Steam project installation options: What works?

The survey has been completed. A list of repairs or upgrades has been identified, capital has been spent to identify the problems, and the payback analysis has been performed. Now what?


There are many options on how to implement the replacements and upgrades. However, how many times has a steam project or installation not run smoothly: more times than we care to admit. There are many different strategies to have a successful steam project. 

The first strategy would be for the client developing a partnership with a company that has the expertise to guarantee proper execution. The second strategy, would be employing a project manager with steam expertise to help administer the project: confirm in the proper hook up and hopefully avoiding the common mistakes of not following the installation manual. Finally, the third strategy is training installers to make sure the product is installed correctly. 

Measuring the success of a project

At the end of the project, value is truly measured and captured by how well the installation went. Each of these strategies has pros and cons. The pros and cons can range from price to who has responsibility over the project. Usually the largest driving force behind project implementation is its cost/price. There is a difference between cost and price. Price is the amount of capital spent to procure a product or service, while the cost is all the associated dollar losses as a result of a failed product or service. 

The lowest price is usually the award winner. In the majority of cases with a bid project there is some intangible that is not figure into the bid. This intangible is the expertise of how to execute a steam project. This leads to change orders, improper installation of equipment/ steam traps and a bad installation. 

Once the installation has gone bad or savings are not being recognized, what are the next steps? The challenge begins with trying to establish what the real problem is and who is responsible for the problem. This is what typically happens with a low-bid project.

While this may seem like the most economical way to get a project completed, there are some drawbacks. In many cases, there are two or three parties involved, and they are not working well together. All are doing their little part while failing to identify or communicate shortcomings. In essence, the implementation/coordination expertise has been “priced out of the project.” In the meantime, the costs keep going up. 

How do you not allow the expertise to be “bid” out of the project? What is the best way to do projects that are not done on a regular basis by a contractor? 

There is a design build option that gives total responsibility to one company or contractor. The design build model results in more of a partnership between the owner and the companies supplying and installing the equipment. The bid price may be higher, but a better understanding of the project and installation will result. A better executed project is also a result of the design build model. In the end, the partner company has sole responsibility for the system. Proper installation is insured, the expertise is not “bid out,” and there is no finger pointing of who is responsible for the problem. Most commonly, a successful project is the result of this partnership.

This article appears in Spirax Sarco's Steam News Volume 4 Issue 2. Bernie Sapp is National Turn Key Manager-Energy Services. Edited by Jessica DuBois-Maahs, associate content manager, CFE Media,

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