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How to incorporate a new process into an existing facility is a basic question that begins every project. The client usually has a preconceived idea of where a new process will go and how much space is available, but if we stop here and do what we are told, preconceived notions may drive us to a point where we find that project needs haven’t been met.
For the good of the facility and production, we need to delve a little deeper into the topic and ask a mix of open-ended and closed-ended questions:
- Is the available space large enough? Is there enough ceiling height or space for utilities?
- Is there enough HVAC available to support the new space? Does the client need a new unit, or can we replace an existing unit?
- Will it fit in the existing building structure?
- Is there adequate access for maintenance functions?
- Will manufacturing operations be affected during the expansion?
- Which option will have the least impact on the facility?
- Which option allows for future capacity increases?
- Can the new process equipment be cleaned appropriately?
- What impact will the building code have on the design?
- How do we help the department stakeholders understand the options, agree on a path forward and buy into the facility improvements?
All department stakeholders have to be able to afford, build, safely operate, qualify and maintain the facility. They all have a stake in the project’s success too, and sometimes the needs of one group conflict with the needs of another. That’s why all stakeholders need to consider the aforementioned questions and rate the importance of each factor under consideration.
Evaluation criteria includes many aspects of the project, not just the process steps. The topics and subset issues evaluated are listed below:
- Cost, including capital, operational and construction values
- Schedule, considering minimal project time and operational downtime
- Process design, including achievable goals, distance of connections, equipment space, gravity feed, clean room or unclassified space, low design risk, unknown conditions, structural support, and available future capacity
- Construction, including rigging, constructability, phasing and logistics
- Operations, including production impact, ease of maintenance, HVAC impacts, regulatory impacts, people flows, material flows and phasing impacts
To help with the task of prioritizing needs and giving everyone equal say, we often use an Option Rating Matrix, which explains and evaluates each option using 3-D graphics and a rating system of the drivers for the project. As the options are ranked by level of importance. Color is used to identify the most highly rated option for all stakeholders. Color coding in an expanded traffic signal of colors (red, orange, yellow, light green and dark green) and number values from one to five are utilized. The total high value of the option reveals the best for all departments and allows for early input before designs are developed. To make the process more precise, the rated values can be incrementally adjusted between two similar options.
Once options are narrowed down to only two, the rating values can be incrementally adjusted again to contrast the two options against each other. The one-to-five values can be adjusted up to one to ten, thus allowing for more values to fine tune the matrix in design development.
When used in the past, this overall rating value allowed for everyone on the team to understand why decisions were made and eliminated. This prevented cycling back to previously eliminated design options. This simple chart ultimately saves the client money on the project and focuses money to be spent on the team-selected option. The five value ratings, along with five color values, help establish the client’s goals in a very clear manner and step outside of the realm of the simple starting question of whether a new process will fit into an existing facility.
Option Rating Matrix with Four Options—The first two options are rated about the same; the third option is rated very highly, and the fourth option was considered not viable.
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