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Is The Juice Worth The Squeeze?

By: Todd Van Gompel, Vice President of Baisch Engineering

The reason you can find and enjoy a fine wine as opposed to a great onion spritzer is that someone determined that the grape was worth the squeeze while the onion…not so much. One of my favorite clients uses the phrase “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” to decide if a potential project is worth moving forward. Capital projects can take millions to hundreds of millions of dollars to execute. To develop the perfect project for your organization, you should have a plan and take some time to figure it out. Follow these steps to help determine if your project is more like a fine wine or an onion spritzer.   onion spritzer2

The first phase is the “Ball Park” phase. This phase answers the question, “Are we in the ball park?” Develop the project at a high level during this phase. Be careful not to over-engineer the project or get too detailed as you are trying to decide if this project will move to the next phase. You should be in the +/- 50% range during this phase. Depending upon the project size and complexity, this phase should take anywhere from 2 – 12 weeks to develop. What is the project? Why is this project important? How much could it cost? What are the potential benefits? What are the potential risks? What does project success look like? If it looks like the juice may be worth the squeeze, move on to the next step.

The next phase is the “Paper Doll” phase. Paper dolls are figures cut out of thin cardstock, with separate clothes, made of paper, that are usually held onto the dolls by folding tabs. As anyone with a daughter knows, this can provide hours of entertainment, as the outfits are often quickly changed.  During this phase, the goal is to evaluate several potential layouts and designs in order to identify the most efficient solution. Depending upon the project size, this step should take between 12 – 36 weeks to develop. The project cost and benefits are developed to the +/- 10% range during this phase. Researching and involving potential vendors and contractors during this phase will help the project move more efficiently during the execution phase. If the project still looks like the juice may be worth the squeeze, move on to the project funding and execution phases.

Spending time and energy upfront to develop the project has several advantages. It helps control the project budget. Engaging the equipment vendors and the contractors early in the project development phase helps identify constructability and timing issues and solutions. It helps to control scope creep. By considering several options during the development phase and settling on the most efficient design, you don’t have to spend precious time and money during the detailed engineering phase on “what-if” or “how-about” scenarios. Finally, it helps to develop the project culture. Working with a well-rounded team consisting of the owner, the engineer, the contractor and the vendors for several months to develop the project helps to create the necessary relationships to execute a successful project.

Does your project look like a fine wine or does it smell more like an onion spritzer?