In challenging economic times, some manufacturing companies are faced with difficult decisions regarding the location of their manufacturing facilities. Sometimes the reason being to reduce operational costs or for enhanced Business growth and/or new product lines may be pressing companies to move their operations to larger facilities to keep up with increasing demand. Other companies may simply be responding to changing market pressures by relocating closer to their customers or supplier network.
Regardless of these reasons for relocating a manufacturing facility, when that final decision to relocate is made, it’s up to the plant engineering company and its supporting team to execute the project. Since each relocation project comes with unique challenges, detailed planning and communication in the beginning have higher turnaround ratio for being successful projects.
Often, facility and equipment layout drawings are neglected. However, accurate and detailed layout drawings of the current facility location are essential to plan for the equipment relocation to another facility.
The accuracy of these drawings should be checked and missing elements should be replaced before any design effort begins. Items such as building column locations, equipment quantities, equipment identification and sizes, utility locations, pits, trenches and aisle sizes should be confirmed by spot checking. Don’t miss to note overhead equipment such as conveyors or cranes that may not appear on layouts.
Equipment condition review
- A detailed equipment review and condition assessment is required prior to relocation planning. The plant engineering company and supporting team should document the conditions and make recommendations as to whether the equipment’s condition warrants direct relocation, refurbishment or abandonment.
- Often, it costs more to repair, upgrade and relocate the out-of-condition equipment than it does to replace it. For equipment that will be moved, operation and maintenance manuals, maintenance records, spare parts inventories, PLC program data and structural information should be gathered and identified for each specific machine.
- If accurate layout drawings are not available, as-built drawings should be developed. The as-built drawing clearly indicate the building column grid, critical utility connections and equipment slated to be relocated. The equipment should be properly identified to include the equipment type, department or area, manufacturer, asset identification number, motor plate data, weight and utility requirements.
- High resolution, digital photographs are particularly helpful for equipment documentation. Photograph the equipment from all sides, paying particular attention to utility connection points and external control panels. Check if the facility has special foundations, pits or trenches. Provide detailed dimensions of the pit including depth, length and width, and note any utilities in the pit.
- Determine if the equipment from the current facility meets codes in the new location. Check control cabinets and panels for UL, NEC or comparable approvals. Check state permit requirements for boilers and pressure vessels as well.
Equipment database and identification
All equipment information gathered in the field should be added to an equipment spreadsheet or database. Equipment not clearly identified with an asset tag or ID that can be easily read should be manually tagged. During the physical relocation, all of the utility and controls tie points and connections on the equipment should be clearly identified, documented and tagged by the relocation contractor.
Utility and structural requirements
The plant engineering company coordinates with design disciplines to confirm that the utilities are installed in the correct location based on new drawings as well as at the correct time.
Coordination of pit, trench and foundation information requires coordination with a structural engineer. Overhead requirements such as cranes, monorails, conveyors and tooling rails also require structural coordination.
If the relocation is taking place within a “hot” facility (operational) or from a “hot” facility to a “cold” facility (non-operational), temporary or redundant utilities may be required to maintain operations. The plant engineering company will have to identify and coordinate these issues with the correct design disciplines to size the temporary utilities and design the required tie points.
Scheduling, evolution planning
The schedule being the most critical aspect of relocation may have to consider time for ramping down production at the current location while ramping up production at the new facility, which may require sequencing specific equipment and infrastructure to meet this requirement.
The plant engineering company will have to coordinate with manufacturing operations to develop the sequence and schedule of removal and relocation. This information will also be required by the facilities design team to schedule design, procurement and installation of utilities and structural requirements. Testing and commissioning requirements and durations should be included in the schedule. Detailed schedules should be developed and tracked using project scheduling software.
Equipment relocation work instructions
Equipment relocation work instructions (ERWI) or similar documents should be used which are detailed documents that contain all necessary information about the relocation & its specifics.
The plant engineering company coordinates & syncs up with the utilities installer and the relation contractor to ensure the arriving equipment is ready to be installed and that the utility tie points are valid and available.
The relocation contractor performs a preliminary test once the equipment and utilities are connected to verify all motor rotations are working properly. Once these tests are complete, the equipment is considered mechanically functional & complete. Before turning the equipment over to manufacturing, the plant engineering company performs an inspection and checks the quality of the installation.
Since each company has different requirements for testing and commissioning, the amount of plant engineering involvement with testing should be clear and agreed upon between the plant engineering company and his or her manufacturing organization early in the project. An ERWI containing the elements of testing & commissioning should be included if the relocation contractor has included support during this phase.
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