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Complacency after commissioning shut this production unit down.


I have not been writing for about two weeks. What has been a mission over the last year to create a personal therapeutic habit has stopped. It is not because the holiday season initiated a break. It is not because of a personal tussle at translating my random disconnects into electronic documents for a self-clarified understanding. It is not that I have become timid at pushing out my unearthed reflections into a chaotic world. Instead, this production process has stopped because the WiFi at my coffee shop is out of service. I know… a crappy excuse.


I took on this personal challenge of producing and shipping a weekly blog into the electronic stratosphere a year ago, honing my production process with each posting. The mission of this greenfield project was to improve writing and connect the dots in the manufacturing world.


As if I was part of a production line, I believe my production processes and quality have improved through the initial ramp-up to the intended designed capacity of one blog per week. I have learned habits to earmark unearthed thoughts previously lost forever within seconds. I have improved my ability to research subjects that inspire or befuddle me. Most importantly, I have continued to hone and align the importance of empathy within organizations compared to a year ago. To enable this, my established attentiveness requires me to start each Saturday and Sunday morning in a specific local coffee shop. As I take my first sip of the local house blend, I drift away into the process of producing a product. I had it until the WiFi stopped.


No, I do not have a spare WiFi source, like a hotspot, to get me back up and running. It is obvious now that I did not manage the risk effectively because I had assumed WiFi would always be there. No, an FMEA was not conducted to highlight the potential of the coffee shop’s ability to shut down my production. No, I did not onboard alternative coffee shops to support my production.

The Commissioning Phase of the project is not only the final stage of the project life cycle, but is also in many ways an anti-climactic one. The excitement of the Execution Phase with its hectic activity and critical dependencies give way to a greater focus on efficiency: we enter a more hum-drum routine of checklists, tests, troubleshooting, and meticulous documentation. - Victor Sohmen, Project Management Institute

Instead, I have realized that I became narrowly focused on getting this greenfield project up and running after commissioning. I was solely focused on the progress and had become complacent. I failed to design my personalized production process with reliability at the forefront. As a result of this complacency, my production unit is now down.

This personal scenario has allowed me to evaluate how organizational leaders disrupt complacency within the workplace after commissioning a large project. So much energized attention is given to an effective startup by the buyer and seller’s project managers (PMs) that after commissioning the parties naturally want to drift to the next project or holistically validate the capabilities of the production process.

The situation is compounded by the urgency of the Buyer’s PM to closeout the contract and of the Seller’s PM to collect all retainage due from the already approved payments. - Henry Hattenrath, Project Management Institute

I am not challenging that we should conduct war games or Game Theory on every commissioned project. Nor is it to encourage someone to run a rouge-like Dwight Schrute simulating a fire drill to test the effectiveness of a newly installed system. Instead, what separates good manufacturing organizations from weak ones is their ability to disrupt complacency with a systematic process during this critical transition. We must not take this step gently. Instead, we must demonstrate diligence in a formalized transition from commissioning that completes a project to now executing the value of the project's investment.


Typically two teams manage through this transition. One team conducts the process steps to get to the commissioning phase. At this phase, this team formally hands off the assets to the next team. If you read any of the guides from the Department of Energy or the Project Management Institute’s PMBOK (Project Management Book of Knowledge) this step should not be taken lightly. One group can be in a mindset to quickly close a chapter, whereas the next one is ready to start operating its brand-new assets. This handoff process should be documented and thorough to ensure that nothing is missed that could jeopardize the operating unit’s effectiveness unknowingly when the asset gets up and running.

Next time you commission a project, evaluate your effectiveness in this transition process. Evaluate the material that is being delivered and the risk that has been identified. Is the computerized maintenance management system set up correctly? Are the prints and user manuals properly stored and available? Is there a punch list of outstanding items? Have safety documents been updated to denote functionalities? Was the FMEA conducted to ensure redundancies and escalations are embedded to minimize the impact of disruptions? If any of these items are missed, you may experience results worse than not sending a weekly blog out into the world. Take the time to remain committed to a new asset's capabilities a year from now and not just glorify what was accomplished at the moment. Don’t get complacent.

If you find yourself bored, if you wait five more minutes something will blow up. Don't get bored. - Mentor of mine

So to get back up and running, I forced myself to go to four alternative coffee shops to design inline spares. It allowed me to get my personalized production unit back up and running while remaining flexible in the future if I experience another disruption. I may have experienced a few line stops that have impacted my availability. Things like canvassing the walls for the WiFi password, finding a different parking spot, or finding the right seats. I may have experienced some speed loss as I caught myself drifting out of my zone to foreign smells of morning sweetnesses. I also experienced more quality issues than normal as alerted by Grammarly's steadfast thoroughness. But I am back up and running and have demonstrated I have an alternative option to maintain production with a WiFi disruption.







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