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Terminal News

Managing storage terminal projects in lean times

Managing storage terminal projects in lean times
Chris Commander, director of engineering at Howard Energy Partners, explains how project managers are expected to be experts in a range of different subjects and the tools they need to succeed in managing a terminal project

The storage terminal industry has experience significant transition in recent years. Gone are the days of having dedicated and specialised team members and the times of estimating managers, project engineers, and having on-staff construction managers and inspectors are long gone.

Today's project managers are now required to do everything; from estimating and procurement to cost control scheduling, administrative duties and travel agent. These project managers are stretched thin and their work continues to build daily. They work six to seven days a week, 16-hour days and are required to be the expert on a range of different subjects.

With this work load, it is imperative that the project managers of today are armed with the proper tools and reliable partners they need to succeed. This starts on the front end with estimating procedures and processes. Too often, an estimate is put together based on previous projects or based on costs per units with little to no design work up front.

Granularity is imperative to success. It is difficult to weigh this versus the time available to a project manager, but without the proper detail or design aspects such as process flow diagram's and layouts, the estimate is little more than an educated guess.

Evaluation of third-party engineering is equally important. Often companies look to EPC contractors for detailed engineering and construction due to lack of man-power and schedule. For some this may be the proper path to success. However, an evaluation should be completed to determine the right fit for the company. A cost evaluation including overhead and mark up should be done and compared to running the project in-house. These additional costs should be included in the budget. Above all, it is important to find an engineering company who can be considered part of the team and who 'gets' the owner's inner workings and desires.

When it comes to procurement, a cost analysis should also be evaluated to determine if utilising third party resources is more economical then doing this in-house. Developing specifications and approved manufacturing lists (AML) will not only provide the tools for project managers to succeed but will establish uniformity and quality control across all terminals.

Project manager requirements

As for the project managers themselves, they must be a 'jack of all trades'. It is vital that they research industry codes. They should be able to recite common historical costs to help their company's marketing/sales quickly access projects. They should learn how to develop industry colleagues who can be relied on for help when problems arise. They are the focal point for cost controls, and therefore should be armed with the tools to accurately track and forecast costs during construction. The project manager should surround themselves with construction managers and inspectors who they can trust, as they will be the eyes and ears for the project in the field.

The project manager role is not always the most praised job in the industry. Often, they are expected to be miracle workers and required to put their lives on hold, so the company can succeed. It is imperative to build a team they trust and likewise, learn how they can earn the trust of their peers. Above all, the project manager should be organised and develop the right tools to succeed.

Commander will be speaking more about managing storage terminal projects on the afternoon of the first day of the NISTM conference from April 2-4 in Orlando, Florida. For more information, visit