Browsing articles tagged with " team"

Let Our New Year’s Resolution Be This…

Dec 30, 2014   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Professional Development  //  No Comments

shareasimage (4)

 

No matter how many conflicts we have in what the world should be, how our projects should be run, or what tools we should use, we should be there for each other.

Sometimes You Just Shouldn’t Jump In Feet First #FailFriday

Apr 10, 2012   //   by Rob Drysdale   //   Blog, Professional Development  //  No Comments

Pipeline im Bau

Pipeline im Bau (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Thinking about it, this could also be titled “There’s No I in Team” or “Communication is Key”.

About 20 years ago I was a young(er) Engineer working away at a company learning all about how things worked.  I was given the task to look after and inspect a pipeline project that was about 20 kilometers long.  One of the tasks at the end of the project is to test the pipeline before it is put into service.  The tests are done with water and the pipeline is pressurized almost to its full theoretical yield strength.

In the days leading up to the tests there wasn’t much for the inspector (me) to do so I helped out the contractor doing some menial tasks on the site.  One of them was filling this long pipeline with water.  We used a small water pump that pumped at a maximum of about 200 psig.  Not much compared to the full yield pressure we were going to test at.  As you can imagine when you are testing a pipeline at over 1,000 psig you have to use some pretty heavy duty fittings so we could pretty much do whatever we wanted with that little pump…including closing the valves with the pump running.  Remember this as you read on…

The day of the test everyone got there, we set up the test assembly, the dead weights to measure the pressure and a high pressure piston pump.  This piston pump can pump in excess of 3,000 psi, but it pumps relatively slowly compared to the pumps we used to fill the pipeline.  But think about it, water is incompressible so if the pipe is already full of water it doesn’t take a lot more to get it to the test pressure.  I forget the exact values, but it was probably about 400 to 500 gallons of water that we needed to pump in.

imageSo we started pumping water and found it was taking extra time to get the pressure to rise the way it should.  Sometimes you see this if there’s a bit of air in the line, but in this case the pump just seemed extra slow.  I had been on tests before (and had them go wrong before) and I knew (or thought I did) what was happening.  We stood at the top of the excavation looking down at the test head and wondered what was wrong.  Without saying anything to anyone, I jumped in the excavation and put my ear next to the valve.  It didn’t sound right to me.  So guess what I did….I closed the valve.  In my mind I thought there might be something in the valve and if I closed it and opened it again right away maybe it would help.  It was a sound theory, right?  Wrong.

Remember what I said about using heavy duty fittings?  The valves were 2” ball valves rated at 3000 WOG or 3,000 psig.  Remember what I said about the piston pump being able to pump in excess of 3,000 psig?  Guess what happened when I closed that valve WITH THE PUMP RUNNING?  Let’s just say I never got the valve open again.  I took the top of the valve, the handle and the stem in the chest.  Lucky for me I was bent over the valve far enough and it was late fall I was wearing enough winter gear it wasn’t too bad.  I got a face full of water right away so I didn’t even realize I got hit by anything else.  It wasn’t until later that I started feeling a dull ache that let me know.

I was working with a team.  Had we actually talked about the issues and what we should be doing I never would have dead headed such a strong pump against a closed valve.  We may have closed the valve and reopened it based on my theory, but we would have shut the pump off first.

Sometimes you just shouldn’t jump in feet first.

You Want To Do What? Lessons Learned From A Desire To Produce More Beer

Jan 20, 2011   //   by Rob Drysdale   //   Blog, Fun, Professional Development  //  No Comments

6 Beer Fermentation Tanks on TrucksA few nights ago I went out to have a look at a logistical marvel.  There were 6 very large beer fermentation tanks working their way to a Molson brewery location on the streets in and around Toronto.  First, you might not think that this was any big deal except that each tank holds about 1 million bottles of beer and couldn’t be taken through any normal routes.  Second, you might ask why I would go out at midnight on a really cold night to see this, but the engineer in me had to see it up close to see just how big these things were and how complicated this was.  The planned move and the progress were profiled through many news outlets and it was an interesting story.

What struck me about all of this when I was watching was just how complicated and involved this was from a project planning and logistics perspective.  There were also key lessons in project management tat can be gleaned from this:

NOTHING Impossible Ever Is

Truck and Tank Turning When someone comes to you and says “we want to do this….can it be done?”  The answer should never be a simple no.  There may be reasons why it can’t be done, but everything can be done given enough time, effort and money.  The key is to figure out how badly they want it done and if they are willing to pay for it.  The impossible part of it might be that the cost is too much for what it is, but you won’t necessarily be the judge of that.  As Jerry Weinberg says in The Secrets of Consulting, you should always frame it as “I can do that, but this is what it is going to cost”.

