7 Steps to a Successful Manufacturing Plant Startup | Sinclair Group Consultants

Mega-plant startups rank among the biggest manufacturing industry challenges: Commissioning capital projects in complex environments, communicating with large groups of contractors across the globe and staying on time and budget can prove immensely challenging, even with the best of intentions.

Ensuring the success of these complex mega-projects for manufacturing plant startups requires a hard look at your organizational and team requirements.

Here are seven crucial success factors we’ve identified:

1) The Big Picture and Missed Opportunities

manufacturing plant startup

The critical phase of any startup is the transition from capital project teams to operations. When we succumb to tunnel vision — focusing solely on timelines and budget — we set up a crude handoff that will cause problems: financial losses that undercut the perceived success of an on-time startup. As the clock ticks and pressure mounts, stay focused on the big picture and work to put a fully integrated operations team in place, ensuring not just initial but continued success.

2) Create a World-Class Team

Building a great operating team is not magic. However, it requires ongoing commitment to transparency, open communication and team member buy-in. An engaged and empowered group will focus on the greater good of the team, rarely making decisions based on individual interest. Here’s a deeper look at these requirements:

  • Identify the goal and performance target, allowing for early discussion and proposals from the team.
  • Use these conversations to confirm team alignment; while it’s unlikely everyone will agree 100%, allowing for productive debates reaffirms the overall commitment to success.
  • Build on the momentum with training designed to maximize buy-in and effective decision-making.
  • Keep the team focused on a maximum of five goals and performance measures to avoid overwhelming members and creating project fatigue.
  • Create a set of clear, concise operating principles and review them frequently to hold team members accountable.

3) Anticipating Complications
A mega-plant startup with a rapid ramp-up to high operations performance must account and plan for many complicating factors. These include, but are not limited to, multiple assets or units, a challenging regional setting due to skill sets, resources or political climate, technology selection and other risks. Additionally, new facilities with very young and unseasoned operating teams may experience a steep learning curve, creating unnecessary risk.

4) Newer Isn’t Always Better; Don’t Abandon New Startups
Companies with aging assets tend to have a sense of urgency due to threats of competition and operating cost. Thus, there is greater focus on upgrading or improving performance of their existing assets. However, these priorities don’t always translate to new startups — brand new facilities with the latest technology can lure companies into a false sense of security. Often, the operating team at a new facility lacks the organizational structure and climate of experience found at established sites. Investment in the team is just as vital as the building the team is in.

5) Bring in the Right Support
Preparing an operating team for success requires specific knowledge. Tactical or overly academic experts may not have the appropriate level of understanding of the business, operations and technologies. Utilizing them can leave room for error. Bring in people who understand project management startups, change management and the adoption of “industry best” processes.

6) Integrate Organizational Effectiveness & Operations
Operating team members who are well-versed in functional requirements must also understand organizational effectiveness solutions in order to ensure the success of the overall project. Bridging the gap between operational management and organizational effectiveness must not be ignored, or the project will certainly suffer. See below for critical organizational effectiveness topics, training and activities that need to align with all operational management efforts.

Organizational Effectiveness Activities

Project Activities

Communications Team charters defined and compositions shared
Leadership and program support Leadership and program support defined
Team needs assessment Team needs assessment completed
Targeted team development Team goals, targets, and alignment training
Onboarding and priority setting Onboarding and contractor training
Third interface working sessions stage Site coordination and integration planning
Knowledge management workshops Key learnings shared and used
Performance management workshops Key project metrics reviewed and agreed upon
Quality and Six Sigma training Opportunities identification and advancement
Process safety excellence Process safety culture and leadership training
Leadership development Leading and working from commitment training
Assessment working sessions Organizational effectiveness survey data collection and reporting
Change management workshops Gaining commitment and ownership
Decision-making workshops Alignment and decision-making process ownership
Coaching and sustainability Ongoing support to project leaders and managers
7) Allow the Startup to Thrive
As you can see from above, the work is far from done when an asset is purchased. Unsuccessful acquisitions have become the norm, but this doesn’t have to be the case. A lack of operations management standards and pockets of tribal knowledge can be overcome with the right fundamentals in place.

The clock is ticking; do you have what you need for your manufacturing plant startup? Get in touch with us here if you’d like to explore your situation in detail.