By: Todd Van Gompel, 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.
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?
By: Todd Van Gompel, President of Baisch Engineering
Baisch Engineering has a long history with Little Rapids Corporation. In the late 70’s / early 80’s, we helped Little Rapids Corporation move an existing tissue machine from New Jersey to Shawano, WI. Almost 40 years later, we were fortunate enough to be asked back to replace this same tissue machine with a new tissue machine. Baisch provided the budgeting phases as well as the complete integration engineering, but this project didn’t come without its challenges.
As the project manager for the detailed engineering portion of this project, it was my responsibility to make sure we were on schedule, staying on budget, and that the overall process was moving along smoothly. In the early part of our planning phase, we were faced with a difficult situation. Machines from 40 years ago are a lot different in both configuration and size compared to modern paper machines. We were challenged to replace a smaller, older machine with a much larger, modern machine within the existing infrastructure of the existing building.
After performing a detailed analysis of the machine’s beams and frames, our team placed new loads on those beams. We had to come up with some creative ways to readjust the machine haul in order to accept the new configuration and weight of the new machine.
During the initial planning phase, the team had planned for a 36 day shutdown. For a small, family owned company like Little Rapids Corporation, shutting down one of their machines for 36 days is a big deal. Throughout the project, our team had a great line of communication and when it came time for the shutdown, we worked hard with our partners to find opportunities to shorten the amount of time the machine would be down for. We utilized our proprietary checkout and startup system to help shorten the overall downtime.
In the end, the team took out the old machine, installed the new equipment and machine, and shortened the length of the shutdown to just 30 days from sheet to sheet! It was a big accomplishment for our team and it really meant a lot to Little Rapids Corporation that we were able to speed up the process by almost a week.
One of the individuals from Little Rapids Corporation actually came up to me and thanked our team for being a part of the project. “You guys have our future in your hands and we trust you,” she said. “Thank you for caring about our future.”
With the new machine, Little Rapids Corporation is able to produce more paper at a faster production rate. It’s more efficient and more cost-friendly. Being involved with this project when it was just an idea in someone’s head, working with Little Rapids Corporation through the budgeting phase, and then having the opportunity to be a part of the detailed engineering and the final machine installation made the whole experience really special for Baisch Engineering. We were involved with everything from beginning to the end, cover to cover and we were able to deliver Little Rapids Corporation with the solution they needed to be a raging success.