Assembling a startup team for success

Dec 16, 2014 5:38:00 AM | Posted by Ryan Harris

Most traditional startup teams are comprised of process engineers, controls engineers, electricians, and mechanists—but don't forget to consider plant personnel, too.

What makes up a great startup team? Many traditional teams are comprised of process engineers, controls engineers, electricians, and mechanists. However, there are additions to the team that should be considered, like plant personal operators, and even shift managers.

For contracted projects, every team needs a plant contact; I am talking about plant personnel directly involved in startup activities. With contracted projects, the execution team is often working remotely, which can be hours or even days away from the plant facility. How do you bridge the gap between execution and implementation? Who is left to support the new systems in the plant? Are they properly trained to maintain the new system? Will the plant have the proper set of skills to troubleshoot and maintain the newly installed system? Involving plant personnel in project ownership will generally bridge the gap from the startup team to the plant staff earlier.

Forming your startup team

Every startup team needs a nucleus, and this are the members that have been working for months to prepare the project for startup; process engineers who have worked closely with the mechanical contractor, control Engineers who have executed the control scope of work, operators and plant electricians for the daily support. The nucleus of your startup team should complement across all shifts. Traditionally the contracted work is completed and the startup is handled by the external work force and turned over to operations after a short period of time.

Identifying and adding plant staff to gain experience

Many times we use plant electricians and operators that have participated in project simulation to assist in project startups. Using plant electricians and operators helps expose plant personal to new technology installed and the location of new equipment. Most importantly, operators and electricians are continuously gaining ownership of the new systems installed. As operators and plant personal get involved with the development they can be used as a resource to communicate the changes coming for others while the startup team is offsite. Operators also provide a great resource by communicating to other areas of the facility affected by the startup.

Follow up support

As startup coverage comes to an end, many times there are action items or enhancements tasked to the startup team. This is a great opportunity to expand the knowledge of the plant operators and electricians by assigning them action log items to complete along with the project team. The project team can be used as a great resource for plant operators and electricians to continue to grow their technical skills.

Mostly importantly, by involving plant personal in startup roles—whether it is an operator, electrician, or shift manager—these members can help bridge gaps in knowledge base and experience to ensure project success.

This post was written by Ryan Harris. Ryan is an engineer II at MAVERICK Technologies, a leading automation solutions provider offering industrial automation, strategic manufacturing, and enterprise integration services for the process industries. MAVERICK delivers expertise and consulting in a wide variety of areas including industrial automation controls, distributed control systems, manufacturing execution systems, operational strategy, business process optimization and more.