Introduction to Constructability and Constuctability Programmes

Introduction to Constructability and Constuctability Programmes

By Corne Thirion


Constructability is a project management technique for reviewing the whole construction process before commencing with project implementation. Constructability reviews will reduce or prevent design errors, delays, and over expenditure by identifying potential obstacles to construction.

A constructability programme refers to integrating engineering design, and executive knowledge and experience to better achieve project objectives. The main obstacles to its implementation include partial comprehension of construction requirements by designers, and resistance of owners to constructability due to extra cost. An effective constructability programme will begin during the planning phase and will continue to the end of construction.

Many of the problems related to constructability are due to a lack of communication among the owner’s engineers or designers and the construction companies before starting the project. Architects, engineers and designers are not normally experts in construction methods.  By integrating constructability in the design process in the early stages of the project, construction disputes will be reduced, and as a result, project delivery will be more secure.

This article focuses on the benefits of constructability, and implementation of a constructability programme in companies, at both corporate and project level.

Constructability in perspective

The Construction Industry Institute (CII) released guidelines for constructability in 1986, in which constructability is defined as optimum use of construction knowledge and experience in planning, design, provisions and implementation to achieve project overall objectives (O’Connor, 2006). Various studies have been done to explain constructability and to resolve the obstacles to its implementation in the interim years.

Improving constructability during project execution will thus improve the achievement of project objectives in the areas of cost, schedule, quality, safety, risk management, and the impact on the environment.  After completion of the project, the facility should also meet requirements in areas of reliability, maintainability and operability.

The definition of constructability implies that constructability should be considered from the planning (feasibility) phase of a project.  Considering constructability during project development is only possible if it is owner driven, because the construction company is normally not yet on board.

Constructability during project development and implementation improves cost performance by 6,1% and schedule performance by 7,1%, according to the latest benchmarking done by CII (CII, 2019). In terms of value addition from constructability reviews, the cost benefit ratio is in the range of 1:10, additional cost of constructability: project benefit.

Figures 1 illustrates the benefit on project schedule and cost to the owner of applying constructability practices, in comparison to other practices.


Figure 1:  Owner benefit of practice use(Garcia, 2009)

Figures 2 illustrates the benefit on project schedule and cost to the contractor of applying constructability practice.  The perceived impact and benefits for contractors are much more significant than for owners.


Figure 2: Contractor benefit of practice use  (Garcia, 2009)   

Implementation of a constructability programme in an organisation

Implementation roadmap

A company should ideally implement both corporate- and project constructability programmes. The CII developed an implementation roadmap, consisting of six stages as shown in Figure 3, which can be used by owners, designers and construction contractors.

The implementation covers constructability at a corporate level (the first two stages, with some overlap into the third stage), as well as at a project level (stages three to six).  Stage six deals with the evaluation of the performance of the constructability programme which may result in changes being required at the corporate or the project level.

Each of these six stages of the implementation of a constructability programme is described in detail in the following sections.  The bulleted lists above each of the stages in Figure 3 summarise the main elements of that stage.


Figure 3:  Constructability Implementation roadmap (Adapted from O’Connor, 2006)

Commit to implementing constructability

The existence of a formal constructability programme at corporate level, supported by a strategy and managed by an empowered sponsor, ensures that the infrastructure exists to support constructability programmes at project level.

All levels in the organisation should be aligned and have a good understanding of the model, objectives, methods and concepts of constructability. The alignment will be a top down approach and senior leaders should set the pace.

A self-assessment to determine the current in-house construction abilities and practices will be done and the outcome will be used to benchmark the current status (maturity) of constructability in the company. It will also help to define the programme objectives and improvement areas. The elimination of barriers that inhibit the implementation programme is of utmost importance. Barriers must be identified and eliminated by appropriate initiatives and programmes.

The benefits of a constructability programme should be assessed and goals (based on benefits of the programme) defined which focus the programme’s implementation effort. Company targets, to be achieved at project level, can be summarised at corporate level to track progress and performance. Qualitative targets include improvements in team relationships, site layouts, budget- and schedule accuracy, as well as safety. Quantitative targets are reduction of overall project cost (say 7%), schedule improvement (say 8%) and a constructability cost benefit ratio of 1:10.

The last element is about the corporate profile of constructability, and involves the development of a Constructability Policy. The policy is signed by the president/CEO of the organisation and includes elements such as level of commitment by management, name of corporate executive sponsor, programme goals for the organisation and a link to the implementation of constructability on project level. During the first year of implementation, reference should be made to the implementation programme, but constructability should be integrated with other programmes, and become part of “the way we do things” in the organisation.

Establish a corporate constructability programme

The first element of this stage is to identify, appoint and empower a constructability sponsor that has the full support of the executive team. The sponsor is directly accountable for the success of the constructability programme.

