Assembling a start-up team for success

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

By Ryan Harris December 16, 2014

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

For contracted projects, every team needs a plant contact; I am talking about plant personnel directly involved in start-up activities. With contracted projects, the execution team often works remotely, which means they 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 start-up team to the plant staff earlier. 

Forming your start-up team

Every start-up team needs a nucleus, and this includes the members who have been working for months to prepare the project for start-up: process engineers who have worked closely with the mechanical contractor, control engineers who have executed the control scope of work, and operators and plant electricians for the daily support. The nucleus of your start-up team should complement across all shifts. Traditionally, the contracted work is completed and the start-up is handled by the external workforce 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 who have participated in project simulation to assist in project start-ups. Using plant electricians and operators helps expose plant personnel 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 personnel get involved with the development, they can be used as a resource to communicate the changes coming for others while the start-up team is offsite. Operators also provide a great resource by communicating to other areas of the facility affected by the start-up. 

Follow-up support

As start-up coverage comes to an end, many times action items or enhancements are tasked to the start-up 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.

Most importantly, by involving plant personnel in start-up roles—whether as 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.

MAVERICK Technologies is a CSIA member as of 3/5/2015