Prepare to Manage Your Facility Startup Project Timeline Challenges

Facility startup projects are exciting, but they can also bring intense challenges. They’re often complex, they may have extremely long durations, the blend of vendors and other contributors changes frequently throughout the project lifecycle, and most facility startup initiatives are financially demanding. These projects are expensive to execute in the near term, and their success is also critical to the organization’s long-term financial viability.

Among the difficulties project teams face is that the final completion date for a facility startup project is often non-negotiable. Occupancy may need to occur on or before a specific date to ensure that expected revenue projections or cost savings are achieved on schedule. Accomplishing everything within a fixed window of time can stretch a project team’s capabilities—and its resources—to the limit.

If you’re getting ready to plan and execute a facility startup project, be sure your team is prepared to manage the timeline challenges you might encounter.

When time is tight, project teams working to launch a new facility frequently overlap tasks to save time. This can create challenges around resource scheduling since transitioning from one task to another is likely to be more time-sensitive than usual. Even a normally minor delay can have hugely negative effects on overlapping tasks. Some project contributors simply don’t have the bandwidth to support executing different activities simultaneously. You’ll need to develop highly accurate task duration estimates and ensure task handoffs are as efficient as possible.

Short timelines could mean the project’s resources are limited, and the support you hope to secure isn’t always available within narrow calendar windows. Be diligent about prioritizing activities and identifying critical-path tasks, then allocate the right resources to them. You should also be creative with the resources you have in-house. Look for high-performing junior team members who are ready to stretch their skills or for internal support groups with the expertise and availability to take on a wider range of tasks than they have in previous projects.

Aggressive schedules can quickly fall apart if unforeseen delays hit the project. Potential setbacks may be difficult to accommodate with existing resources, so look for opportunities to increase the help you receive from others so you can maintain alignment with the expected launch date. Your contingency plans should include task resequencing along with avenues to secure additional funding to pay for the extra support. The use of a proven risk management strategy will also be key in helping you identify and mitigate potential problem areas early.

Inflexible timelines aren’t compatible with miscommunications. You simply can’t afford to waste time trying to track down accurate data, solicit updates from team members, track down wayward supply shipments, or cover for workers who were expected to be onsite but aren’t. Establish robust communication channels and distribute a contact list to stakeholders at the initiative’s outset, so everyone knows who to reach out to for questions and how to raise flags around priority issues. Regular team discussions will also keep project participants up to date. This blended approach will ensure that missed messages and weak information flows don’t sink your facility launch.

A rigid target completion date doesn’t allow enough wiggle room to fix misalignments up to date. Head off potential mid-project disagreements, course changes, and scope creep by gaining unambiguous buy-in from stakeholders before the facility startup initiative begins. You need consensus from sponsors, the leadership group, any senior influencers, and your internal project team on what the project should accomplish, when key milestones need to occur, when the project must be complete, and which resources are available to execute activities in anticipation of the launch date.

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