Project Management and Engineering - from Start to Finish

In 2009, the single largest piece of gear that Peterson Power Systems ever sold was delivered: a fully self contained electrical switchgear building measuring over fifty feet long, sixteen feet wide, and sixteen feet tall. The unit weighed nearly one hundred thousand pounds, and was the primary piece of equipment in a multimillion dollar electrical upgrade project for the City of San Francisco’s Water Department.

Naturally, equipment this big doesn’t just walk itself onto a site. Before this unit arrived on the job, its contract was received (with all Ts crossed and Is dotted), the terms and conditions of the job were thoroughly negotiated, work schedules were reviewed and accepted… And then the whole thing was sent to upper management for approval. Finally, with ink dry on all the necessary signatures, the job was handed to the Project Management team. This was when the fun started.

Beginning in March 2009, the Project Management team worked to get the project off the ground. This meant organizing engineering meetings, visiting the site, and preparing preliminary coordination and arc flash hazard study reports.

A project of this magnitude calls for us to create many documents, both electronically and in print; the submittal review and approval process of these documents begins early in the project’s life and can continue right to the point of delivery. Several meetings with the customer and vendors help to expedite the process and reduce the paper volleys.

In any project, this portion of the job keeps the Project Managers and Project Engineers fully engaged until all questions are answered and all submittals approved. This project relied heavily on guidance from our now retired Chief Engineer Steve Cushman. In mid-June 2009, the customer’s equipment was released for production.

Part of the Project Management team’s job is to monitor production of the gear to insure an on-time delivery, avoid any liquidated damages, and arrange shipments to packagers as needed. As you can probably imagine, this requires constant vigilance with our vendors.

In the months that followed the initial release for production of the equipment, the team made numerous trips to various manufacturers around the country to observe testing of the unit’s components: In September, we visited a factory in Bland, VA with the customer to witness a test of the system’s utility tie 15kv transformer. Later in September, we joined the customer for a visit to a factory in Portland, OR to witness testing of the system’s utility tie 15kv switchgear. Also in September, we went to Atlanta, GA with the customer to witness a test of the unit’s paralleling switchgear (and flew into Atlanta during a major storm and flood!) Returning from Atlanta we stopped in Houston, TX (without the customer this time) to inspect the enclosure manufacturer’s progress and arrange shipment of paralleling switchgear and other components to the packager. Finally, in November, we returned to Houston with the customer to witness a test of the finished product.

On December 7, 2009, the unit was ready to ship; however, due to its size, it required a special permit and Highway Patrol escort through each state to travel from Houston to San Leandro. The five-state, 1,900-mile trip took two weeks of travel (at restricted speeds and hours of operation). The project management team monitored the truck’s route and progress on a daily basis.

The unit was delivered to Bigge Crane yard and reloaded for delivery to the customer’s site on December 21. The customer inspected it at Bigge on the 22nd, and was delivered on December 27—four days ahead of our December 31 deadline. Considering all the potential for delays in manufacturing and transportation, four days of breathing room was still cutting it close.

With the primary scope of the project completed, a substantial amount of upgrade modifications to the existing generators was completed by our Service Department over the next year. Throughout this entire process, the Project Management team kept detailed records of any changes made to the system, and provided the customer complete operation and maintenance manuals for everything Peterson Power Systems provided them.

Even in today’s electronic age the job isn’t finished until the paperwork is done—and, as you can see, the Project Management team will be involved from start to finish!