The constructability programme on project level needs functional support and procedures. A programme manager role, that functions as a centre of excellence, is created to facilitate implementation of constructability at project level. The programme manager is responsible for day-to-day company-wide constructability coordination, selection and functioning of project constructability coordinators, functioning of a lessons-learned database and tracking of company programme goals.

The last element of this stage is the creation and maintenance of a constructability lessons-learned database.  This database is of the utmost importance as it is used as an input during the “plan constructability implementation” phase in the project programme.   The format of the database should facilitate retrieval for application to new projects, selecting areas such as discipline, functionality and project phase.

The implementation of constructability on a project has three logical steps, obtain constructability capabilities (supported and enabled by the corporate level programme), followed by planning for implementation, and implementation of the constructability programme.

Obtain constructability capabilities

The owner project team members are pivotal to the success of constructability in the project, as they set the pace and drive successful completion. The (owner) project manager must be committed to constructability and be able to lead the team in 1) creation of a supportive project environment, 2) drive cost effectiveness 3) improve other project objectives by constructability and 4) ensure team involvement in construction. The rest of the owner team members will be selected on their work and construction experience, communication and teamwork skills, open mindedness and good evaluation skills.

The project team will define the project objectives in terms of cost, schedule and quality, as well as safety. It is also important to prioritise objectives, as it will improve decision making and potential trade-off studies. The project constructability objectives will be derived from the project objectives, with participation by design- and construction members.

The selection of the project contracting strategy impacts on the timing and application of constructability and affects the level of the formality of the constructability process.

It is important that the owner, in selecting a contracting strategy:

  • Assesses in-house constructability competence to lead or enhance the constructability process;
  • Understands the impact of different contracting strategies on constructability; and
  • Selects a construction contractor during the early stages of the project.

Owners can consider incentives which are related to constructability performance. It is important to incentivise designers and constructors for common deliverables such as quality and final completion. The incentives must be aligned to ensure that the two companies are dependent upon each another to be rewarded.

Plan constructability Implementation

Timeous and thoughtful planning is very important to ensure effective constructability implementation. Constructability must start during the feasibility stage of a project lifecycle and continue through to the planning- and delivery stages. Three constructability reviews sessions are recommended, as illustrated in Figure 4.


Figure 4: Duration of constructability and timing of constructability reviews

The team members that will lead the constructability effort should have construction experience, be co-operative team players and be committed to the project schedule duration to minimise turnover.

The organisation structure of the constructability team will vary from project to project. All project team members participate on a part-time basis in the constructability team. The Constructability Coordinator may be a full-time position on big projects, but on smaller projects this role could be part-time and filled by the construction manager or other team members. The Constructability Coordinator reports to the owner Project Manager.

The Constructability Coordinator is responsible for:

  • Orientation and team building of the entire project team;
  • Integration of constructability into the project execution plan;
  • Review of the constructability lessons-learned database;
  • Assurance of adequate consideration of constructability concepts;
  • Planning and scheduling of constructability studies;
  • Gathering of constructability input from various ad hoc specialists;
  • Maintenance of a constructability suggestion logbook;
  • Evaluation and reporting on constructability progress;
  • Solicitation of appropriate feedback; and
  • Forwarding of new lessons learned to the corporate database.

Any constructability programme is more successful when the team is aligned and communicates openly. This need is addressed by a facilitated team building exercise where barriers are identified, and strategies implemented to break barriers.

Constructability teams can improve their effectiveness by reviewing lessons learnt from previous projects.  The creation- and maintenance of such a database is discussed earlier in the article under Establish a corporate constructability programme.

The next step is to conduct the constructability planning workshop.The planning workshop will be scheduled after feasibility analysis. The focus of the workshop is to develop a plan for constructability implementation during project execution, list deliverables and compile a schedule for completion (aligned with project schedule) to support decision making (regarding constructability goals) during planning and delivery stages (refer to Figure 4).

CII identify 11 activities (O’Connor, 2006) that should be included in the agenda of a planning workshop.  The purpose of the workshop is to identify constructability opportunities and concerns, prioritise constructability concepts to be implemented and the drafting of concept application plans for deliverables, required during the decision-making process to promote constructability.

Constructability activities (input) need to be planned for application during the different stages of the project. The Constructability Coordinator needs to integrate constructability activities and deliverables into the project schedule. It is important that constructability input is given during development of project deliverables and not at the review stage, as it will impose rework.

Implement constructability

The constructability plan and initiatives will be integrated with the project work process as the project proceeds through the planning and delivery stages. Implementation will be executed in three steps: put concept application plans into action, monitor and evaluate implementation effectiveness and document lessons learned.

Concept application plans are key in implementation of concepts, but it is important to remember that the implementation is an iterative process during planning and detail design. (less so during construction).

