Project commissioning is a vital step in project management. It is the only way the entire project team and all stakeholders can be sure that the project conforms to the design document and regulatory requirements. During commissioning, interoperability issues are addressed, functional testing procedures are carried out and energy usage optimized for efficiency and performance.
A commissioning engineer must ensure that all project aspects are correctly designed, installed, tested, and maintained. Their tasks include troubleshooting, monitoring progress, performing tests, conducting audits, assisting in financial improvements, writing reports and being an effective advocate of the project owner throughout the construction phase.
During the commissioning process, one wrong step can result in client losses, regulatory issues and legal problems.
The commissioning process's effectiveness depends on the commissioning firm's experience and expertise and how well the process is executed. Below are five commissioning best practices to get it right the first time.
Construction projects are in flux and there are many moving parts. The commissioning team must remain on top of the situation and this is why it is critically important to have a commissioning plan.
Ideally, the project owners should engage the commissioning firm before the design phases. This way, the commissioning engineer acts as an intermediary between the design and contracting teams to ensure adherence to the Owner's Project Requirements (OPR).
With this early engagement, commissioning is built into the overall project delivery plan. Planning also includes putting together a capable commissioning team, clearly defining the commissioning scope, schedule and budget.
During the planning stage, the team should also agree on the documentation of issues, the distribution format and the system. This is best done using a cloud-based commissioning management platform.
A design kick-off meeting with the entire project team ensures everyone is on the same page and adequately apprised with the design and commissioning plan requirements.
The commissioning plan should include a contingency plan for unforeseen events such as equipment failure and adverse weather that can delay commissioning.
Prepare procedures and checklists well in advance of the commissioning activities.
Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) Is Vital to Success
Factory Acceptance Testing evaluates pre-functional equipment and verifies its conformance with design specifications. It’s a crucial component of the commissioning process and should be done immediately after purchase and regularly once the equipment use commences.
Failure to execute FAT properly defers problems that are later costly to fix and have a more significant adverse impact. For example, poorly executed FAT for automation systems, such as failing to include the PLC logic design, results in one big headache at the end of the project. For HVAC systems, a test and balance procedure is conducted as part of FAT.
FAT must be part of the overall project testing strategy. Take an upfront approach to Factory Acceptance Testing and solve errors and issues before it's too late.
Sound Mechanical Completions
Each mechanical completion can seem like a straightforward matter as a subsystem. But, throw in a bunch of systems with milestones and delivery sequences and everything suddenly becomes very complicated.
Missed milestones and complex handovers compromise successful project delivery. You must have sound mechanical completions to streamline the handover process.
Achieve sound mechanical completion by:
- Defining each mechanical completion upfront: Set out the expectations at project commencement and state when mechanical completions are expected to align with other commissioning activities.
- Define boundary conditions: Construction and commissioning activities often overlap to optimize the project schedule. Mechanical completion documents define the areas under testing (and thus under the care, control and custody of the commissioning team) and the areas under construction (under the care, control and custody of the construction team).
The quality of systems received from the construction team determines commissioning success. The construction team must implement a Quality Management System (QMS). The QMS defines the construction team's Quality Control (QC) role and the project owner's (or an appointee) Quality Assurance (QA) role. Inspection test plans (ITPs) define the quality control details. The QA ensures that the contractor follows the ITP and QC plan.
Deficient installations that cannot be tested and have to be turned over to the construction team are a sign of a flawed Quality Management System with little or no quality control and assurance.
Also, test procedures developed at the beginning of the project are a sure way to improve construction quality and smoothen the commissioning process.
Pull It All Together with Precise Schedule Management.
The schedule changes continuously and needs to be updated regularly. Schedule management is, therefore, a key ingredient for successful commissioning.
However, to avoid schedule management becoming a task in itself, the schedule should only include block activities representing an outcome. For example, if you have one week of loop checks to perform on an automated system, represent this as a one-week activity. It’s not critical to include each panel's details being tested, provided all are tested within one week.
Precise schedule management is also vital for mechanical completions. The project team tracks progress and provides the commissioning team with regular feedback on meeting milestones. Productivity establishes if progress is satisfactory to meet timelines. If it isn't, institute remedial measures or determine the commissioning control sequence's impact.
The project team should never notify of the possibility of a missed critical milestone when it is due or almost due – schedule management allows such an eventuality to be evident well in advance to evaluate options and prepare recovery plans.
A Better Way to Manage Commissioning
Many commissioning engineers get it wrong because they use antiquated methods to manage the commissioning process. Paper and Excel spreadsheets may have been the only options available years ago but are far inferior now. Best practice commissioning dictates the use of commissioning software to manage the entire process.
FTQ360 is a cloud commissioning platform to improve and streamline your commissioning process so that you get it right the first time. It starts with the end in mind by collecting documents and reports in an organized way throughout the commissioning process so that you are always prepared for a fast and easy closeout. Automatically format and organize all inspections and tests into a turnover package.
With FTQ360, upfront planning of inspections and tests for specific equipment and systems and schedule management are baked right into the process. It also comes with a large library of fully customizable checklist templates to help you save time.
Communicate issues in a managed process from discovery to resolution and tie all tests and inspections to specific equipment tags, sub-systems and the overall system.
Generate easy-to-read inspection reports with proof-positive compliance documentation at the touch of button. See the big picture with dashboards and graphical reports, then focus on the details. View reports online or schedule them to automatically run and email.
FTQ360 is available as a mobile and web application. For more information on how FTQ360 can improve your commissioning process, book a free demo today.