Critical success factors in commissioning and start-up of capital projects

Winkler, Matthew Campbell
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Commissioning and start-up (CSU) is the critical last phase of a capital project. CSU must be accomplished before a facility can initiate initial operations and begin meeting commercial objectives. Actions necessary for successful CSU are often not well planned or executed, resulting in poor CSU performance. Recognizing this significant shortfall, Construction Industry Institute’s (CII) Research Team 312 was organized to conduct a study to determine critical activities necessary to increase the likelihood of successful CSU performance on capital projects. Utilizing input from CSU experts, objective data collection, and subsequent data analysis, 16 Critical Success Factors (CSFs) were identified through this research. These factors focus on the themes of leadership, team alignment, management methods, planning techniques, and support tools, among others. Each factor is specific and unique in their required actions and implementation recommendations. These CSFs all reinforce the concept of earlier planning and alignment of CSU on capital projects. Further elements developed include, CSF's support of safety and quality, indicators for CSF achievement, timing of CSF implementation, and current frequency of CSF achievement. Data from 26 actual projects was collected to determine the CSF's impacts on CSU performance. Through this analysis, all CSFs and many of their associated indicators were validated and shown to be true differentiators in CSU performance. Other findings include the integration of CSFs with past CSU research completed by CII, analysis of commissioning failure case studies, and alignment of industry CSU terms and CSU organizational functions. Five technologies shown to beneficially leverage efforts of CSU teams and project stakeholders were identified and fully characterized. A final development was the creation of a user-friendly checklist tool to assist CSU teams in planning and managing CSU efforts throughout all project phases. Commissioning and start-up success is a major contributing factor in the overall success of capital projects. The case for action for an efficient and effective CSU planning process is compelling. Application and implementation of the 16 CSFs, in conjunction with other study findings, has been shown to improve project CSU performance and be a beneficial asset to project teams.