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Part #60: 3D planning of a phosphate treatment plant

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At the beginning of year 2012, I went to Casablanca, to work for JACOBS Engineering. It was a question of planning a phosphate treatment plant aiming to filter and dry the phosphate pulp transported by the future pipeline of the mines of Khouribga with an aim of obtaining dry phosphate intended for export. It was part of a huge project in Morocco.

This project was of EPCM type (Engineering, Procurement, Construction, Management), it is the equivalent of a project of “control of work”. The contracts with the contractors had the characteristic to be mainly sign with a fixed price.



Of course, I applied WBS 3D method to structure the project with the prototype software “WBS Matrix” which I developed. We had only very little time to carry out this schedule, also, we had chosen not to detail the Zones enormously and moreover detail the Products and the Activities, in order to build the WBS and a first version of the coordination schedule of the project. We thus wished a rather macroscopic planning.


But, because they were contracts with a fixed price, therefore related to the results, i.e. with the Products: for a level of Zone given, we had detailed the Products more than the Activities, that seemed logical. Indeed, as a Project engineer, which counts more it is that the object of the contract (Products) is realized in time and hour. But the project engineer must nevertheless have a glance on the way in which the contractors work, i.e. on their Activities, from where importance to detail them, but in less of the Products, moreover that each contractor perform his way of working. The choice to detail more the Products was also related to the fact that it acted for the Project engineer of knowing which penalizes which, in the event of delay and of data input.


I understood well on this project the concept of “extended Products”. In other words, one manages (what, or Product Breakdown Structure) varies according to the phases of the project. For the design, one manages functional systems and subsystems, but there, as a project engineer, for the procurement phase one managed contracts, whereas in construction phase equipments are installed somewhere, therefore one managed Products in construction phase. These changes of significance of the objects managed on the Product axis obliged us to produce matrices of logical links between each phase, to define for example which contract (Procurement phase) provides which equipment in construction phase, in terms of schedule logical links, idem between the detailed design and the procurement phase.


On this kind of project, a factory, the Geographical zones useful in construction phase and integrated into planning must be accompanied by a diagram which defines each Zone clearly. It is simply a drawing accompanying the schedule; the goal is well to locate the works just by reading the schedule. It is the second lesson which I learned from this mission.


We spent relatively much time to fill the WBS matrix (Prototype software), perhaps two weeks. I usually filled the WBS matrix in two days with an expert. But on this project, we were to seek information to define the whole of the Zones, of the Products and Activities, i.e. to define the WBS, and it is what took time to us. But the day when we considered that WBS matrix was sufficiently ended, we generated schedule PRIMAVERA P6 of 1,200 tasks of the factory in the course of the day. My mission was then finished.


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