The importance of project management

Water purification projects: the difference between success and failure

Replacing, refurbishing or upgrading an industrial or healthcare water purification system generally represents a significant investment, in time, resources and capital. Despite this, it’s not uncommon to hear stories of installations that didn’t go according to plan: projects that took longer than expected, ran over budget, or failed to perform to specification.

When problems occur they are generally attributable to poor or inexperienced project management. In most cases, this stems from the supplier, either because they lack the resources and therefore depend on their customer to fill the gaps, without recognising that the customer is rarely an expert in water purification, or because they have limited experience in the manufacture water purification systems for demanding healthcare and industrial applications.

Choose the experts
Designing and manufacturing a water purification system to meet a standard set of criteria is, for most suppliers, straightforward. The problem in the majority of healthcare and industrial applications, is that there is no such thing as ‘standard’ specification: every installation is different, demanding a custom engineered approach. In turn, this requires access to the correct technologies and the knowledge and experience that can only be found from a supplier with a long track record of success in each sector. Companies able to offer this combination of qualities are, in reality, few and far between.

Successful project delivery
Successful project management and delivery begins from the first meeting between customer and supplier. To many suppliers, this is considered a sales meeting. This is wrong. The first meeting should be a discovery session, at which a water purification specialist from the supplier explores with the customer the challenges they are facing, the needs of their operation and future plans, and discusses the technical and commercial options open to the customer.

The supplier should leave that meeting having confirmed that they are actually able to provide an effective solution to the customer’s present and future needs – and if they cannot, then they should say so – and with a clear understanding of what ‘success’ will look like to the customer.

The next stage should be for both parties to work together to develop the appropriate technical specification for the project. This has to be built around the customer’s needs, not on the specific equipment sold by the supplier! It’s therefore important to work with a supplier that is capable of offering a wide range of water purification technologies.

At this stage it will be possible to confirm a suitable budget and then to lock-down an exact cost and delivery timeframe.

Once the costs have been approved and contracts signed, this is where a professional and experienced supplier will begin to show their real worth.

The complete water purification service
The supplier should take full responsibility for project management, including factors such as planning, system design using advanced software and analysis tools, custom engineering, risk assessment, coordination of services, installation, commissioning and water quality testing, plus training and handover.

Throughout, communication and regular review are crucial, with the entire process being monitored against agreed KPIs and milestones.

Few custom engineer water purification installations are straightforward. Most systems have to be fitted into existing plant-rooms, where space is often limited, or where redundant equipment has firstly to be decommissioned and safely removed, with no or minimal disruption to the supply of purified water. Similarly, water, mechanical and electrical connections all have to be coordinated, especially if the new installation requires pipes or cables to be re-routed.

In many instances, this work has to be done on a phased basis, for example where a cold supply reverse osmosis (RO) system is being upgraded or replaced with a hot version, such as might be required to improve productivity and comply with HTM guidelines. In this instance, older plastic pipework will need to be replaced with orbitally welded stainless steel, while new heat sanitisation and RO membranes will need to be installed, tested and commissioned.

Once the new system has been successfully commissioned, then a good supplier – even if they are not being used for subsequent service and maintenance – will still keep in touch with the customer to ensure that everything is operating correctly.

The difference between success and failure in any major industrial or healthcare water purification project can often be subtle, and may not always be apparent until after the supplier has left site and moved on to their next commission – at which point, it may be difficult to get their engineers back to resolve any issues.

The Purite project management service
We’ve been designing, manufacturing, commissioning and supporting high value industrial and healthcare water purification systems for over forty years. We’ve a long track record, with satisfied customers throughout the public and private sectors. Just as importantly, we have the experience, skills and resources in depth to be able successfully to tackle multiple projects simultaneously and to give every one the highest level of service and support.

If you’d like to get the ball rolling, please contact one of our technical experts – they won’t sell, but will listen to your needs, understand your requirements and explain the options that you have.

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