Why operational readiness matters

The formal process of operational readiness assists with the planning and preparedness for day one of operations. This can pay dividends when everything operates to schedule and no problems arise.

Terry Poynton Principal

by Terry Poynton

Principal, Sydney

17 December 2017

After completing a major project, the start of operations involves a wide-range of pre-operational activities that need to be completed in a timely manner, by a number of different parties. These parties include the project delivery team, the operator and other parties interested in ensuring a safe and reliable operation, all working in close consultation with the design and construction activities of the project works. Some of these activities have long lead times, and are critical to the successful start and on-going operation of the asset.

At the operational level (and technically speaking) ‘Operational Readiness’ can be defined as:

Delivery, commissioning and handover of the new infrastructure; appointment, preparation and training of personnel for operating and maintaining the infrastructure; and achieving the required regulatory approvals to operate and maintain the infrastructure to achieve the desired outcome.

Operational Readiness is generally operator led and does not include the final construction and sub-system commissioning of works which is to be undertaken by the contractor. Overall system test and pre-commissioning activities by the contractor are usually wrapped up into an overall suite of final operational readiness activities.

A typical timeline for operational readiness is shown below:

Operational readiness typically begins as a planning function early in the project lifecycle, and continues through to when the project becomes operational. Completion of operational readiness activities will usually be progressive and may also be staged along with project delivery as work packages, or sub-elements of work packages, are completed.

Many operational readiness tasks, specifically those relating to technical commissioning, may be listed on a Contractors Test and Commissioning event program. Test and commissioning activities may typically include the following items:

  • Factory acceptance testing

  • Site acceptance testing

  • System integration testing

  • Network integration testing

  • Construction certifications

  • Final As Built witnessing.

More operational and outcome-focussed activities can be wrapped up in a form of ‘Transition Management Plan’. Issues that will generally need to be addressed in the transition include:

  • Final inspections of completed installations

  • New staffing to support the new operation

  • User testing and commissioning of critical control and operational systems

  • Finalisation of the ongoing Asset Management System, including contracts for supply and maintenance

  • Delivery of training packages for all staff

  • Formal acceptance of all externally managed works from contractors into the operator control

  • Transfer of incomplete outstanding issues into an appropriate Defects Management System for ongoing monitoring and close out by the operator.

Collectively, this suite of documents represents the formal process of operational readiness to assist in the planning and preparedness for day one operations.

Many hands make light work in this space, and the final few days are usually accompanied by seemingly last minute, but usually planned, activity – including planning for the event itself.

When the big day arrives

Day one of operations is usually a mix of emotions ranging from relief to high anxiety. Years of effort are now on full show – for all to enjoy and appreciate. The detailed planning from the formal process of operational readiness pays dividends when everything happens seamlessly, all operates to schedule and no problems arise.

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