Water Design-Build Council Blog

How An Operations-Focused Collaborative Delivery Method Leads To A Successful Project

Posted by John Gallegos and Tom Visosky, CDM Smith on Fri, Jun 22, 2018 @ 10:15 AM

how-an-operations-focused-collaborative-delivery-method-leads-to-a-successful-projectThe success of collaborative project delivery methods, especially progressive design-build, is due in large part to the immediate engagement of an owner’s operation and maintenance (O&M) teams— specifically during design development and preconstruction. While this approach may appear difficult to execute, it’s actually quite simple when completed systematically.

The first step applied by CDM Smith is to create a project-specific collaborative O&M work group during the design submittal/workshops. During these important sessions, the concerns and needs of the O&M team responsible for running the facility for the long term are captured and thoroughly documented.

One of the more valuable tools used during the workshops is a 3D modeling (BIM) process that enables participants to visualize the equipment and system relationships so that O&M activities can be further analyzed. It is especially important during the workshops to ensure that the following operability issues are addressed:

  • Ease and efficiency of operation and maintenance
  • Safety considerations such as entrance and egress
  • Initial odor and noise considerations
  • Redundancy
  • Conceptual I&C control
  • Potential flood control
  • Housekeeping (hose placement and drainage)
  • Access to grit and screening bins
  • Electrical access to panels
  • Review access hatch sizes and materials
  • Overflow piping direction
  • Operational strategies
  • Operational and lifecycle costs

As the project prepares for construction, the work group continues its engagement by reviewing vendor submittals, using their expertise to ensure that all key aspects are included in the vendor O&M manuals. The work group is then engaged in the development of clear maintenance procedures with schematics as needed, preventative maintenance (PM) instructions, suggested spare parts, and information that would be required to contact the vendor for additional assistance and spare parts. Vendor submittals also offer a good time to address PM activities that need to be incorporated into the Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) so that PMs are carried out properly during the start-up and extended commissioning periods, and so O&M staff are properly trained prior to turnover.


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A third role for this collaborative work group is to work with the contractor to establish procedures for startup and checkout. This work element begins with O&M and Acceptance Test Plans that incorporate the following:

  • Vendor testing of equipment in advance with updated schedule from construction
  • Review of all start-up reports from each vendor with check-off sheets
  • Start-up checkout of equipment individually after vendor checkout
  • Loop checks of all instruments to ensure proper response
  • Documentation of all loop checks
  • Instrument control and SCADA checks for proper control as per the design loop descriptions
  • Documentation of all instrument controls
  • Clean water checkout of individual systems/processes
  • Clean water checkout of all systems as a combined functioning process
  • Full system testing

Another critical role for the collaborative work group is to assume leadership for the training program. This task begins with conducting a gap analysis for the purpose of identifying the future structure of the appropriate customized training for the O&M staff. The following work is included:

  • Reviewing the current systems being operated
  • Assessing the current grade level of O&M staff and certification level or trade level of maintenance staff
  • Conducting interviews with shift supervisors and above to assess current staff background with projected equipment

Key Benefits: This assessment identifies essential opportunities for further education and training as the schedule is developed. It also helps supervisors identify where staff position descriptions need to be upgraded in order to comply with new equipment and work elements.

Generally, the first phase of training consists of field testing and O&M training conducted by each vendor. These training sessions are scheduled in advance by the design-build construction manager or operations transition lead for coordination and involvement by the O&M staff. The next phase of training involves classroom and in-the-field sessions on each process system.

Key Benefits: We have seen firsthand how O&M staff shadowing start-up operators is an excellent way to build operator knowledge and understanding. This step is then followed by the start-up operators shadowing O&M personnel as they perform hands-on operation, demonstrating and perfecting what they have learned. The result: a smooth transition and handoff.

CDM Smith also uses a proven training technique when developing customized round sheets prior to startup, which are then updated during acceptance testing, commissioning, and extended transition operations periods. These round sheets are not just “ordinary check-off” charts; they help the operators identify normal status ranges—like appropriate pressure and flow ranges—so they can properly identify any abnormalities or potential issues quickly.

Additionally, during commissioning, further optimization of the process setup can be made to meet performance standards, peak capacities, and flow rates. After the shadowing process is completed, the commissioning agent signs off that the staff is trained and ready to operate the facility.

Finally, the collaborative work group adds essential value to the long-term operations team by ensuring that the standard operating procedures (SOPs) provide in-depth instructions for routine tasks that provide a quick reference without researching the information from a vendor’s manual. This document covers tools or equipment needed, safety equipment, and warnings or prerequisite reminders. Because this is a living document, it should be reviewed at least on an annual basis and updated accordingly.

Successful collaborative project delivery doesn’t end when startup begins—it continues throughout the lifespan of the facility. To that end, a proactive O&M work group can help enact collaboration that leads to effective long-term operations.

John Gallegos is a Grade V operator who has been involved in collaborative project delivery for the water sector for 30+ years. He is the West Group O&M Manager for CDM Smith.

Tom Visosky has been engaged in strategic project development for 20+ years, including planning, design, construction, and operation assistance of water/wastewater projects, many of which have been implemented utilizing collaborative delivery methods such as design-build, CMAR, alliance, and public-private partnerships. He is a vice president with CDM Smith, leading collaborative project delivery development for the West, serves on the WDBC Board of Directors and is a member of their Technical Practices Committee.

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Topics: Collaborative Project Delivery