Jerry Ferguson | Cross Industry Link
Facilities that process bulk solid materials often need to replace old or worn processing equipment, add manufacturing lines, or possibly even construct a new plant. This article provides checklists and questions to ask to help ensure that these types of projects proceed smoothly and successfully.
Bulk solids processing plants often have to take on construction and installation projects. Equipment may have worn out or you might be looking to increase production efficiency or improve output. The project may involve adding one piece of equipment or it may mean adding an entirely new step to the operation.
All of these scenarios have a common theme: If you want the project to be successful — and you certainly do — you need to make a plan. First, determine your needs. Then clearly communicate those needs to a contractor. The more clearly and specifically you can do this, the better your chances for a successful project conclusion. There are three items that are crucial. These include a well-written scope-of-work (SOW) document, an accurate budgetary estimate, and drawings or plans of the existing equipment or facility.
All planning, regardless of project size or complexity, should start with a written SOW document. This is the best way to communicate your project’s needs to the contractor(s). No one knows better than you exactly what you want to accomplish, and no one is better than you at answering the questions that will need to be asked. In essence, developing this plan and moving it forward to the next phase — getting an accurate bid from a qualified contractor — is up to you.
Next, you need to choose the right person (or persons) to compile the SOW document. Do you have someone in your organization who’s qualified to research and write such a document? Does this person have adequate knowledge of your process? Will he or she be able to invest enough time in collecting the information? The task could take hours, days, or even weeks depending on the project’s complexity. The individual will need effective communication skills, as well, and management will need to grant the person full access to all parties involved in the project — both internal and external.
SOW information checklist
Once the right person has been chosen, the SOW can begin. Here are some items that need to be included:
- The SOW should start with an overview of the company and an explanation of what you wish to accomplish with the project.
- What are you planning to do?
- Why are you planning to do it?
- Where (in the facility or process line) are you planning to do it?
- How are you planning to do it?
- Include a description of the material(s) you process; for instance, list properties such as sticky, wet or dry, free-flowing, or others. What is the material’s bulk density? Both your contractor and equipment suppliers will need as much information as possible to properly select and correctly size the equipment.
- What permits will be required?
- Are there any special considerations — equipment-related or otherwise — such as stainless steel constructions, SQF requirements, ASME welds, MSHA compliances, or others? Does your company have special requirements or policies?
- Will the project consist of any footings or foundations that would require a soil analysis?
- List all the equipment to be installed, including your vendor or supplier preferences, if any.
- How will the contractor access the site with materials, rental equipment, and new equipment?
- Include all plans and drawings of the proposed site and equipment. Include both plan view and elevation view if you have them. Provide building drawings, equipment drawings, electrical drawings, and piping layout and any necessary information for concrete work. You want all drawings to be as current as possible. One option that might be helpful — done by you or someone you hire — is completing a laser scan of the site and producing accurate 2D or 3D drawings. With these, equipment vendors can supply accurate dimensional equipment drawings, ensuring a proper fit.
- Will engineering drawings be required by your management at the project’s conclusion? This should be stated up front.
The list of information in an SOW can be long and detailed, but the effort to compile this list is time well spent. The document will be a foundation on which to base the budget. Management will need to know how much the work will cost, and the closer your estimate is to reality, the happier everyone will be.
Budgetary information checklist
What should be in your budgetary costs estimate? A lot. It will pull from much of the previously mentioned information but will also include additional items depending on the project’s complexity. You should include cost estimates for:
- All permits.
- Soil analysis, if required for concrete footings or foundation work.
- Building demolition or equipment demolition as required, along with the removal of existing equipment from the site.
- The purchase price of new equipment. (Keep in mind that getting vendor bids on new equipment can take from 1 to 3 weeks or longer.)
- Labor to do the work. This is one of the most difficult estimates to determine, but it’s a big percentage of the cost. How many workers will be needed, and for how many days, and at what labor rate? Include per-diem expenses with travel to and from the job site. How many hours will be worked per day? Will personnel earn overtime pay or work Saturday and Sunday hours?
- Will rental equipment be needed? If so, what equipment and for how long? Don’t forget charges for crane travel and setup time, as well as for the operator or rigger.
- Construction material costs. Include everything from the steel and wood to the nuts, bolts, sanding discs, drill bits, gases, and more.
- Electrical installation charges. (Don’t forget to make sure you have adequate power available for any new equipment.)
- Control systems — either stand-alone or integrated with your existing control system.
- Vendor service technicians for equipment startup and training. How many days and at what rate? Include travel costs.
- Freight costs for transporting equipment and materials.
- Most contractors also will include a “Miscellaneous” line item in their bid and so should you. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of the project total is usually sufficient.
- A contingency line item also should be included. You’re guaranteed to overlook something — about 4 to 10 percent is common. Don’t cut yourself short here.
- Also consider whether or not you’ll need engineering work or drawings. If the project involves very complex work, you should probably include this in the budget.
If you can’t take the time to determine these budgetary numbers, finding someone who’s capable of helping compile them may be advisable. Otherwise, your budgetary estimate could be worse than useless.
Choosing a contractor
With your SOW prepared, your budgetary estimate ready, and your drawings or plans in hand, you need to choose a contractor. If you already have one whom you like and trust, you’re in good shape. If you don’t have a contractor, here are some questions to consider for a potential candidate:
- Does the contractor know your business and product(s)?
- Has this person previously worked with companies like yours? At a minimum, he or she should have experience in dry bulk solids conveying and handling.
- Is the person familiar with any special requirements you may have?
- Does this person have a good safety record?
- Is this person properly insured?
- Will this individual be available — along with an adequate number of other personnel — during the time in which you need the project completed?
- If bonding is required, is this person able to get the proper bond?
- Lastly, you need to be comfortable with the person and his or her company. Communication between the customer and the contractor is vital to a successful project conclusion. Does this person communicate well? Does he or she listen? The person doesn’t need to be eloquent, just a good fit with you and your company.
Alternative course of action
As suggested here, you can proceed internally with an SOW document, budgetary estimates, drawings, and related tasks.
You also can ask a contractor to give you an EPC, or “engineer, procure, and construct” bid, also called a “turnkey” bid, in which the contractor handles all these tasks. Realize that contractors typically don’t have a lot of time or resources to do each step as listed here to produce a bid that they may or may not win — unless you want to pay them to perform those services. Without these details, don’t be surprised if estimates are high as contractors have to cover their costs, including the time required to do the bid and site visits.
Another option is to hire a company or person to compile the SOW and budgetary documents. Unless the job is large and complex, this may cost less than you think. You’ll also own the information and be able to go to your contractor of choice with it.
Whatever route you take, remember that the degree of success a project will have will be higher when the written SOW, budgetary estimate, and drawings you present have enough detail, clarity, and depth.
For further reading
Jerry Ferguson (817-559-9587) is president of Cross Industry Link, a consulting company that helps bulk solids plants with new processing projects. Over his 40 years in the bulk solids industry, he has worked as an equipment sales manager, a manufacturer’s representative, and a project manager for an engineering, procurement, and construction company.
Cross Industry Link • Granbury, TX
817-559-9587 • www.ind-link.com
Copyright CSC Publishing Inc.