The Importance of Facility Operator Involvement in Design Projects
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The Importance of Facility Operator Involvement in Design Projects

Facility Operator involvement during the early conceptual development stage of the design process can have the greatest impact on the project’s ultimate success. The Operators understand their facility better than anyone else and the results of the project will directly affect them. Therefore, their input can be very valuable to the Design Team.

Facility Operators are the primary users of all of the systems in a facility and are typically responsible for making sure these systems work together to achieve the desired results of the facility.  They must know the “how” and “why” of each system to be able to use them effectively. 

There are several key discussions the Design Team should engage Facility Operators in to help ensure the success of a project.

Current Operations & Methods of Execution

Facility Operators are the best resource available to the Design Team to gain an understanding of how a facility needs to operate and what characteristics of the existing facility could be improved. Their intimate knowledge of the current operations of the facility and what methods they utilize can provide the Design Team with valuable insights.

Improvements Wish List

The design process can be enhanced by asking the Facility Operators what desired improvements they would like to see implemented into the facility.  It is much easier to incorporate their needs into the project scope if the Design Team can involve the operators in a collaborative effort very early in the design.  It is also important to work closely with the Owner/Client in this collaboration to formulate the project goals and establish the project budget and schedule.

Potential Roadblocks

Roadblocks to effective implementation of project goals are often encountered throughout a project design.  These roadblocks might range from physical constraints of the facility to attitudes displayed by various individuals.  The collaboration with the Facility Operators can help uncover these roadblocks early in the process so they can be more effectively addressed.

Extended Facility Operations Involvement

The Design Team, by necessity, will assume the lion’s share of the work as the project moves into the design development and its detailed implementation. Even though the Design Team owns the majority of responsibility at this stage, it is important to continue to solicit input from the Facility Operators throughout the process. 

Mini-reviews during the design of a project are often more effective than one or two major ones. This is especially true for facilities that are driven by technical process requirements like those in Water and Wastewater facilities. Keeping a consistent review team that includes the Facility Operators will make minor modifications and corrections easier to accomplish.

It is also critical to involve the Facility Operators during the final stage of a project when the facility is being turned over and the final documentation is presented to the Owner. During this time the Facility Operators need to receive their training in the use and ongoing maintenance of their new facility. They should also be included in the team that checks out the final facility to certify that their expectations have been met.

A project’s success can be amplified when the Design Team collaborates with the Facility Operators and treats them as an integral resource.  Their value cannot be emphasized enough.  They know their facility better than anyone else and will have to live with the results of the project.

Learn more about Ross & Baruzzini Utilities Infrastructure experience by contacting our team of professionals.

About the Contributor

Bob Wilson has over 42 years of experience in controls, instrumentation, security, standby generation, and power distribution. He has spent 21 of those years with Ross & Baruzzini serving in the roles of senior engineer and project manager. Bob holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Oklahoma and is a registered professional engineer. In addition to his long-time emphasis on projects in the Water and Wastewater industries, he has led and participated in many projects for the manufacturing, packaging and process chemical industries as well as healthcare and transportation.

 

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