Constructability concepts are high-level lessons learned. Inclusion in the project constructability manual stimulates the application thereof. If these concepts are compiled as check lists and arranged by planning activities or design disciplines, it can be put to good use during planning and review sessions.

Constructability team members provide constructability input and follow constructability procedures, detailed in the concept application plans, when required.  The constructability effort is initiated during the feasibility stage and continued till the end of the delivery stage (refer Figure 4).  The Constructability Coordinator is the main interface with the project team and is the focal point for overseeing and coordinating the constructability effort.  The constructability team will meet on a regular basis to discuss concepts, share lessons learned and provide input to designs.  Constructability reviews will be done by the constructability team on design packages before release, with the focus on confirming that approved concepts have been incorporated.

The Constructability Coordinator keeps a log of constructability suggestions and studies, and coordinates cost and schedule estimates for these suggestions. Feedback on constructability objectives may be made available at an agreed frequency to report on performance at project level.  The performance of the constructability team is also monitored, and corrective actions implemented.

The final element under the implementation of constructability is the documentation of lessons learned. Feedback on the constructability programme performance needs to be documented as the project develops. Quality of design documents from contractors should be assessed. Lessons learned sessions should be conducted during all stages of the project, and summarised at the end of the project. It is also important to evaluate design aspects for inclusion in future projects.  

Update corporate/project programme

The effectiveness of the constructability programme at corporate level, as well as at project level should be evaluated to identify areas for improvement. The three focus areas are: evaluate programme effectiveness, modify organisation and procedures and update the lessons-learned database.

The review of constructability programme effectiveness should evaluate if the programme objectives and goals are met and if it should be revised or changed. A very important aspect is to review the level of support to the project level constructability programme, as the performance at project level is dependent on support from corporate level. The constructability barriers should be re-assed, as well as the effectiveness of the barrier-breaker initiative.  Successes at both the corporate and project level should be recognised, rewarded and announced at relevant levels. Recognition should also be given at the annual company reward ceremony (when due).

The company and programme organisation structure should be evaluated for effectiveness and adjusted/modified, if needed, via update loops (refer Figure 3).  Rotation of incumbents should also be considered and updating of the succession plan for these positions. The effectiveness of procedures and tools used for training, communication, reviews and evaluation should be reviewed and adjusted as required, with focus on communication of lessons learned at project and inter project level.

Updating the lessons-learned database may be the last step in the constructability programme, but is one of the most important activities. The database should be updated with lessons learned from every project. New contributors should be identified and added to the system. The environment should be scanned for new or emerging constructability concepts on a continuous basis. Ensure that contributors always get constructive feedback and recognition for their contributions.

Closing remarks

Constructability is not about adding more activities to an already overloaded project team, but a formalised process that sensitises and enables the team to start thinking about construction of the project as early as during the feasibility stage.

The project team is rewarded for utilising the constructability programme with a reduction in construction cost, direct field labour hours, construction schedule and design rework hours. The project team further benefits from improvements in lost time incident rate, ease of personnel and material accessibility during construction and maintenance, labour productivity, improved security and, improved teamwork.

Owner benefits will include reliability, maintainability and operability.


O’Connor, J.T.,2006, CII Constructability Implementation Guide (SD34-1), revision 2, Construction Industry Institute, University of Texas at Austin.

CII (Construction Industry Institute), 2019, CII’s Impact, on 19 July 2019.

Garcia, M.A.,2009, Introduction to CII practices, Special presentation to American Council for Construction Education, Jacksonville, Florida on 20 Feb. 2009. Pdf file available at on 22 July 2019.

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Effective Handover of Projects to Operations Teams

Effective Handover of Projects to Operations Teams

By Corne Thirion


Project handover is a process of transition, not a date, and should not only be initiated once a project is completed or approaching completion.

This article focuses on project handover of large scale, complex industrial projects to operations teams. However, the complexity and number of activities and deliverables are huge and cannot be covered in detail in an article of this nature.

The different role players are described, as well as their focus during project execution and implementation, related to effective project handover to operations teams. A summary of potential deliverables is presented at the end of the article.

Project handover

The APM Body of Knowledge (APM, 2012) defines handover as “the point in the life-cycle where deliverables are handed over to the sponsor and users”.  Anthony (2017) suggests that there are many scheduled ‘mini handovers’ as the project progresses such that at the end of handover, all project assets, -information and -data have been transferred to the owner. An effective handover will enable the owner to operate, maintain and support the plant through its lifetime in a safe and responsible manner. Here ‘effective’ means successful in producing a desired or intended result.

Owner representatives should get involved on the project team timeously. The different role players of the project should all understand their responsibilities to achieve handover and be aligned on what deliverables will be transferred.

