Increasing volatility in the business environment (new technologies, markets, growth, etc.) demands a systematic approach and standardised methods and tools. With the help of systematic preparation for major projects, efficiency over the entire project period can be enhanced and a consistent quality across multiple projects, as well as customer satisfaction, can be guaranteed.
Our customer, the In-house Engineering department of a global company, is responsible for the planning and realisation of plants, including both expansion and modifications to existing plants, and new construction of entire production locations. They were faced with the challenge of clarifying challenges and questions relating to the following topic areas:
- Specific country requirements (e.g. import laws, approval processes).
- Local circumstances (e.g. climate, soil conditions, logistics).
- Clarification of requirements with the relevant process partners and resolution of potentially conflicting goals (e.g. inexpensive procurement vs OPEX costs, plant flexibility vs. level of automation).
While the knowledge on the necessary core issues for projects of this complexity did exist in parts of the company, it was spread among numerous project managers and not documented in a standard manner. In addition, some gaps needed to be filled with external expertise.
- Planning, agreement and piloting of a systematic approach to clarifying requirements before the commissioning of major projects up to the start of production with the goal of ensuring adherence to schedule, budget compliance and fulfilment of requirements.
- Strengthening the model of cooperation between In-house Engineering, suppliers and customers, in this case the national subsidiaries with responsibility for production close to the markets.
- Expansion of the scope of project to include a preliminary phase providing early support in defining requirements.
- Ensuring the defined approaches are sustainably anchored and continuously optimised.
To develop a systematic preparation for this major project and to later embed it, the close involvement of the customer from the beginning was essential.
Using interviews with selected individuals in the company who had know-how, initially the status quo, best practices and current process model were assessed. On the basis of this initial analysis phase we developed the first draft of a new Gate Review concept for major projects. This contains all relevant questions on the individual phases of the project and expands the process model to include the preliminary phase of clarifying requirements. By means of close collaboration with the process stakeholders, we guaranteed the usability and acceptance of our approach.
Following this, the management board formally agreed on the results and approved them for piloting. During the pilot phase TOP improvement ideas were incorporated and both processes and questions were adapted as needed for the situation. The pilot phase was able to be successfully completed and the approach was established as standard after all goals had been achieved. Notes from all those involved were gathered and taken into consideration in the final version.
The method for the preparation and support of major projects created in doing so contributed substantially to the structured approach. In addition, the methods and underlying processes demonstrably intensified cooperation between In-house Engineering, suppliers and customers, and significantly improved the project results in the view of the national subsidiaries and top management. Furthermore, the implementation of a tool for processing core issues and determining responsibilities and tasks was successfully piloted. In this way, usability for future projects is assured.
Realisation of potential
We were able to develop a systematic and recurrently applicable method for the preparation and support of major projects. We were able to improve cooperation and increase customer satisfaction. This ability will allow the customer to use project experiences as a basis to continuously expand and improve the method.