With the beer tanks, Molson’s knew they wanted to increase their production and they needed these tanks.  The trick was to figure out the manufacturing, logistics and installation.  Given the size of the tanks, building them somewhere else and shipping them to the site seemed impossible.  But building them on site would have been cost prohibitive so they looked at other options and figured out that they could have the tanks manufactured in Germany and shipped to Toronto.

Find The Right Expertise

Tanks Going Under and Over Two Sets of Wires While Turning From One Street To AnotherYou might think that you are the experts and only your company or department can do the project you’re thinking about, but trust me when I say that’s not true.  Unless you are on the bleeding edge of some new technology, everything has been done before by someone.  Find them and either hire them or glean the information you need from them.

In the case of the beer tanks, Molson Breweries hired Challenger Motor Freight to figure out how to get the tanks from Point A to Point B.  Challenger has experience with moving very large freight and could provide the logistics necessary to make it happen.

Think Outside The Box

As I said in the first point above, nothing is impossible.  But in order to see the solution sometimes you have to think about the problem differently.  You can’t just have a narrow focus and think in terms of how it’s always been done or you’ll never see the answer.  The other point here is that if you are just looking at a problem from you’re own little world, or department, you might miss the bigger solution and end up with something that is sub-optimal.

Preparing and Moving Wires For Tanks To Go Under - Note long pole for measuring height before tank goes underTo ship the beer tanks and get them to the brewery they wouldn’t fit on any planes so they had to come on a boat.  Then there were all the logistical issues of getting them to the brewery.  If you looked at this simply from bringing them to the port in Toronto you would think it’s impossible given the infrastructure and bridges and everything in the way.  Instead, the tanks were shipped to Hamilton which is farther from the brewery, but it made it possible for the land portion of the shipping.  From Hamilton it became a huge puzzle of taking the right combination of streets to avoid all underpasses and bridges where the tanks wouldn’t fit and dealing with the utilities and infrastructure that was in the way.  For example, on the last night of the move, the convoy was on the same street that the brewery was on, but they had to turn off that street and take a number of others just to avoid an underpass before getting back on line to the brewery.

Stuff Happens

You might have the best plan in the world, but sometimes stuff happens.  You have to be ready to adjust your plans and have contingencies in place in case it doesn’t work according to the plan.
The key to project management is being able to see the holes and risks in your plan and be prepared to take action or adjust when it does go off the rails.  The best project managers aren’t the ones that never have any problems with their plans, but the ones that adapt and adjust quickly and cohesively when things do happen.

The shipping and installation of the beer tanks was behind schedule.  Even before they left Hamilton they were behind.  The tanks got to Hamilton in November, but with delays and the holiday season they didn’t leave for Toronto until January 7th.  The move itself from Hamilton to Toronto was supposed to take 4 nights.  In reality it took 10.  The weather played a factor as well as the time involved in moving the electricity, cable and telephone lines.  The convoy had to be prepared to stop at different locations and adjust their plans as they went.  On the night I watched, there were three sets of wires the tanks had to go over/under in a very short stretch and these all had to be moved out of the way.  In some cases the wires were taken down and laid along the ground and in others they were lifted up out of the way.

The Entire Team Has To Work Together

On any project it isn’t just one person that has to do all the work on the problem, there is a team of people.  The team can include internal people, contractors, consultants, suppliers, etc.  Even in your own companies there may be other departments and people that you must rely on to complete your projects.  The point here is that everyone must have the goal in sight and be working together to get there.

Everyone Working Together As Tanks Move Under One Set of Wires and Wait For Next Set To Be ClearedFor the beer convoy there were trucks, drivers, spotters, supervisors, utility workers, police, etc. all working in concert to get the freight delivered.  There were a number of different companies and organizations represented, but everyone knew the goal and what they were contributing to the project.  While I watched, I could see the coordination in action and the way everyone was working together to get the trucks through their next obstacle.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of things happening in the world around us that we can look at and study to learn about how it applies to our work and what we do.  This project was a lot more complicated than most, but when it is broken down it really is just a bunch of steps put together to get a tank another 50 meters down the road.  If you do enough of those 50 meter long tasks eventually you get the full 108 kilometers covered.  You might be a few days late, but you’ll get there…

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