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Efficient Execution of Small Projects in Tough Times – Acero Engineering


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By: Calvin Schoeman and Mark Kuppe

In these trying economic times it has become a corporate life-or-death imperative to execute projects quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively.

Over the past fifteen years, Acero has developed a reputation for completing projects quickly and on budget while maintaining high quality.  As the old adage goes… ‘In any given project you can achieve two out of the following three virtues: speed, cost-effectiveness, quality.  Acero’s clients have been forced to demand from Acero, all three or collectively perish.   While difficult to achieve, the client’s wish is Acero management’s demand, despite the (initial early-day) protests of the team.  As a result of this seemingly untenable demand, the team has had to find ways to continuously improve so that all three virtues can be met.

Here is a list of some of the areas Acero feels that it has improved upon to deliver on the trifecta of project excellence:

i. Project Definition:

Clear definition of the project scope and design conditions up front, with both the client and the internal project team – typically in the form of a Design Basis or scoping document. The cost for this is miniscule and the rewards are massive; having all stakeholders on the same wavelength from the get-go will save a lot of misstepping and rework later.

ii. Clear, Detailed CTR’s

Disciplines should be engaged as early as possible and with clear deadlines, deliverables and budgets – Acero has templated this step such that the budget provided to the client is the same one provided to the internal leads.  The budget, regardless of the project complexity, is always broken down to level IV detailed list of cost-time resources – CTR (ie. deliverables or tasks)

iii. Tracking

At minimum, projects are tracked for progress on a weekly or biweekly basis to ensure there is no CTR slippage, or to catch the slippage as soon as possible for mitigation.  Even small projects can be tracked and this doesn’t need to take more than 20 minutes per week to do it.

iv. Procurement Log

A procurement log is a useful tool that can be used to ensure that the order and delivery of materials, especially long lead equipment, line up with the project completion date. This is another templated process at Acero and is utilized if the procurement complexity requires it.

v. Eliminate Unnecessary Issuances of Deliverables

Avoid unnecessary revisions of deliverables by opting to not provide them. Excuse me? Yes, often with small projects, a revision for “Issued for Approval” and then for “Issued for Construction” is sufficient.  Just because classical project management prescribes multiple orders of revisions, doesn’t mean that this has served the customer well at all.  In fact, some of these steps obfuscate what should be the focus on critical deliverables.

The above are just some of the tricks of the trade that the Acero team has learned in this ever-increasingly challenging energy market.

Additional information on Acero’s past projects can be found here: aceroeng.com/projects



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