Transition Management between Construction Completion, Pre-commissioning, Commissioning, and Operations

RT-333 Topic Summary
RT 333


The transfer of new assets from construction to commissioning, and then on to the owner/operator, can cause confusion and create significant controversy. Today, transfer practices vary considerably across the industry. The practices and methods for defining mechanical completion and identifying responsibilities and accountabilities are typically not well defined, and disputes arise over the readiness of assets for transfer to commissioning and owner groups. Confusion is particularly common with respect to the roles and responsibilities for testing and verification of installation and functional performance. This confusion often generates disputes and ultimately delays turnover to the owner.

Traditional approaches to construction do not always align with the commissioning teams' need for the prescribed sequences of systems-based turnover. Construction often offers incomplete or out-of-sequence systems at commissioning, which can cause delay and detrimentally affect on production and/or return on investment. Several prior studies also indicated that commissioning failures are too common in frequency and extremely costly in impact. The business case for action is clear, yet the transitions between construction/pre-commissioning/commissioning/startup/closeout (abbreviated as CCSU to emphasize the construction component) remain challenging for many reasons, but especially due to contractual separations and the multitude of organizational interfaces and hand-offs.

Achieving project and commissioning success requires a solid understanding of the CCSU activities to be undertaken and the associated responsibility assignments. The RT-333 research answers the essential question originally provided to it by CII: “How can the industry establish or clarify the accountabilities and responsibilities among construction completion, pre-commissioning, commissioning, and operations functions?”

Collectively, the findings from this study provide focused and substantive guidance on how project teams can enhance the effectiveness of CCSU transitions.

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : CCSU System Phases and Milestones

The graphic below depicts the CCSU project phases, milestones, and handover/transition events.

Reference: (SP333-1)

2 : CCSU Implementation Process

In response to the challenges of CCSU, RT-333 developed a 17-step implementation process that integrates the key findings from three CII research teams that addressed commissioning: RT-121, Planning for Startup; RT-312, Best Practices for Commissioning; and RT-333 itself.

Reference: (SP333-1)

3 : CCSU Activities Flowchart

RT-333 developed a flowchart of 124 CCSU activities, organized by project phase and four thematic categories. Twenty CCSU “hot spots” (highlighted in yellow) surfaced from research-based screening efforts. The team documented the Heidelberg Spar case study to demonstrate the substantial value that can result from timely and effective mitigation efforts for targeted CCSU hot spots.

The hot spots provide further insight into the challenges associated with CCSU transitions. The hot spots identify activities that generally have unclear responsibility assignments, recurring problems or deficiencies, or that often fail to deliver on expectations. Surprisingly, three-quarters of the selected hot spots occur in the Construction phase, emphasizing transition challenges and indicating a need for greater involvement by the project management team at that time.

Each of the 20 hot spots is characterized with 10 fields of information, including common impacts, causal factors, and prevention/mitigation strategies, for which trend analysis has been conducted. RT-333 cross-linked the hot spots with the 16 CSU Critical Success Factors identified previously by RT-312 (IR312-2, Vol. I, Table 2, pp. 14-16). This analysis underscores the particular importance of alignment, execution planning, and check-sheets, among others.

Reference: (SP333-1)

4 : CSU RACI Matrix

RT-333 developed a matrix to show Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed assignments for all 124 CCSU activities, mapped across 60 common project organizational functions. While the CSU manager is generally responsible for 49 of the activities, 39 other activities are generally the responsibility of three other key managers: project manager, construction manager, and operations manager.

RT-333 developed the RACI matrix only to serve as a point of departure for in-depth project-specific management-team discussions. The ultimate objective is for the project team to achieve full alignment of understanding of who is responsible for what.

Reference: (SP333-1)

5 : Four Key Roles

RT-333 tabulated the activities for the four major management functions that are responsible and/or accountable for a large share of CCSU activities.

Operations Management Function: Responsible Activities
Phase Activity # Activity Name
10   Coordinate CSU plans with Operations on brownfield projects
16   Identify Operations Responsible Contact for Each System
42   For Brownfield Projects, Execute the Plan for Physical tie-ins to the Existing Plant Systems
47   HS #5 Identify and communicate Construction Punch List items critical for pre-commissioning, commissioning, and startup
  Pre-Commissioning   N/A  
80   Develop Maintenance Information/Plan
84   Mobilize Start-up Resources
91   Perform pre-startup safety review
97   Move team to work shift management role
99   Purging of non-process fluids
100   Place non-process utilities into operation
103   Conduct Internal Pre-startup audit
106   Issue statement of fitness for service, with all assurance sign-offs; Hand over to operations
113   Conduct Operational Readiness Review
116   Verify achievement of performance guarantees and regulatory requirements
117   Conduct Close-out Alignment meeting
Reference: (SP333-1)

6 : Hot Spot Characterizations

RT-333 identified 20 Hot Spots, then characterized them with information collected from industry experts, including causal factors and prevention/mitigation strategies.

  Hot Spot #1: Resources and Facilities for Pre-Commissioning
  Mobilize resources and facilities for Pre-Commissioning, including necessary SMEs and third-party participants
  Flowchart Activity # 14, 53
  Construction: Early (Act. #14)
  Pre-Commissioning: Early (Act. #53)
  Project Context/Example Scenarios:
  • Most projects today don’t conduct on-site instrumentation/control valve bench tests, set-ups, and functional checks with wrenches and screwdrivers. The same work is now done with software (AMS) diagnostics in Pre-Commissioning or Commissioning by an SME. This important work cannot be skipped over. Failure to mobilize these resources in a timely fashion due to cost-cutting, schedule-cutting, or for any other reason, will cost far more in schedule and budget during Start-Up.
  • Technology today for new plants includes smart equipment with self-diagnostic tests and checks available to SMEs for quick verification during Pre-Commissioning or Commissioning. 98% or more of projects now buy and install this new capability, however few take full advantage of it.
Reference: (SP333-1)

Key Performance Indicators

CSU Critical Success Factors; Associated Indicators of CSF Achievement

Supporting Resources

Presentations (CII Annual Conference & Workshops)

Session - Managing Construction/Commissioning/Startup Transitions

Publication Date: 08/2017 Presenter: Number of Slides: 70 Event Code: AC2017