Monthly Archives: August 2014


Let us today consider commissioning “norms”.

“Norms” are typical normal durations it takes for the commissioning team to perform certain activities so it enables the scheduling to be more accurate. Please note these durations are based on my experience and not any industry standard, but the times I state will not be far off…

  • Systemizing P&ID’s and other engineering drawings – 1 hour per drawing
  • Check out of systemized drawings to ensure the boundaries are correct and the full check out of P&ID’s for commissionability – 50 P&ID’s per day
  • Drafting of a commissioning procedure – 1 procedure per day (some will take half and hour some will take 3 days!).
  • Punchlisting, per system –  1 day (again this is the average, some systems will take 2 hours some 3 days!)
  • Leak testing – 1, 12 hour day
  • Water commissioning – 1 day per procedure
  • If commissioning is involved with loop testing – 1 loop test per hour
  • Check out of a DCS sequenced control system – 0-5 steps in sequence ½ day, complicated sequences greater than 20 steps 3 days
  • Process commissioning per system – on average 3 weeks

I hope my guidance on normal durations has been of help to your planning.

For those who are US based, enjoy the Labour Day Holiday!

Safe and successful commissioning always…

What makes a commissioning engineer?

Today I would like to share some thoughts on the make-up of commissioning engineers and managers and where we come from.

As far as I am aware one cannot go to college or university and “become” a qualified commissioning engineer. Yes, the building commissioning guys have qualifications and kudos to them, I think that’s great, however it still remains a dream of mine to one day be part of a program to make a commissioning engineers course be available at university. Sure chemical engineering undergraduates touch on the subject, but I find it interesting that we provide such a fundamentally important role in the project cycle, yet we are not a formal and acknowledged engineering discipline, perhaps one day my dream will come into fruition, I hope so.

So where do commissioning guys come from and what are our main and important traits?

For me, my background was in operations, I ran chemical processes before I came into commissioning and unlike many who drift into a commissioning role, complete it and then drift out, I chose to make it my life’s work. My peers through the years have had varied backgrounds as we all come to commissioning from different engineering and or operational roles. I have worked of course with chemical engineers, but many chemists, mechanical engineers, instrument and electrical technicians and engineers, lab technicians and of course those who like me were educated operating and running plants.

So what makes a good commissioning guy? There are a number of excellent descriptive words, but to me, flexibility, enthusiasm, adaptability especially to change and things not going to plan, one obviously has to have the ability to understand the chemical or process which is being commissioned, being tenacious and keeping going when the road gets rough, light hearted and wanting to have fun are other helpful traits. One has to be structured and organised to deal with that inevitable paperwork!

We are a fine group we commissioning folk and we play a definitive role in the success of projects, long may it rein, may we continue to be recognised for the important part we play.

Safe and successful commissioning always…

A little more on systems…

A few more observations on the important topic of systemization today, those who know me or previous readers of this site will realise how important a task this is for me and how inherently basic it is to our success.

So systems need to be defined such that a section of the plant, when handed over from the construction team can be put to work with our commissioning activities. However it is important to acknowledge that we as initial system owners may not be the best place to agree the boundaries we devise are in fact the optimum for the system in hand. Our previous experience will take us well down the path, but do not underestimate the importance of prior knowledge in the plant to be commissioned; the knowledge may be in the form of an experienced operator or plant engineer, key vendors or perhaps a licensor? The construction group may also have informed people on the team who perhaps have been through the construction of the plant before? Key message here, ask, seek information and implement.

It is very important to obtain a knowledgeable persons review of the systems initially defined and to get advice on the system definition, it will make everyone’s life easier come the time for handover from construction.

Safe and successful commissioning always…

More on planning…

When it comes to planning and keeping a track of our commissioning preparations and execution, we need to consider a number of different approaches.

Initially we will produce what I like to call a level two plan. Here we address the things we need to do to get us to the point of commissioning implementation. This level of plan looks at the systems, their relationships and dependencies perhaps from an overall perspective as well as from a unit operation level. Secondly we need to produce detailed, what I deem level 3 plans which take a system and break down the actual activities and procedures to deliver that system. Again we may need an overall plan to capture inter system and unit operation activities.

The preparation phase needs to be scheduled and all the softer issues addressed like team recruitment, where our offices will be, management of the budget etc. This type of plan again plots our way to a point where it’s logical to tie into the detailed level 3 plans and actual implementation.

