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Commissioning: Commissioning and Baseball   

Chalking up a win in either endeavor involves some uniform habits.

In today’s game, whether it is commissioning a new HVAC system or going up against a division-leading baseball team, the team with the best game plan and best execution of that plan usually comes out on top.

Baseball at the major-league level features many extremely talented players. However, having the most talent does not necessarily guarantee the team will be successful. Many other aspects of the game play into how well the team will perform and ultimately how many games will be listed in the win column. The same can be said for the commissioning process. Let’s take a look at the process successful professional teams use to win baseball games and how a similar process can be applied to commissioning.

Plan to be Successful

It all starts with a game plan. The manager, players, and coaches don’t just show up, take their positions, and start playing. Considerable effort occurs, sometimes many days in advance, reviewing scouting reports, analyzing game films, and putting together a customized strategy that will increase the chance for success.

Successful commissioning does the same thing. Bringing the commissioning team together early in the planning stage allows expertise from all fields to be involved in the design process. The resulting design, or game plan if you will, has the best chance for overall success, as the design has been reviewed not only for its suitability and function but also for the operability, ability to be tested, and long-term maintainability as well.

Occasionally some designers seem put-off by the suggestion to involve the commissioning team early in the design process. They don’t see the need for all this additional input. This would never happen on a professional baseball team. Every extra set of qualified eyes and the observations they provide are valued and appreciated as giving the team that extra competitive advantage.

From the baseball player’s perspective, much of this game plan work has gone on without their direct knowledge or involvement. When game time arrives, the player’s involvement, input, and commitment are critical to winning the game. It’s exactly the same when it comes to commissioning. The contractors (players) need to be brought up to speed on the design and encouraged to provide input and suggestions on how best to deliver that design. This pre-game meeting, so to speak, sets the stage for the game of construction to begin.

Execute According to Plan

Once the baseball game starts, the players all assume their positions and carry out their roles according to the mutually agreed-upon game plan. Once construction starts, the commissioning team members all assume their respective roles and perform their designated duties.

As the baseball game progresses, sometimes difficult situations arise. Bases loaded with nobody out is one of those difficult situations. What usually occurs is a team meeting on the pitcher’s mound with the manager, pitcher, pitching coach, and infielders to discuss how to get out of this jam. Having a commissioning team available to consult when difficult situations arise during construction is many times the most productive and effective way to resolve problems and keep the project moving forward.

Another thing that professional baseball teams do well is adjust for conditions that develop during the game. A pinch hitter, new pitcher, or substituting a better position player late in the game to maintain the lead are all examples of changing players to benefit the overall outcome. Commissioning teams need to look at these options as well. Knowing when to substitute key team members to effectively support the current stage of construction, testing, or acceptance provides significant project benefits.

In baseball, the game ends when the last out is made. Hopefully the team has implemented the game plan well and the score reflects another victory. In commissioning, the project doesn’t end until all of the commissioned systems are operating as designed, final documentation is in place, and all operators have received the appropriate training. In commissioning, winning is defined as completing the job on time with all team members sharing in the satisfaction of a job that was well designed, installed correctly, and operates properly. Kind of like baseball!

In summary, remember the following key points. If you don’t agree with them, think about what would happen to your favorite professional baseball team if they decided to skip that step of the process.

  • Select and involve your commissioning team early in the process.

  • Involve your contractors in the commissioning process as soon as they are on board.

  • Involve all commissioning team members in the commissioning plan and follow the plan.

  • Be prepared and have a process in place to address questions, concerns, and problems. You will have them.

  • Discuss and plan for substitutions. You want to get and keep the most qualified and committed team members at key points in the project to promote the best outcomes.

  • Meet at the sports bar after the project and celebrate the victory with your favorite team!

 

Commissioning: Getting It Right

Engineered Systems, April, 2011

by
Paul Schlueter, LEED AP, CPE
Commissioning Specialist
Questions & Solutions Engineering
1079 Falls Curve
Chaska, MN  55318
esmag@QSEng.com