Project Management Institute

Brown & Root mobile project office

This & That

PROJECT MANAGERS

J.K. Hillstrom, Brown & Root, Inc., Houston, Texas

Brown & Root, Inc., a major engineering and construction company headquartered in Houston, has received both utility and high praise for its design of a self-contained, computerized mobile project management office. After trial uses on a project startup and a plant emergency recovery, the office is now being modified for continuing use on maintenance turnarounds.

Developed by the company's Information Technology Division, the mobile office was initially designed to provide management services within hours for any project—from startup activities on new projects to plant maintenance operations to emergencies-while making available the use of resources even thousands of miles away. Installed in a 48-foot, insulated trailer (see right), a primary feature of the mobile office is a skid-mounted, 2-meter Ku-band satellite dish that can be focused on an ASC - 1 satellite from any location in the U.S. for accessing project management administrative, financial, and control systems at the company's headquarters. The trailer's equipment includes various PCs and two high-speed printers. A built-in phone system is designed to handle up to 16 telephones for voice and FAX communications, after hookup by a local telephone company. With the exception of the computers, the equipment is anchored in specially cushioned compartments where it remains during operations as well as during travel. The computers are simply transported in their original containers, which have proved fully satisfactory for shipment, and set up in minutes on arrival at the job site.

The B&R Mobile Project Office

The B&R Mobile Project Office

A Mobile Office Workstation

A Mobile Office Workstation

The trailer's air-cushioned suspension system provides smooth transportation even in rough terrain. On arrival at a job site, a feeder line is hooked up to a local power source or portable generator. An electric hoist mounted on the trailer floor is used to lower the skid to the ground, then to place the dish on the skid. Next, the dish is focused on the satellite. The computers and other equipment are connected along with the dish and cables. The system is then GO.

The trailer has five workstations with built-in shelving and file cabinets. Four are fully equipped while the fifth provides space for another computer or for a project supervisor. On-hand computer software includes scheduling, spreadsheet, database, graphics, and word processing packages, along with proprietary systems for such operations as data entry, timekeeping, estimating, and cost and material control. Also on hand are supplies of employment applications, assignment forms, time sheets, and the like. Other cabinets contain foul-weather gear, a supply of tools ranging from channel-lock pliers to voltmeters, and such items as flashlights and first aid kits. In the event of a power loss, an uninterruptible power supply system—which also acts as a surge protector—ensures up to 15 minutes of battery backup while a diesel generator under the trailer is started. The generator provides sufficient power for lights and the computer and communications equipment (although not the trailer's air-conditioning) as well as for recharging the backup batteries.

Brown & Root designed the control center to meet the demands of its clients, especially for project startups and plant turnarounds. Following an orientation of its features to project managers and other executives, it was initially transported to a grassroots refinery build in Illinois for an on-the-project check of its utility. Next it was used for rapid resource marshaling following a plant emergency in Sweeney, Texas, which likewise confirmed its usefulness in these situations. Its evaluators agreed it was admirably designed. One observer termed it “a Rolls-Royce of its kind,” suggesting more design than needed for its intended purposes.

The mobile office was then acquired by B&R Industrial Services (BRIS), the company's maintenance division, for use on turnaround projects. In addition to its use in managing these activities, BRIS is modifying it for often-requested, up-to-the-minute status tracking of turnaround progress for client viewing at any time. Instead of accessing the company's mainframes for administrative and project control systems as originally designed, the office is being modified to access the division's local area network (LAN) for these systems. Both of these modifications will be completed before the end of the year.

The mobile office will then be transported to BRIS turnaround sites nationwide for scheduling, manpower loading, procurement, cost analysis, and other tasks, using BRIS's LAN resources. Anticipating its success as a turnaround management tool, BRIS is already planning to build more mobile offices as needed, although not necessarily Rolls-Royce models.

J.K. Hillstrom has applied his pen to a wide variety of technical and corporate documents, conference papers, journal articles, and related materials during seven years with Brown & Root. Also a free lance author, he has two degrees in writing from Wayne State University in Detroit and has taught technical and other writing at several schools, most recently the University of Houston - Clear Lake

J.K. Hillstrom has applied his pen to a wide variety of technical and corporate documents, conference papers, journal articles, and related materials during seven years with Brown & Root. Also a free lance author, he has two degrees in writing from Wayne State University in Detroit and has taught technical and other writing at several schools, most recently the University of Houston - Clear Lake.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

OCTOBER 1992 pm network

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