There are many models illustrating the different phases of project execution. The OTC Stage-Gate Model which covers the life-cycle of a project, describes the outputs to be delivered at the end of each stage of a project.  Handover is a specific deliverable of the Delivery Stage, prior to plant commissioning, as highlighted in Figure 1.

Figure 1:  OTC Stage-Gate Model, highlighting ‘handover’

Roles and responsibilities of the different teams

Owner project team

The owner develops the business objectives and specifications of a new product and facility to satisfy business needs. During project execution, the owner must ensure that quality of engineering work, procurement, manufacturing and construction meet the required specification. We recommend that the owner appoints an Owner Project Management Team (Owner PMT) to manage this process and to represent the owner, as shown in Figure 2.

The Owner PMT is represented by the triangle, the  project manager as the leader and accountable person, supported by a business-, operations- and engineering manager and their respective teams. The suppliers, contractors and other service providers (executing the project) are managed by the Owner PMT.

It is the responsibility of the Owner PMT to obtain owner acceptance of the project at handover and should work towards achieving it, as the project proceeds through the different stages. Project deliverables, required at handover to enable operations teams to take custody of assets and to operate and maintain it in a sustainable way, are covered later in the article.

Figure 2: Owner PMT(van Heerden, Steyn & van der Walt, 2015)

The project team must ensure completeness of deliverables at handover and should focus on the following aspects:

  • Review, before the commencement of a new project, the knowledge, experience and lessons, learned from previous projects;
  • Agree upfront upon deliverables, required at handover, i.e., what, when, format and method of transfer. End-of-job documentation needs to be meaningful and coherent to the owner;
  • Review documentation continuously (according to schedule, including sample checking and feedback on issues) and obtain owner’s acceptance;
  • Ensure the on-boarding of sufficient owner representatives who are both empowered and competent;
  • Ensure competent role players are engaged at the right time and retained for the project duration;
  • Ensure the owner understands and is prepared organisationally and operationally to support handover and to execute commissioning and operation of facilities;
  • Arrange post-handover, on-site support from the project team, to implement start-up modifications, if required; and
  • Ensure compliance of deliverables to agreed requirements.

Business and operations teams

The organisation structure of a typical operational business is depicted in Figure 3. The figure shows several executive managers, including the chief operating officer (COO), reporting to the managing director or CEO.  Most of the personnel in the organisation will report indirectly to the COO position and are referred to as operations teams in this article.  Direct reports to the COO position include:

  • Operations support manager:Responsibilities includesafety, health, environmental, risk and quality management, laboratory and technical (all engineering disciplines);
  • Plant manager(s):Responsible for production divisions (four are shown in Figure 3), each comprising production and maintenance teams. Large organisations may have several operating facilities and consequently several plant managers; and
  • Maintenance reliability manager:Responsibilities include inspection, maintenance planning, rigging and crane services, maintenance services, refurbishment, and specialised maintenance.

Business Structure

Figure 3. Typical business organisational structure, highlighting operations

Manufacturing businesses often describe their value chain as buy, make and sell. The make, or running part of the value chain, is about the management of sustainable operations. The COO is accountable for managing operations, supported by teams, referred to as operations teams, residing in operations support, maintenance reliability, production and maintenance (see Figure 3).

According to Govindsamy (2014), these operations teams are accountable to manage operations by focusing on the following core processes:

  • Lead operations performance;
  • Plan operations;
  • Run operation and facilities;
  • Protect and sustain the agreed baselines;
  • Analyse and review operations;
  • Evaluate technical capabilities of operations;
  • Optimise the operations;
  • Mobilise operations knowledge; and
  • Mobilise people capacity.

When new projects impact an operations area, production, maintenance and engineering representatives must be seconded from there to the Owner PMT.  Operations team members in the Owner PMT must ensure that project deliverables, required at handover to establish and execute above-mentioned processes, are defined during the front-end loading phase of the project and assure compliance thereof up to and at project handover.

Project deliverables at handover

The cutting of a ribbon at a glamorous ceremony often symbolises the completion and handover of a project. Before the owner cuts the ribbon, end-of-job documentation is one of the most important deliverables, required by the owner at handover. End-of-job documentation provides insight in: the specifications of the facility, design, procurement and manufacturing of equipment, construction, hook up of different systems, training records of production and maintenance staff, and the certificate of completion of the facility, issued by the project manager.

As mentioned earlier, the owner needs to specify, and the project team provides deliverables (end-of-job documentation) according to an agreed schedule, enabling the owner to prepare for ownership (commissioning, production, maintenance, optimisation, eventual shutdown and site remediation) of the facilities after handover.

