Cost/Schedule Controls - Planning Construction Activity to Support the Startup Process (Archived)

RT-006e Topic Summary
RT 006e


This research topic was concerned with the planning of construction to support startup. While some discussion of startup is included to help the reader understand the constructor’s role in the process, major emphasis is on how the constructor converts from a mode which is most cost-effective from a construction viewpoint to one which is most cost-effective from an overall plant viewpoint.

Publication 6-9 asserts that while facility startup itself must be accomplished in an efficient and orderly sequence, it is equally important that all preceding construction activity be completed in time to support the startup process, and that procurement and engineering be completed to support the construction process. This transitional phase, when construction activity must shift from area orientation to system orientation, is always a hectic time for any project since construction is near the peak of activity. A systematic, logical approach is needed to make this transition smooth.

The first step in planning the conversion from an area to a schedule is defining all of the systems included in the scope. Movement of construction from the production stage to the startup stage requires that planning be focused on startup priorities. Although the logic involved in this conversion is quite simple, the process becomes complicated because of the large number of components that must be accounted for during both the procurement and installation phases.

Publication 6-9 was created as a primer on the subject of conversion from area to system schedule. Any contractor responsible for the management of the construction of a process, power, or manufacturing facility should be familiar with this process since failure to properly manage the changeover can result in costly delays and increased costs.

If startup goes well, the project and the contractor will probably be favorably remembered. If the startup is flawed, the contractor will be flawed in the eyes of the owner.

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Six Stages of Startup

The typical process plant will accomplish startup in stages. Shown below are the typical 6 stages of startup. Manufacturing or power plants will use these stages only to the extent applicable. (RS6-9, p. 4)

Stage 1 – Precommissioning
Stage 2 – Commissioning
Stage 3 – Raw Material Introduction
Stage 4 – Operation Testing
Stage 5 – Performance Verification/Acceptance Tests
Stage 6 – Commercial Operation
Reference: (RS6-9)

2 : Plan Early for Startup

The overall startup planning process must begin early in the life of the project. The exact timing of long-range systems planning and the timing of a conversion from area to system scheduling will vary from one project to the next. The earlier the planning begins, however, the less potential for startup problems that result in increased costs and delays. Some factors that must be considered to make these decisions are discussed in this publication. (RS6-9, p. 3)

By the 30 percent point of construction, system definition must be communicated to the construction force since it is the basis for detailed startup planning. When construction is about 70-85 percent complete, system completion and precommissioning activities begin, and attention becomes focused on the proper sequencing of bringing entire systems on line. 

One point that cannot be emphasized enough is the importance of early planning of the conversion. Planners must be aware that the logic for the entire construction schedule should have its basis in systems startup in spite of the fact that field managers will build by area during most of the project. In their look-ahead planning, the field managers must be continually conscious of the startup logic and the materials managers must continually focus on the need dates of system components by the field.

Reference: (RS6-9)

3 : Define the Organization

The first step in defining this organization is the development of a Division of Responsibility Matrix, which catalogs responsibilities during the startup phase. This matrix will show responsibilities for the engineer, constructor, vendor representatives, project personnel, operations personnel, and maintenance personnel. Note an example division of responsibilities matrix for a typical mechanical industrial project is included in the research. (RS6-9, Appendix B, p. 20)

On a fixed-price project, this matrix should be included in the bidding documents or presented in pre-bid discussions. On a reimbursable project, it is advisable that it be available at about the project's 30 percent construction completion point and no later than the 50 percent point.

Operations personnel frequently have significant input in how a plant is started up or restarted. This input will involve the sequencing of the startup of individual systems, the duration of the startup, and any individual system milestone dates to be met.

The Startup Plan should include a detailed checklist and schedule for all activities that must be performed both prior to and during the startup operation. The plan will also include identification of individuals or groups responsible for each activity.

Reference: (RS6-9)

4 : Schedule Startup Based on the Needed Completion

CII Publication 6-3, Model Planning and Controlling System for EPC of Industrial Projects, recommends a “backward” or right to left scheduling approach for an industrial project. The starting point for that effort is the owner’s need date for commercial operation. Working backwards, the sequence and schedule for construction/installation of individual system components can be determined. Thus, startup effectively drives the entire construction schedule as well as supporting procurement and engineering activity. Establishment of system startup dates is an owner function through its engineer and startup team. Development of the construction schedule to support these dates is a contractor responsibility, although it will be done in full coordination with the startup team.

The process has recognized that the ultimate milestone for the project is the owner’s need date and that planning is “backward” from that date. (RS6-9 Appendix C, p. 23)

Reference: (RS6-9)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved schedule, Improved cost, Improved materials planning, Improved scope definition, Improved startup

Research Publications

Planning Construction Activity to Support the Startup Process - RS6-9

Publication Date: 02/1990 Type: Research Summary Pages: 42 Status: Archived Supporting Product