Archive: Jun 2020

Teamwork Can Make or Break Your Project

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Industrial capital equipment projects can be complicated and expensive undertakings. Often many suppliers are working together with consultants and contractors to deliver a successful project to the customer. Each of these suppliers and consultants typically bring their own project team to the table. Whether they are aware of it or not, the conglomeration of companies will form a collective project team. A lack of teamwork between each group on a project can result in missed budgets, schedule overruns, or, worst of all, a poor system design that does not meet performance goals. If you want your project and team to prosper, it’s essential for everyone to understand what it takes for all parties to function as an integrated team.

Sigma Thermal Teamwork

Common Problems and Pitfalls

One of the most common problems faced by project teams is poorly defined project goals and scope from the outset. This can be as simple as an inadequately worded proposal that lacks a clear definition, or a failure to document or transfer important details from the sales team to the project execution team. In some instances, during the project bidding phase, teams can have conflicting project goals that are not visible. If these misalignments are not identified and clarified at the beginning of the project, they will inevitably surface later, at which time they can be both expensive and time-consuming to resolve.

Failure to have consistent and functional communication can derail a project at any stage. This type of breakdown happens regularly between companies and within their internal teams too. The breakdown can occur when two or more companies lack the discipline needed to communicate. A good example of this is when a customer has empowered an engineering consultant to review and approve vendor documents, but rather than pass comments through to the consultant(s), the customer makes requests or comments directly to the vendor. Another common failure occurs when engineers from two or more companies meet and make impactful decisions, but don’t properly document/communicate those decisions through the established communication channels.

It’s not unusual for a team to have some minor misunderstandings—that can happen in any work setting. However, that’s not the same as a systemic communication problem that creates a ripple effect throughout the project. If team members can’t clearly communicate changes to one another in a timely manner, budgets can spiral out of control as part of the team proceeds with old plans that go in the wrong direction, wasting time and money.

Successful Project Teams

Older leader help diverse team in paperwork analysis at briefing

Nearly every project team genuinely wants the best outcome for their project. If you ask any given team at the outset of the project if they want to provide good customer service and deliver quality products and services on time and on budget, they would undoubtably say yes. So how is it that so many of those well-intentioned teams don’t succeed? The difference between a good and bad project team is how they convert those intentions into action and ultimately success.

What Do Good Project Teams Do?

Good project teams define customer service and quality products in finite terms instead of defining them as abstract goals. They turn those goals into specific tasks, and through the execution of tasks, they can achieve success. Written and highly visible goals should be clearly defined at the outset and discussed frequently throughout the project. Any conflicts between customer goals and internal company goals should be identified and addressed openly with the customer. The project plan and the tasks that make up that plan should reflect those aligned goals in every step.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

– George Bernard Shaw


Nobody intends to fail at communication. So why are we so bad at it at times? Most of us believe that being a good or bad communicator is a trait that we are born with, or it’s a behavior/skill that we learn. There is truth in both. However, having the natural ability to communicate should not be confused with having functional communication skills within a complex project team. While it is necessary for small groups (within a team) to collaborate about many project details, the information in and out of any group should be centralized and shared with the broader team in a systematic way. Written rules should be established detailing which individuals will manage the primary communication channels, what information will be shared, how frequently, and in what manner will the information be posted or stored for others to see. Conversations that result in decisions or that document the underlying thinking behind decisions should be recorded in summary notes and posted or shared. Project goals, project schedules, changes, updates, and other information should be stored in such a way that it is always current and highly accessible to all team members.

Communicate Project Changes

Project changes are inevitable when moving a project from initial concept to detailed engineering and design. It is highly likely that one of the project parties will create some kind of “planned” scope change, technical change, and/or schedule change. Therefore, every team should have a well-documented process to manage change. The process should:

  • Communicate the changes to the broader project team
  • Include methods to assess technical and commercial impacts
  • Create possible solutions

Equally important, teams from different companies need to reach a consensus on how the change will be managed between them at the beginning of the project and not after the change has already occurred.

Communicate About Unplanned Events

At the Factory: Male Mechanical Engineer and Female Chief Engineer Work Together on the Personal Computer, They Discuss Details of the 3D ModelDespite having developed the best plans and systems, the world is not entirely within our control. Case in point – your parts were damaged during shipment, your vendor went out of business halfway through the job, it rained for 40 straight days, and your shipping container fell off the deck of the ship at sea (seriously – that happened).