The magnitude and complexity of end-of-job documentation makes it impossible to compile a complete list in an article like this.  However, a few of the essential documents are listed below (adapted from McIntosh, 2017):

Process engineering documentation & drawings:

  • Design basis, including process descriptions, feed consumption and yield, control philosophy, plant availability, material and energy balances and simulation models;
  • Operating manuals, covering safe-making procedures and various types of start-up, run and shutdown scenarios;
  • Trouble-shooting manual;
  • Training manuals;
  • Training records;
  • Drawing index;
  • List of cancelled drawings;
  • Block flow diagrams;
  • Process flow diagrams; and
  • Process & instrumentation diagrams.

Other engineering disciplines’ documentation & drawings:

  • Design philosophy, basis, standards and specifications;
  • Design calculations;
  • Equipment data sheets;
  • Test reports;
  • Certificates of compliance;
  • Code data books of vessels (mechanical);
  • Signed-off punch lists;
  • Register of approved specification concessions;
  • Certificate of completion of subsystems;
  • Transfer of care, custody, and control documents of sub-units;
  • Maintenance manuals, procedures and schedules;
  • Training manuals and training records; and
  • Discipline related engineering drawings.

Safety file:

  • Health impact assessment;
  • Safe work instructions;
  • Hazardous Substance Risk Assessment;
  • Material Safety Data Sheets;
  • Flare systems;
  • HAZOP study minutes and reports;
  • Firefighting equipment; and
  • Gas detection systems.

Environmental file:

  • Strategic environmental assessment (if done);
  • Environmental impact assessment;
  • Environmental management plan;
  • Environmental permits; and
  • Reporting requirements.

Closing remarks

Effective project handover is a win-win outcome. The project team is recognised by the owner for creating a facility that meets owner requirements by accepting handover, while the owner is assured that the facility can be operated, maintained and improved in a sustainable way.


APM (Association for Project Management),2012, APM Body of knowledge, 6thedition, Association for Project Management, Princes Risborough, UK.

Anthony, O.,2017, APM Research Fund Series: How can we hand over projects better.  Available from,Accessed on 21 April 2018.

Govindsamy, N., 2014, A critical review of Operations Excellence programs: A petrochemical company as case study.  Available from;jsessionid=016661DAE956D25B37F0B11A5FCCB061?sequence=1, Accessed on 21 April 2018.

McIntosh, S.A., 2017, The importance of project handover documentation.  Available from, Accessed on 23 April 2018.

van Heerden, F.J., Steyn, J.W. & van der Walt, D., 2015, Programme management for owner teams- a practical guide to what you need to know, OTC Publications, Vaalpark, RSA.

Fit-for-Purpose Specifications for Project Development and Implementation

Fit-for-Purpose Specifications for Project Development and Implementation

By Cornè Thirion


Stephen Covey states that “beginning with the end in mind” is based on the principle that things are created twice (Covey, 1990).  This is also true for the process of generating or customising specifications.  In Covey’s words: “there’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation to all things.”  Before embarking on writing, or customising, a specification, one must have clarity on what it is one wishes to achieve with it.

This article will focus on industries where owner organisations own, maintain and customise in-house specifications for use in capital projects, procurement and manufacturing.  Another approach would be to subscribe to specifications of, for example, the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) and other similar bodies. This approach is not discussed in this article, but can be very appealing to smaller organisations.

Every project has unique objectives that must be met by the project manager, who achieves this by managing deliverables such as cost, schedule and technical integrity of the project.  After project completion, business operates, maintains, and finally decommissions the plant.  Specifications should contribute during project execution to minimise cost and schedule, and deliver technical integrity, and during plant operations to meet operations requirements such as maintainability, reliability, operability, throughput, product quality and safety.

Unique project requirements require that specifications are adjusted for every project.   This is referred to as customisation of specifications.

Some definitions

I’ve only used the term ‘specifications’ up to now, but some may ask whether this is not the same as a standard or a code.  Before we get started, it is important to understand the meaning of each term.

Standards: According to the definition of the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO, undated), a standard is a document that provides requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose.  Well known examples are:

  • ISO 9001 for Quality management;
  • ISO 14001 for Environmental management; and
  • ASTM International engineering standards.

Codes:  Codes are generally the top-tier documents, providing a set of rules that specify the minimum acceptable level of safety for manufactured, fabricated or constructed objects. These may incorporate regulatory requirements and will often refer out to standards or specifications for specific details on additional requirements not specified in the Code itself.  Examples of some commonly used Codes are the:

  • ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code (B&PVC); and
  • AWS D1.1 Structural Welding Code – Steel.

