Commissioneering™ Makes a Difference
Mar 07, 2009

One day, Gary, Travis and I were at a Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program (HEMP – see, getting our annual dose of business knowledge. While we were there, I had time to reflect on Commissioning and Engineering, and how sys-tek’s blend of these two services sets us apart from our competitors. It was then that the word “Commissioneering™” came to mind. To me, it was a perfect description of what made sys-tek unique, and what made me excited about coming to work each day.

So what is Commissioneering™? As it sounds, we see it as a blend of Commissioning and Engineering, the two primary services we offer. But if that is all the further that we take it, then it wasn’t worth the effort to come up with the word. Let’s talk further about how sys-tek defines these two words, Commissioning and Engineering.

For us, Commissioning is simple — it means simply to “MAKE IT WORK”. As a Commissioning Agent, we partner with the owner, the contractor, and the design team, with a common goal of seeing a project be efficiently designed, constructed, and put into operation. To MAKE IT WORK, it takes a true team effort, where each of us have the authority and freedom to work to resolve issues at the lowest level of the team.

For instance, if we are asked to start our Commissioning work in the field, but we find that key elements are not installed yet (a common occurrence), we could choose to go to the owner and tell them that the contractors are wasting our time, or we could try to point out that the system the engineer designed doesn’t work. As a previous owner, I can tell you that I saw this happen many times, and my perception was that the Commissioning Agent was trying to make themselves look smart. Instead, they annoyed me, and I saw it as a waste of my time.

So instead of taking that approach at sys-tek, we get together with the subcontractor and work with them to determine how to resolve the issue. By taking this approach, the subcontractor is happy that they aren’t called out in front of the Construction Manager. And in the end, all the Owner knows is that the building WORKS, and it was a smooth process for them. So, “MAKE IT WORK” means more than just making the building work, it also means making the project team work smoothly together.

As for Engineering, we look for new and interesting challenges to work on. We are not all that interested in doing “cookie cutter” design. Don’t get me wrong, there are interesting engineering challenges in designing facilities that are repetitive (think retail), seeing if there are more efficient ways to get the work done. But for us, the challenge is in doing something we have never done before, or in finding some new innovative way to get something done. Engineering is all about CHALLENGING AND INNOVATIVE DESIGN.

We see Engineering and Commissioning being integrally related to each other. If we are doing CHALLENGING AND INNOVATIVE DESIGNS, then MAKING THEM WORK is of critical importance. We can’t wait until the end of the project to start thinking about Commissioning. Instead, we make sure everything is in place so that the design can be Commissioned. In a similar manner, when we are trying to solve a tricky engineering problem, we often need the field expertise and objective data that our Commissioning technicians can provide.

Because we Commission a wide variety of projects, including some we design and many that are designed by others, all of our engineers get opportunities to put their hands on equipment out in the field. Our engineers get to learn from the contractors who install their designs. Our engineers get to see five or six ways that a solution can be designed. These Commissioning observations provide a critical feedback loop for our engineers that they take back to the office and apply to their next design.

So, in our view, Commissioneering™ is a blend of CHALLENGING AND INNOVATIVE DESIGNS and MAKING IT WORK. I guess that means if we ever get the opportunity to put our definition in the dictionary, it might look something like this:

com•mis•sio•neer•ing k?-mish-?n-neer-ing n Creating challenging and innovative designs and assuring they work.

-Damian Gerstner