Understanding Critical Path and Milestone Schedules
If you have been around enough startups, you begin to see a sad trend. Often, commissioning and startup (CSU) activities are not included on the project critical path and milestone (CPM) schedule or they represent the entire CSU process as one activity. In their defense, these schedules are in place to track project or construction activities, and the CSU activities in some part will take care of themselves. But, CII best practices tell us that we should have a fully integrated CSU CPM schedule with activities, sequencing and this schedule should be complete, or close to it, at around 30% completion of the detail design. Here is some reason you should always think about scheduling your CSU activities at the beginning of a project.
Change: During the detail design things are still being finalized and are subject to change. Some of these changes are minor, but in larger projects, these can be major changes. Without the CSU integrated into the CPM you may miss the full impact of that decision upon CSU.
Sequencing of Turnover: When you put the CSU activities into a CPM you are faced with an understanding of how these activities will interact with each other. You can see dependencies and order of execution start to unfold on paper. Related tasks become apparent and the work flow takes shape. Without this exercise, you are missing these core benefits, which could prove detrimental later on.
Risk Assessment: By putting your activities inside of a CPM you can review your risks for these activities in two ways. The first is that you can see “gaps” in your process or activities once you take the time to review these activities for duration and scheduling purposes. These gaps are hopefully filled in and lead to a better understanding of what the project team is asking for during the outage window. It leads to an “Aha” moment, which is sometimes followed by a sense of panic when they look at the amount of work that is in front of the team. I have always been told that only five gallons can fit in a five-gallon bucket, but it seems we try to disprove that theory every project! Another way risks become apparent during CSU integration with the CPM is assigning durations to these activities. By doing this, you can track these activities inside the outage and truly understand your critical path. Once late starts are visible in your schedule, you can guarantee that you are starting to run the risk of missing a deadline. This is, of course, an important part of preventing that outcome.
Here are some quick challenges to look out for in your CPM scheduling for a successful CSU.
Preparation of startup CPM without adequate input: Make sure you get the right people in the boat before you start the process in order to get a good, realistic schedule put together.
CPM schedule that is not kept current: If you don’t keep it updated through the life of the project as an evergreen document, it will be unusable when you need it.
Startup schedule not fully integrated into the master project schedule: If it is not integrated, you don’t get the benefit of seeing the big picture and how activities truly interact on paper.
A CPM schedule that is prepared too late for positive benefits in design and procurement: Early schedule preparation helps everyone on the project understand how the project will go into service. This schedule will affect the packages that go out and help to clarify responsibilities of different parties involved. Everyone should have a clear picture of all the activities in order to recognize his or her part in the plan.
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