Project Practitioners > Why Is It Called Fred's Folly?

Why Is It Called Fred's Folly?

By Morley Selver, P.Eng IPMA B

Oh Oh, We Should Have Discussed This With Operations

All projects are about solving a problem and it is important that Operators be part of the solution. This means, when you are managing a project in an industrial facility, you   should have an Operations Representative on the project team. As a designer, you need to understand what the problem really is. This comes from discussions with the Operations Representative. As well, the Operators are the ones who have to live with the project so they should have substantial input into the design and construction of any project. Remember, Operations are your customer.

When we start a project, the Operations Representative may be a Supervisor which could change to a Foreman or Lead Operator in the later stages. The involvement is important and as a project manager you should know what their responsibilities are to your project. To this end, following are the Operations Representatives  responsibilities to a project. The  Operations Representatives responsibilities apply to both existing facilities and EPC projects.

  1. The primary responsibility for Operations is reviewing the details involved in the operational design, unit layout, access, etc. It is preferred to find out design problems when we are in the design phase rather than in the field. At a recent workshop, a commissioning operator, starting up an EPC project, was talking about not having enough room around a heat exchanger to pull the tube bundle. As well, there were also sections of the process that would not work as designed. As a project manager, you have to ensure you have taken all steps necessary so things like the above don’t get through into the field. You need the Operations input.
  2. Operators will assist in communicating the root cause of operational problems and provide pertinent information for defining the project requirements and needs. When you are assigned a project, one of the first things to do is find the Operations Representative and walk the site to see what the problem is and what they see as a solutionTypically , designers know something about the process, but do not know in detail, how process works, so operations input is important. To solve any problem, you need to know the root cause and options available to solve the problem. Once known the designers can focus on the solution. Without this direction, designers are flying blind. 
  3. As with all projects, you need one contact person to as part of the team. This applies to Operations as well. You should be holding weekly team meetings at which the Operations Representative should be in attendance. If the team needs input from Operations, the Operations Representative should take the request back to the Operations group for their input. On some issues, Operators have to discuss amongst themselves as to what the answer should be. Operators need a common front as the wrong decision could be catastrophic. The Operations Representative should also be providing feedback to his/her coworkers on project decisions and progress.  On a recent project we were installing a new piece of equipment the Operators had never seen before. For this we had several meetings with all the Operators to explain how the equipment worked and to get their input as to how they saw the equipment being operated. This took several meetings to resolve but eventually we got a design the Operators were happy with. 
  4. You need Operators to review your overall project schedule and commit to milestones established for engineering, procurement and construction. As the project manager, you need to know what is going on within the unit or facility in order to develop your schedules.  We had one project where management were trying to control their cashflow. The date management wanted the project to startup at was rejected by Operations as it did not work with how the unit ran and when they could take parts of the unit down. This changed the whole aspect of the project as we went from a project with lots of time to a fast track project. 
  5. Operators can provide practical input for the feasibility study, the technology evaluation, the Process Design Package, Process Flow Diagrams (PFD), the Plot Plan and, most importantly, for the Process & Instrumentation Diagram (P&ID’s) development and review.As you can see, Operators input is required throughout the project. In order to keep the design moving along, decisions have to be made with respect to the design, PFD and plot plans. Without approval of the bP&ID’s, the project will come to a standstill. It is important that all stakeholders have input into the P&ID’s. Just getting the right people involved, reviewing the drawings, making changes, and doing other reviews can be a time consuming exercise. Once the P & ID is approved, there can be no more changes unless approved through a Management of Change (MOC) procedure. Getting everyone together for these reviews can be a task. We found the best way was to offer them a free lunch and do the review over their lunch time.  
  6. You need Operators to review the project design for operability and functionality concerns. The design review has to be an ongoing process. As a Project Manager, you should not be depending on the designer, or even the vendor, to know how the Operators will operate the equipment or the process. The best way to review the design is to use AutoCad models where you can walk the Operators through the layout. They can then get a feel for functionality of the layout. You should be looking for head bangers, access to equipment, valve locations, etc. You have to produce a Functional Specification that needs to be reviewed and signed off by Operations. This outlines how every item works, “when I push this button, this happens”. As you are well aware, when there is no Operations input there are going to be long term operational problems. It is in your best interest to have Operations involved. 

For a project manager the Operations input is an important issue. No project manager wants to construct a project which doesn’t work and have his name (example ‘Fred’s Folly’) plastered all over it .  I will continue next month with additional responsibilities.




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