Global supply chain challenges are continuing to disrupt Australian businesses and prompting more organisations to consolidate their operations.
The global disruptions in freight with massively blown out lead times is making a case for some organisations to re-onshore their manufacturing and produce their goods domestically.
For other organisations, the increased demand from the pandemic is forcing them to rapidly increase their supply chain capabilities.
In these instances, organisations are likely to either co-locate a manufacturing and distribution site or reconfigure an existing warehouse space, all while needing to maintain operations on site.
With the co-location of sites on the rise due to the operational efficiencies gained and retrofitting of existing sites becoming easier with mobile automation and racking, construction on live and operational sites is becoming more common.
However, a construction project on a live industrial site producing or distributing millions of dollars of goods is highly complex with many associated risks.
The gestation of a construction project from start of works through to go-live can take 12 to 18 months, it is critical that operations continue during that time, as even one day in lost operations can impact the whole supply chain network.
The construction process needs to be thoroughly planned and managed to ensure operations don’t stop and ultimately revenue isn’t lost for the organisation.
Know your site
Before even thinking about concepts design, a complete survey of the existing site must be undertaken.
This includes reviews of internal and external sites, plant, services, easements, levels, access, and traffic.
The information gathered from the survey, such as identified areas with existing connections to services, will mitigate risk and discovery of latent conditions. This will influence the design and enable greater cost-savings and utilisation of space.
All parties must be brought along for the journey and kept informed on business and operating constraints.
No one understands the site better than the operations team who run it day to day. The builder needs to engage the operations team to understand the business and operating constraints and plan the works accordingly in the early phases of the project.
Processes and expectations from the build and operations team need to be set from the outset to minimise any uncertainty and ensure both the build and operations continue.
A clear methodology
Clear access and staging plans must be implemented. The construction and operations workers need to be given certain admissions to site with clear pedestrian and vehicle pathways and an outline of working time for all involved.
All teams need to understand shared zones, with the staging plan reviewed fortnightly at a minimum to set the protocols within these areas.
Planning for the unexpected
An emergency plan is needed for when things don’t go to plan such as a power outage, gas or water pipe leak.
Between the construction and operations teams, most major risks should be forecasted before the construction process with a delineation of responsibility and action plan for either party.
In complex areas where the delineation of responsibility is unclear, it becomes a shared responsibility from the construction and operations team to respond and ensure lines of communications are maintained.
Construction on live sites is complex, especially in the industrial setting. A hybrid environment between an operations team producing or distributing millions of dollars of goods and a construction team delivering a large-scale build is bound to have its issues. With these projects becoming more common in the industrial space due to global supply chain developments, the key to success is preparation and collaboration. There will be challenges but celebrate the wins along the way.
By Rulla Haifa
Rulla Haifa is a Senior Project Manager at TMX with over 10 years within the construction industry. Her expertise is in managing multi-faceted, complex, live environment construction projects. Rulla works with major organisations on their distribution centre transformations.