Specifications:  A specification is a set of conditions and requirements of precise and limited application that provide a detailed description of a procedure, process, material, product, or service for use primarily in procurement and manufacturing. Standards may be referenced or included in specifications.   A specification might include, but is not limited to:

  • Descriptive title, number, etc. of the specification;
  • Date of last effective revision and revision designation;
  • A logo or trademark to indicate the document copyright, ownership and origin;
  • Person, office, or department responsible for questions on the specification, updates, and deviations;
  • The significance, scope or importance of the specification and its intended use;
  • Terminology, definitions and abbreviations to clarify the meanings of the specification;
  • Test methods for measuring all specified characteristics;
  • Material requirements in terms of physical, mechanical, electrical, chemical, etc. properties, with targets and tolerances.
  • Drawings, photographs, or technical illustrations;
  • Safety, health and environmental considerations and requirements;
  • Quality control requirements in terms of acceptance sampling, inspections, and acceptance criteria;
  • Person, office, or department responsible for enforcement of the specification;
  • Provisions for rejection, re-inspection, rehearing, corrective measures;
  • Change record to summarise the chronological development, revision and completion if the document is to be circulated internally; and
  • Annexes and appendices that expand details, add clarification, or offer options.

Do specifications add value?

During any discussion on specifications, the first questions asked always include: why do we need specifications and what value is added?  If an owner organisation wishes to generate an in-house specification for all possible aspects of a project and/or operating plant, the answer may be no, because of the cost and time required.  However, if the intention is only to develop specifications for the essential applications, the answer is yes.

Specifications add value in projects and running plants by:

  • Driving standardisation of designs of units and sub-units and manufacturing thereof;
  • Driving standardisation in the layout of assemblies, e.g. pump/motor/valve station;
  • Optimising of procurement of materials and number and types of spares, as well as the interchangeability of spares;
  • Shortening plant and process design cycles;
  • Improving the maintainability, operability and thereby safety of plants;
  • Facilitating sharing of best engineering practices;
  • Facilitating training and development of engineers and artisans; and
  • Driving consistency of documentation.

The value of specifications should be understood and endorsed by the leadership of a business. One of the members of the executive team should take sponsorship of the whole process, monitor performance and give feedback to the executive team.

Structure for development, revision & withdrawal of specifications

The development, revision and withdrawal (dr&w) of specifications should be centrally co-ordinated and governed with support and participation from across the whole business to ensure buy-in and quality of deliverables. Different representatives are allocated to the specification dr&w group, as illustrated in Figure 1. The corporate sponsor for specifications should identify and appoint members of the Specification Steering Committee.

Specification Fig 1

Figure 1:  Specification Development, Revision and Withdrawal Group

We now look in more detail at each of the committees or groups in Figure 1 in the paragraphs that follow.

Specification Steering Committee (SSC): Different business units nominate members to the SSC. Members should represent production, maintenance, engineering disciplines and technical services departments (welding, manufacturing, and inspection). This committee sets direction, monitors performance and supports different work teams. The chairperson of the Specifications Discipline Committee (SDisC) is also a member of this committee.

Specifications Discipline Committee (SDisC): This committee comprises the chairpersons of the different development committees, as well as representation from production, maintenance, technical services departments (welding, manufacturing, and inspection) and procurement. The SDisC is accountable for:

  • Approval of discipline specification dr&w schedules
  • Approval of composition of specification dr&w teams
  • Monitoring performance of different discipline committees and reporting to SSC

Specification Development Committee (SDevC): The chairperson of each of these different engineering discipline SDevCs, is the person accountable for that specific discipline in the organisation, and is usually from the engineering function in the business.  The SDevC Electrical Engineering (as an example) is responsible for all specifications allocated to the electrical engineering discipline. SDECs scan the environment for emerging trends, changes in codes, standards and specifications of other disciplines (referenced in their specifications), age of specifications, and relevance (performance) of specifications. They compile dr&w schedules and allocate members to different specification development teams. The chairperson also approves dr&w specifications. The work process is described in the following section.

Lastly, there should be a specifications administrative function to ensure that the latest version of a specification is used and that no specifications are older than five years without revision.

Procedure for dr&w of specifications

A specification development sub-committee is formed for every specification that is due for dr&w. The main role-players are the originator, reviewer and business representatives, as were identified during the dr&w planning phase.

The originator gets input from members and compiles the first draft. It is important to incorporate feedback from the lessons-learnt sessions after project closure, and concessions registered against a specification during project execution. The draft will be discussed and updated during (as many as needed) work sessions; until it is finalised. The reviewer reviews and finally signs the specification off, after which it is presented to the chairman of the relevant SDevC for approval and publication by specification administrative services.

For the proposed withdrawal of specifications from service, a brief motivation therefore is required, for sanction at the SDisC.

Customisation of specifications for a project

Value Improvement Practices (VIPs) are used during project planning and execution to improve the probability of project success. VIPs are out of the ordinary practises which can provide measurable and statistically demonstrable effects on cost, schedule and/or reliability of the constructed asset.  Each VIP will follow a distinct and defined work process.

