Monday, October 26, 2009

New-build and Refit Project Management

When it comes to yacht construction and refit, as I’m sure you know from experience, there is no shortage of self-styled experts. Individuals without a clue about the difference between the catalyzed polymerization of polyester resin and the co-reacted polymerization of epoxy-based systems, are more than willing to advise you on the best way to build a fiberglass yacht. Persons who lack even an inkling of understanding concerning the principles of developed and absorbed horsepower, stand ready to tell you in absolute, uncompromising terms what engines and propellers you need. And just about everybody who has walked a dock (marine tradesman, diver, deck hand, broker, or what have you), believes he or she can readily and easily manage your new-build or major refit project. Don’t believe it, not even for an instant.

          Being able to manage a yacht new-build or major refit involves significantly more than simply being conversant with a particular piece of canned project management software, such as MS Project. Project management software is a tool, just as CAD software is. CAD software cannot, in and by itself, design or engineer a yacht; and project management software cannot manage a boatbuilding project.

          You can spew out as many Gantt charts and Critical Path analyses as you want. However, without a solid understanding of the sequential dependencies and independencies of various boat building/refit operations, and without the ability to assign reasonably accurate durations to a project’s component operations, you are deluding yourself and, perhaps worse, others.  In order to manage a yacht build or refit project, you have to be able to:

1) Identify which component operations are related in unbreakable sequential dependencies (the Critical Path).

2) Identify which component operations can be broken off the Critical Path and run parallel to it (Fast Tracking).

3) Understand how to shorten the duration of component operations that lie on the Critical Path (Crashing the Critical Path).

4) Understand how, and to what extent additional resources can be applied to shorten the duration of critical operations that are either on or off the Critical Path, but which do not initially have any “float” attached to them.

5) Identify potential upcoming bottlenecks, and be able to develop “workaround” plans to keep the schedule from slipping.

Such prerequisite ability and knowledge are accumulated only over many years of hands-on boat building and refit, and in boatbuilding operations management.

          As I see it, the primary functions of an owner’s rep or project manager is to: 1) assure that the yacht owner or buyer understands and gets what he has contracted for, 2) that the build or refit proceeds smoothly, on schedule and on budget, and 3) that everyone — owner and yard — finish up the project as “friends.” The key skill in project management is knowledgeable facilitation.

[More thoughts on project management after the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Let’s hope FLIBS turns out to be a stepping stone on the way to industry recovery, as some are touting it to be.  — PLF]

1 comment:

  1. Right again. I know captains who routinely try to knock down yard bills by 10 to 15% whether justified or not. I also know some project managers who operate the same way. I guess its to show that they are doing their job. Leaves a bad taste.