Not too lateI’m a big proponent of front end planning in capital projects, and I’d be the first to advocate for defining your handover plan for equipment and spare parts data as part of this effort.  The investment is low, the payback high, and you’ve got the best opportunity of having all your stakeholders aligned on your equipment and spare parts data requirements.

But the reality is that not all data scopes can be well defined in the planning phase. What do you do when you’ve got a project in construction or commissioning phase, and you cringe over the gaping holes in the spares data the project is likely to deliver?

The comforting news – equipment and spare parts data is challenging to collect and stage for most projects.  Even a well-structured data handover program may still be unsuccessful. There are many layers of data contributors to coordinate throughout the project. The data itself is complex. Coordinating data collection and cleanse can be challenging.

So, what are your options?

1.  Do Nothing

Our project is already over budget, behind schedule, or has no contingency for this type of expenditure.’

 This is certainly an option, but what potential impacts can you expect?

  • Overspending on spare parts inventory for startup and ongoing operations:  you have a high likelihood of many spares parts being overstocked, most of which will deteriorate and be written off before being used.
  • Production losses and costly replacement expense should critical spare parts like a feed pump not be stocked in sufficient quantities.  When a critical piece of equipment fails and the required spare parts aren’t available (or can’t be found in the warehouse), you’ll probably end up incurring the cost of hot-shotting the part into your facility or, worse yet, milling a custom part. Over the long term, you’re likely to realize increased maintenance from out-of-stock spare parts across the board. All of which hinder your maintenance efforts.

2. Defer

‘We’ll let the Operations & Maintenance team address the data they really need once the plant is operational.’

In the heat of a capital project with tremendous pressure to meet schedules and contain project costs, this seems like a viable short-term decision, but what is the impact of deferring?

Operations and maintenance teams are staffed with skilled professionals for the job for which they are hired.  Rarely is a top-notch maintenance planner or supervisor also a strong data management expert! Your team is finding their way through a tremendous amount of change – a new facility, new processes, new equipment…and the team size is never staffed to the level that added responsibilities of obtaining missing spare parts and equipment data can realistically be achieved.

In most cases, the same potential impacts of “do nothing” simply carry forward until a major data improvement effort is undertaken.  By this time (often three to five years after startup), the task of improving the equipment and spare parts data is significantly more expensive (not to mention confusing).  The project’s EPC has been demobilized leaving original suppliers with little incentive to provide you with much needed vendor data.

3.    Assess & Address

Time and time again, we find that the data always flows most freely while a project is in progress.  If you suspect you have big gaps, engaging an expert in equipment and materials data that is at arms-length to the project team is one of the best and ways to quickly identify your areas of highest risk.  An optimal handover may be out of reach, but a cold-eyes review of the project will help you prioritize your risk areas and prepare cost estimates and a resourcing plan for those areas that must be addressed.

When considering resourcing options, schedule constraints will make it difficult to resource a team with low-cost personnel that could have been on-boarded and trained early in the project.  Instead, engaging a vendor that specializes in equipment and material data for capital projects and has a track record for successful “rescue missions” will normally provide you the best value and results.

In summary, it is never too late to address spare parts data, but your best chance of success is recognizing and addressing deficiencies while the project is still in progress!  Use the momentum and pressure of the project to your advantage.  It will help you address high-risk data gaps that arise late in the project, and keep your project team and supply chain actively engaged. The delivery of equipment and spare parts data for handover must be addressed head on.

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Sandra MacGillivray

Managing Director at Valency Inc.
Sandra is the Managing Director for Valency Inc., an implementer of best practices from the Construction Industry Institute (CII) that dramatically improve capital project performance. She is a Certified PDRI Facilitator, Registered Education Provider (REP) with the Construction Industry Institute (CII), a Project Management Professional (PMP), and a PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP) with over 15 years of project management experience. Sandra is a past research team member with the Construction Industry Institute on front end planning, risk management and portfolio management. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Waterloo and a Master in Business Administration from Wilfrid Laurier University.