Customising Standards & Specifications is one of the many Value Improvement Practices (VIPs) that can be used.  It is a systematic analysis to ensure that facility costs are not increased, and that product quality, operating cost as well as safety, are not negatively impacted, by adjusting requirements of codes, -standards and -specifications, which exceed the actual needs of the particular case (VM Services, 2012).

Customisation of specifications should be done at the optimal time during project execution to maximise the value creation. The best time is after the beginning of front-end loading 2, and completion early during front-end loading 3. This ideal timing is illustrated on a typical stage-gate model in Figure 2.

Specification Fig 2

Figure 2: Ideal timing for customising standards and specifications


Concluding remarks

In-house specifications should reflect best practices of the business, be aligned with latest codes and standards, and well understood by users.

Customisation of specifications should be done by experienced engineers and other team members during the feasibility and early planning stages of project development and implementation.

Specifications provide excellent research opportunities and training material for the development of technical personnel.


Covey, S.R., 1990, The 7 habits of highly effective people, Simon & Schuster Inc., Rockefeller centre, New York. P99

ISO (International Organisation of Standardisation), Undated, What is a standard?  Available on  Accessed on 28 August 2017.

VM Services Pty Ltd, 2012, Methodology Application VMVE001, Value Improvement Practices (VIPs),  Available on Accessed on 25 August 2017.

Contact OTC for more information, and assistance, to improve the likelihood of project success.

Focus on operability and maintainability for project success

Focus on operability and maintainability for project success

By Corne Thirion


The creation of a new business can be oversimplified by saying that an entrepreneur has a dream: a business objective is then defined, followed by a project that develops the objective into a fully operational business.  Project objectives are agreed between the business and a project team which will design, construct and commission the new facility.  The dream is finally realised when, amongst other things, products are produced and received by delighted customers.

Depending on the size and complexity of a project, the project team will typically complete the project in about five years from initiation.  Operations, however, will operate the plant for the next 30 to 50 years.  The question is now: What must the project team focus on to ensure that the plant they deliver is operable, maintainable and will ensure lifelong customers, and why?

Definitions and Abbreviations

Availability (A) is the ability of a part to be in a state to perform a required function at a given instant of time or at any instant of time within a given time interval.

A = TBF/ (TBF + TTR)


TBF = Time between Failures

TTR = Time to Repair after failure; total outage time of manufacturing plant

Operability is the ability to keep equipment, a system or a whole industrial installation in a safe and reliable functioning condition, according to pre-defined operational requirements.

Operability Failure refers to significant production problems during second year after start-up.

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) is a metric that identifies the percentage of planned production time that is truly productive.  OEE is calculated from three underlying factors: Availability, Performance, and Quality, each representing a different perspective of how close your manufacturing process is to perfect production.

OEE = Availability x Performance x Quality

Quality, in manufacturing, is a state of being free from defects, deficiencies and significant variations. It is brought about by strict and consistent commitment to standards that achieve uniformity of a product in order to satisfy specific customers or users.   According to Juran and Godfrey (1998, p2.1), quality also means those features of products which meet customer needs and thereby provide customer satisfaction.

Maintainability is about the duration of repair outages; it is a measure of the ease and rapidity with which a system or equipment can be restored/repaired to operational status following failure. The higher the time required to repair (TTR), the lower the maintainability of a facility.

Different perspectives as the business is developed and implemented

The development of a business from initial idea to maturity is typically done in stages, with specific decision making points, or gates, in between.  The primary focus of most stage-gate models is on the development of the concept, the engineering thereof, the construction of the production facility and finally startup.  OTC has developed the OTC Stage-Gate Model covering the life-cycle of a project from the initial idea through to eventual closure of the facility (see Figure 1).  This enables a cost-effective approach to project implementation, including project optimisation, and describes the activities to be executed and outputs to be delivered at the end of each stage.

 Stage-Gate Model Simplified

Figure 1:   The OTC Stage-Gate Model

An entrepreneur with a new idea or the existing business needs will kick-start the process.  The initial idea will be further evaluated and tested during the Initiation phase.  This is followed by front-end loading (FEL).  During the FEL phase the project team will develop the business idea further until the final investment decision is made.  With the project capital approved, the Implementation phase, comprising delivery of the facility and commissioning, is completed.  The end of the Implementation phase also marks the end of the involvement of the project team.

After successful commissioning and plant performance test runs, responsibility is now handed over to the operations team.  The business enters the Operations phase and eventually, when the facility is no longer viable, the Closure phase.  The Operations phase is the longest phase and can be anything from 10 to 50 years.  During this time, the operating and maintenance personnel have to live with the decisions made and shortcuts taken during the Implementation phase.  This single factor justifies the involvement of competent operations personnel in the project team.