So, what do good teams do about those issues that nobody can anticipate? They plan to manage them. Changes forced by circumstance can be managed in much the same way as planned changes. In addition, teams can try and anticipate some of these issues by performing a project risk assessment at the beginning of the job. This can be as simple as gathering a group of experienced employees, reviewing the project scope and goals, and asking them to create a list of the most likely things that could go wrong. In many cases just creating that list of possible risks and making it visible to the project team throughout the project is enough to prevent the issue from happening.

Secure a Good Project Team

We have talked a lot about potential pitfalls and good practices, that are generally well understood. There isn’t any magic to it. What is interesting is that buyers of capital equipment don’t spend enough time or attention evaluating supplier processes or project team members. Excellent support from an effective project team is just as important as the quality of the systems and services ordered. During the evaluation phase of the buying process, a 10% difference in price can seem attractive, but keep in mind that a poor execution of your project can cost you 10 times that amount in delays, budget overruns, and frustration. Take the time to assess your suppliers – talk to them about their procedures, processes, and project personnel.

View our video describing Sigma Thermal’s commitment to customer service.Let us show you why we are the right process heating systems provider for your project.

The Benefits of Retrofitting Process Heating Systems

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sigma thermal replacement heater
At Sigma Thermal, we offer a wide range of industrial retrofit and upgrade services for process heating systems. Without proper planning and execution, the retrofitting process can be a frustrating one for many companies. Conducting a retrofit project without the proper knowledge and experience may result in poor functionality, damage to the system, or extended downtimes.

Sigma Thermal’s retrofit team utilizes expert skill and knowledge to ensure your retrofitting project is a success. We can assess your needs and make recommendations that will help improve your setup, resulting in optimal service for the life of your equipment.

During efficiency improvements, we provide our customers with an estimated return on investment (ROI) timeframe. Basically, we calculate the energy savings, compare that with the cost of the retrofit, and provide an estimate of how long it will be before they have “paid” for the retrofit with the saved fuel costs, and estimated annual savings thereafter.

Depend on our retrofit team to help you retrofit existing heaters for improved functionality, repair damaged systems, or upgrade older systems to more modern solutions.

Benefits of Retrofits

Retrofitting industrial heating equipment presents a wide range of operational benefits. These benefits include:

  • Improved efficiency.
    Optimizing equipment to improve the process efficiency.
  • Reduced labor costs.
    Retrofitting identifies opportunities to automate a range of simple or complex processes, which will lower the overall labor requirements for production.
  • Compliance.
    Retrofitted systems will be updated to comply with all modern emissions standards and safety regulations, operate more reliably. This will lessen the likelihood of breakdowns and minimize downtime.
  • Lower operating costs.
    Increasing efficiency to reduce the amount of fuel needed to achieve the same amount of heat out of the furnace/heater.
  • Updated controls.
    Modern, updated controls facilitate more precise operations. In addition, outdated controls may be difficult to repair or replace. Retrofitted systems will be updated to comply with all modern emissions standards and safety regulations, creating a cleaner and safer work environment.
  • Improved system reliability.
    After being retrofitted, systems will operate more reliably. This will lessen the likelihood of breakdowns and minimize the downtime necessary for maintenance and repairs.

Types of Retrofits Sigma Thermal Offers

Our extensive retrofit services include emission upgrades and system modifications. Sigma Thermal also conducts retrofits on systems built by other suppliers. The type of retrofit that best suits your application is dependent on a handful of factors, the most important being the type of system that you have in place. As an example, systems running on wood call for different retrofit processes than those that run on natural gas or diesel fuel.

Our retrofit services include:

  • Replacement Parts

Replacing worn or damaged parts is key to a successful retrofit. We can replace ash conveyors, feeders, and lids on wood furnaces and heaters. We can also replace fuel trains and burners on natural gas and diesel process systems.

  • System Modifications

Our team can modify existing systems for more efficient operation or improved capabilities. For example, we can switch out a water-based cooling system for an air-cooled design.

  • Site Audits

The Sigma Thermal team will visit your site to identify areas for improvement in your heating system.

  • Repairs

Our repair teams identify problems and repair your process systems to restore functionality.

  • Custom Solutions

Our experienced technicians can offer custom retrofitting solutions for a wide variety of thermal fluid systems and alternative fuel types.

Sigma Thermal Retrofit Services

At Sigma Thermal, our suite of aftermarket services includes parts, maintenance and service plans, and retrofits. We offer long-term service plans designed to guarantee the performance and longevity of your system.

For more information about our retrofitting capabilities or other products and services, please contact us or request a quote.

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Teamwork Can Make or Break Your Project

Industrial capital equipment projects can be complicated and expensive undertakings. Often many suppliers are working together with consultants and contractors to deliver a successful...