My final point on this communication is around the actual tracking of the procedure and documentation production and status of commissioning implementation. Some really good software packages are out there that can help, or it may be a manual based system, charts on walls for smaller projects or spreadsheets, but keep a track on where you are up to with document preparation and importantly the delivery of the procedures at the implementation phase, good simple tracking systems will also help in your reporting processes.

Safe and successful commissioning always…


As with all good processes, having the discipline to review, learn and amend goes just as well with commissioning as any other project facet.

When the times start to get busy it is easy just to fire fight or just get on with the days business, but I suggest having the motivation to update our important documents pays dividends. As the team grows the organization charts need to be updated and re-issued, (consider including photo’s to help identify the team as you grow). Philosophy documents and strategy documents need to be amended as scope becomes more defined and contracts are signed and important documents as these need to be up to date and reissued. The commissioning paperwork system is dynamic also, so updates are required after the team review the format and changes to improve are devised.

Keep commissioning up to date and review your key documents and systems and update regularly, it will lead to better understanding and learning.

Safe and successful commissioning always…


My offering today’s dwells a little on the importance of Factory Acceptance Tests, FAT.

It has always been a quandary for me, but many Project Managers seem to scowl at the thought of commissioning engineers attending FAT, I assume from a cost saving perspective, but we commissioning folk have a great deal to offer at the actual FAT. These events are not an excuse for a “jolly” but a real opportunity to check out equipment with the main aim of finding faults and importantly getting any identified issues corrected prior to the equipment reaching the job site.

FAT is normally thought as tests subjected to packaged equipment, compressors, skid mounted plant etc. which of course is true, but do not underestimate the important checks that can be conducted on large plant items such as distillation columns and Reactors. These include initial leak tests, test fitting of internals and other related activities. I have prepared an hours presentation which always goes down well when I speak at events, it focuses on the issues I alone have uncovered at various vendors shops worldwide, identifying issues, which if they would not have been corrected prior to delivery, would have caused significant rectification and schedule issues when at delivered to the site.

So, find out what equipment you need to check before it is shipped and plan for your visit, it sure will be travel money well spent and in the long run you may save the project cash.

Safe and successful commissioning always…


On our larger projects, the success we as commissioning managers are able to experience is directly proportional to the team we have working with us, my note today dwells a little on leadership and most importantly gratitude.

As a leader practicing our discipline of commissioning, I try and live by a few core values I hold, empathy, seeing the view of the team working for me, being compassionate, caring and being there for my team, being honest and workingwith integrity, and building up trust.

One overriding factor is so important as teams set to work and that is the ability of setting the vision for the team to strive for. I value greatly the efforts both past and present that my colleagues have put into the projects we have worked together on and in the all the projects I would like to think that I have invested the time to set the goals for the individuals and team, constantly referring back to the aims and ensuring the team understands the direction we need to go in. This can be a lengthy business, but eminently worth while.

To me, the greatest gift I can give those working with me is gratitude. I try and extend gratitude at very task level undertaken by the supporting team of commissioning staff working with me. We all bring our own skill sets and I am constantly impressed at the level of commitment I see from those of us commissioning plants around the world. I am most grateful for the efforts both now and in the past of the team working with me and I have it as a personnel value to express with sincerity my thanks at every opportunity. Grateful thanks as always…

Safe and successful commissioning always…

More on your paperwork…

Getting the paperwork system you will use in commissioning is vitally important, some observations today.

We must develop our paperwork systems to work for us, that’s obvious. I am from the camp that says for everything we do, we must have a document that describes what we did and has a clear sign off box, completed, which indicates we completed it, documenting the results and findings.

Paperwork systems must be organised in a logical way, I prefer an approach which provides documents at a system level. Some thought must however be given and a paperwork system put in place which manages procedures which will transcend multiple systems and even inter plant or unit transfers.

Paperwork will be developed in word type and spreadsheet documents and will include, check-lists, procedures both pre and actual commissioning, vendor created documents, key interface documents for example handover certificates and punch lists.

Having the correct paperwork system in place is as key today and it ever has been and spending quality time developing your paperwork system early in your commissioning efforts will always pay dividends during the implementation phase.

Safe and successful commissioning always…

Communication and understanding…

Not a real commissioning related message today, but one that certainly has an impact of the efficiency of commissioning and just about everything we do.

Communication and the understanding of messages and hence information is simply massively important. We can all be much more effective in our lives and jobs if we take the time to process our information such that it is fully understood by all interested and related parties and then properly communicated to everyone.

If we can all work on this activity on a day to day basis and seek clarification and understanding in all we do, we will all benefit and be much more efficient.

Back to more specific commissioning related matters soon.

Safe and successful commissioning always…