Helping to Build NTPC’s Super Thermal Power Station
Forward-looking alerts for executives and the frontline, along with a streamlined task schedule, helped a world-class project management team get even better. With Realization’s SMART Project Control, team Khargone achieved every milestone on time. Even before completion, plans were in place to use SMART Project Control on a second NTPC Thermal Power plant project.
NTPC Limited is India’s largest energy conglomerate. Commissioned in 2019, the Khargone Super Thermal Power Station is a coal-based thermal power project in Madhya Pradesh. It’s India’s first ultra-super critical thermal power plant. The plant operates at above average efficiency levels in keeping with NTPC efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Power plant projects are among the largest and most complex projects in the world. There are many external stakeholders and moving parts. This would be no different. NTPC had over 40 years of experience delivering projects broadly similar to Khargone. Their teams were among the best in India and the world. And yet. On the Khargone project, they would face long-standing challenges they had been trying to improve on for years. Namely, how to synchronize the actions of so many internal and external partners? And how to create meaningful early-warning signals for management to help them better control the project?
30 contractors, 10,000 drawings, 100,000 tasks
Most projects in this category easily involve over thirty contractors and vendors. Beyond that, there are typically over 10,000 drawings and thousands of major and minor orders. Trying to combine all those individual schedules could mean generating a plan with 100,000 or more tasks with thousands of inter-task dependencies. Which almost always meant one thing: plans were never used in the actual execution of a project.
Three overarching problems threatened the timely completion of the Khargone project. Planning and execution were disconnected; information was subjective and scattered; and a persistent gap between management’s view of things and reality.
While there were planning and scheduling systems in place, the front line wasn’t always clear on what exactly to do and when to do it. That problem is linked to traditional project management software; it cannot automatically convert plans into daily schedules. The frontline’s list of tasks came with no prioritized schedule. This often forced them to improvise, to set their own targets, which impacted delivery targets.
SMART Project Control
SMART Project Control helped scale back the original 100,000 plus task plan into a 1,600 task plan. Just 30 focus and finish tasks put the entire project in a nutshell for executives. At ground level, execution details and procedures were captured as subtasks, with checklists below the 1600 tasks.
As engineering would submit drawings, purchasing would place orders, and execution teams would fill out Daily Progress Reports. SMART Project Control would not only automatically update the project plan but also provide forward-looking alerts, or early warning signals to executives and project managers. The number of last-minute surprises for executives dropped, and everyone proactively took care of the issues that were slowing the project down.
Looking ahead to solve major challenges
Once SMART Project Control highlighted that an area of the turbine and generator deck platform (needed for power cycle piping) would delay a key milestone, (a boiler light up) by 62 days, the team prioritized that specific area and concentrated all available resources by stopping work in other areas. Teams completed the work in 40% less time (45 days against 81 days) than projections. The system’s early warning signal gave teams on the ground a way to take crucial proactive steps eight months ahead.
Gas ducting was the most critical aspect of the project. And it needed more manpower than the contractor was able to mobilize. Once SMART Project Delivery projected a 102-day delay (eight months in advance), management feared the worst—not being able to commission the plant on time. NTPC prioritized half the work needed to meet the milestone and then staggered the rest.
Over 2,000 parts were needed on one aspect of the project. All were all shipped to the site well in advance, except for one small set of items. The fire detection and protection system (FDPS) – a regulatory necessity. SMART Project Delivery, linked with billing, highlighted the issue—four months in advance—and it was supplied on time.
A 1,600 task critical path plan meant that project teams could manage the project in a simpler and more stable way. Subtasks and checklists could be modified on the fly by the frontline. An integrated plan meant all stakeholders—internal and external—were in synch with the project’s priorities.
“In NTPC Khargone, within a month of implementing SMART Project Control, our project management team had complete visibility into areas that had bottlenecks.” ~ Mr. Ajay Shukla AGM, NTPC
Even when new bottlenecks emerged, the teams weren’t taken by surprise. This allowed project teams to take a series of proactive steps, which meant that the entire management team had full control over due-dates.
Team Khargone outlined some of the key benefits of SMART Project Control. They reported that priorities were aligned for project level of management—decisions and subsequent actions were faster. And that each level of management had reliable, unbiased and meaningful visibility into their respective areas. And critically, early warning signals from the system were always forward looking.