Measuring the performance of a business from an operations perspective

OEE (Availability x Performance x Quality) is probably one of the best ways to describe the performance of the production facility during the operations phase of a business.  By decreasing the TTR of equipment, maintainability is increased and availability improved.  OEE is dependent upon availability and thus upon maintainability.

Increasing operability (the ability to keep equipment at a specified maximum capacity, of a defined quality) will increase performance (100% means at the theoretical maximum speed; each part at the Ideal Cycle Time) and quality (100% means only parts meeting the quality specification are produced).  OEE is dependent upon performance and quality and thus upon operability.

Project teams should thus focus on maintainability and operability during project development and implementation.

Project focus to improve operability and maintainability

Project focus throughout the project

The purpose of this discussion is to identify which deliverables are important to improve operability and maintainability during project implementation.  This by no means a complete list and how it is done will differ from business to business.  The type of project (greenfield- or brownfield site; big new business, off the shelf, renovation or expansion) will influence the approach of the team.  This article will not differentiate to that detail.

Project failure happens when the threshold value of any of the five dimensions of project effectiveness i.e., cost overrun, cost effectiveness, schedule competitiveness, slip in execution schedules, and production versus plan (operability performance) is exceeded.  Trade-offs are thus made between cost, schedule and quality (also measured as operational performance/operability)(Merrow, 2011 p37, 43).  It is therefore important that the project team does not deviate from the cost/schedule/quality mandate that was given by business.

Business must ensure that project team members from business (production and maintenance) are competent (in the part of the business they represent, as well as in the role that they fulfil during the project), empowered to take decisions, and dedicated (always available if not full time assigned) and that all positions are filled when required. Continuity of allocated people should be ensured.

Members should only take decisions on issues that they are accountable for.  If this is not done, it does not only impact negatively on the team effectiveness and coherence, but often leads to non-optimal decisions.  This negative impact of ‘overriding’ a functionality on maintainability and operability matters during the FEL- and Implementation phases, may only be visible during Operations, and even Closure, phases.

Project focus during Front-end Loading phase

The importance of FEL is emphasised by Ed Merrow in saying “Front-end loading is still the world’s best capital investment.” (Merrow, 2011, p338). The impact of FEL quality and completeness on operability is well illustrated in Figure 2.

FEL Reduced Operability Problems

Figure 2:  FEL reduces Operability Problems

If I could have only one request to a project team about what they should do during FEL to ensure the operability and maintainability of the production facility, it would be to develop the project to a FEL index of Best, or at the very least, Good.

Operations personnel will become part of the project team during the feasibility stage of the project. Operations should participate in the development work and sign off on relevant deliverables.  Attention should be given to the following:

  • Process design basis (basic data);
  • Operating and shutdown philosophy;
  • Maintenance and commissioning philosophy;
  • Process reliability modelling;
  • Design specifications and standards;
  • Design for process operability;
  • Design for maintainability;
  • Value improving practice selection and implementation;
  • Hazard and operability studies (HAZOPs);
  • Process flow diagrams (PFDs), and;
  • Piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs).

Project focus during Implementation phase

During the Implementation phase of the project, detail design, procurement, construction and commissioning are done.  It is impossible to review and monitor all activities during each stage; the project team should focus on the critical few.

The following deliverables, completed during this phase, are of importance to operability and maintainability of the final production facility:

  • Design and model reviews;
  • Design for maintainability;
  • Project quality plan;
  • List of approved concessions;
  • Design, procurement and construction in accordance with specifications;
  • Approved operating-, maintenance- and emergency procedures are adequate and implemented;
  • Training of operations personnel completed;
  • Legal and permit requirements are met;
  • Commissioning plan and commissioning of the plant;
  • Production ramp-up plan;
  • End of Job documentation delivered;
  • Information Management system, and;
  • Approved spares strategy.

Closing remarks

The most basic business value chain can be viewed as buy, make, sell.  Operability and maintainability are the main enablers for the make process.

Project officials make trade-offs between cost, schedule and quality.  Sacrificing quality for cost or schedule will impact negatively on operability (quality).  It is important that the project team does not deviate from the cost/schedule/quality mandate that was given by business.

This article listed some deliverables that will, if completed successfully, enable the plant to be operable and maintainable, with due regard to safety.


Vorne Industries, 2008, The Fast Guide to OEE™.  Pdf file downloaded from  on 24 March 2016.

Juran, J.M. & Godfrey, A.B., 1998, Juran’s quality handbook, 5th edition, McGraw-Hill, New York, NY.

Wikipedia, 2015, Operability, Search done on the free encyclopaedia at  Accessed on 24 March 2016.

Merrow, E.W., 2011, Industrial Megaprojects, John Wiley & Sons. Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey.

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