Once we have the project specifications, one of the first questions we ask is, “What are the objectives of this project?”
The specification may be one way of achieving those objectives and may be the best for the client. But, more often than not, we find that the project objectives are not clearly defined and occasionally the specified project addresses the symptoms of the problem and not the causes.
That’s because the problem is sometimes clearly understood by the operators, who tell their supervisors, who tell their managers, who tell their managers and so on up the tree until the original problem is lost and only a project remains; a project which may have nothing to do with the original problem.
This sort of thing happens all round the world in all kinds of industries – on one project in the Middle East, I took out a 14 inch Super Duplex Stainless Steel control valve worth over US$100,000 and put it in stores exactly because of this problem.It wasn’t needed to meet the project objectives and the person who specified it didn’t understand the problem.
This is why that first question is so important.
The re-use of existing structures and plant can also be an emotional problem. People become attached to what they know and what they are comfortable with. This is only natural and needs to be captured in the project objectives if it is important.
The immediate reaction to an upgrade of an existing plant is, “I have all this existing infrastructure, it must be worth something.” Invariably it is worth something but normally a lot less than the owner hopes for. An example of this could be selling your car – whoever gets what they ask for their car?
The trick with all of these problems is to understand how to take something that may be 10 or 20 years old or even older and update it so that it complies with the latest requirements.
Some of the buildings and structures we have been asked to upgrade as part of water treatment plants, need significant structural upgrades to bring them up to 67% of the latest code. At which point you ask, “If I build a building next door that meets my new requirements completely in terms of space and building code, how much am I going to save by upgrading the existing structure?” The answer can be surprisingly small and then you need to compromise your new layout to fit it in the existing building. At which point you need to go back to your project objectives and see which option best fits those objectives.
I do understand that if the existing structures occupy all the available space, then these structures need to be reused – this goes back to the project objectives and what we are trying to achieve.
The question, “What are we trying to achieve?” is a regular project check to ensure that the client’s objectives are constantly being met.
This thought leadership article by Iain Rabbits, a Senior Process Engineer at Harrison Grierson.
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