Owners that undertake major capital improvement projects using a design-build implementation model spend significant time and resources upfront during the procurement, planning, and development stages of the project to ensure that the most qualified team is selected and that key project criteria are established. Strictly focusing on the design and construction requirements can be time consuming, and project teams tend to overlook important details such as how to transition smoothly from construction to operational readiness.
A Seamless Startup Phase
It is critical that we bring these new assets online in a seamless fashion and ensure that operations staff have the support and training necessary to operate and maintain the new systems, while meeting permitting and reporting requirements. The importance of the project’s startup and commissioning phase is often overlooked and under-planned, which results in increased stress for owners, the operations staff, and the design build team.
Owners and Utility directors should consider investing significant time in this startup and commissioning phase, similar to the procurement and development phases of the project. Some key aspects that utility directors should consider include:
- Assessment of existing staff: Do they have the requisite skill sets needed to operate new technologies? If not, provide enhanced hands-on and classroom training early in the process
- Work closely with design-builder: They must be able to understand the Startup, Training, and commissioning schedule. This will allow owners to effectively address staffing requirements (sick time, holidays, vacation and tenure) during the training and commissioning period while maintaining current operations
- Plan (both financially and staff schedule) for staff overtime: This will be needed to cover trainings, both classroom and hands-on, as well as the initial startup activities of the new facilities
- Designate staff members for additional training and support: A few critical staff members should receive additional support, which will allow them to be able to serve as long-term trainers for new hires, as well as being able to refresh those employees that need additional support.
Plan With the End in Mind
Planning with the end in mind and consistently focusing on a smooth operational transition during the design and construction phases of the project reduces stress on the operations staff during the critical start-up and commissioning phase. This approach helps to ensure the overall success of the years of planning and execution that Owners invest in large water and wastewater projects.