plant Conditions part is used to describe to service providers what the plant conditions are. It tells them the plant elevation; water, air, natural gas pressures; power information; weather information at the plant location; plus any other important information about the plant and its' location. One important section is the earthquake design information. For this you should hire a structural engineer familiar with the location to provide the numbers. If you leave this up to vendors there is a good chance that the information will be wrong. These plant conditions will provide uniformity across all the owners employees and the resulting designs. There is no more wondering what numbers are to be used.
  2. The Standard Component portion provides service providers with your preferred equipment. Have you ever been in the position of buying a skid, it shows up on site and within 15 minutes someone from maintenance is in your office telling you that the components used in the skid are not what the plant uses. Now the fun starts trying to get the situation rectified. The Standard Component list is there to help you with this problem. It is a list of the plants preferred make and type of components they like to use. It covers mechanical, electrical, and instrumentation. It can have one, two, or three recommended manufacturers to give the vendors some choice and leeway. If you have given this type of document to a vendor then the skid problem becomes a lot easier to handle. You just call up the vendor, tell him he did not use the components you asked for and you want it fixed at his cost. This is where your backcharge procedure comes in to play.

The Standard Component list does not just apply to industrial plants. One of my workshop attendees was a volunteer on a historical building restoration and thought the use of this document would be a great way to ensure consistency across all the volunteers and avoid confusion with the vendors / contractors providing services.

Keep in mind, you do not get what you want, you get what you specify.

If you want more information and the actual document, I have written an e-book on this which includes a comprehensive list of components used in a plant. You take this list, give it to your maintenance people to fill in and you are ready to go. The e-book can be found at

This type of material is covered in my up coming workshop "Fundamentals of Project Management" in Calgary Alberta Canada on November 23, 24, & 25, 2010.

Details at:

Other Workshops

Fundamentals of Project Cost Control
Richmond BC
April 13, 2010
Information at:

Managing Municipal Infrastructure Projects Effectively
May 3 & 4, 2010
Toronto, ON


Morley Selver, P.Eng

Morley Selver earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering in 1973 and has over 35 years of 'real world' industrial project management experience. He has worked in industry, with and for consultants, and his own consulting business. His project experience includes operations and maintenance, research and development, project management of small to medium size projects, construction management of large industrial projects, mechanical installation of heavy industrial equipment, commissioning and startup of industrial plants, and plant management.

He has worked in Canada and the USA in operating pulp and paper mills, on oil & gas projects, terminals & pipelines, on North Slope oil projects, board plants, and in the recycling industry. He is currently working as a project manager in oil & gas consulting business. He is the author of "Plant Project Engineering Guidebook", teaches project management, and is an international speaker on project management. He is an IPMA Level B Certified and is a 'First Assessor' for the Project Management Association of Canada (PMAC-AGPC). You can visit his web page at

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