That’s the situation BWSC faced when we won a contract in 2006 to deliver a turnkey power plant near Samawah in war-torn Iraq.
Project director John Berthin Jensen recalls how BWSC specialists were forced to tap into all of their resourcefulness to build up new communication systems, and establish logistical supply chains to deal with the hazardous conditions on the ground.
“Building power plants is a hands-on job,” explains John. “In Iraq, we developed a way to manage and keep the project on course, despite the dangers on the ground.”
John notes that in addition to being a professional challenge and success story for the BWSC team, it also provided a testing bed for procedures and tools, so we can take on new assignments in trouble spots.
To understand the Samawah project, one needs to keep in mind that fighting was still widespread in Iraq when work began on the 60 MW engine-based power plant, some 280 km southeast of Baghdad.
By Summer 2006, however, the security situation had deteriorated to such a degree, that BWSC considered it too dangerous to have employees on the ground.
The search began to find creative solutions, recalls John.
“To secure ‘eyes and ears’ on the site, our specialists decided to develop a virtual site office at our headquarters in Allerød, Denmark,” says John.
IKEA style manuals
Called the Remote Supervision Concept (RSC), the system essentially made it possible for our team of highly experienced supervisors and engineers to manage the project in Iraq despite being separated by some 5,000 km.
A high-speed satellite connection was established to secure a live audio and video hook-up with the construction site. Mobile and mounted cameras meanwhile provided an up-to-date overview of the site, so specialists in Denmark could follow their Iraqi counterparts and oversee construction.
When users clicked on a component or system in the model, all the relevant information needed, such as the container ID where the component was stored on site, popped up. Design data, manuals and assembly instructions including the sequence for installation could be accessed as well through this single point of entry. The system was available at site as well as in the BWSC office, so BWSC supervisors could provide support to their Iraqi counterparts as they examined the exact same item.
In addition to the technical challenges, a highly comprehensive security package supplemented the project to secure the safety of the Iraqi people working at the site as well as securing the equipment while in transit from entering Iraq until safely installed at the site. Any items lost could cause a major delay to the project. The security project was a major project in itself, but paid off with no losses to either personnel or equipment.
Looking back on the project, John acknowledges there were countless logistical, technical and even intercultural hurdles that needed to be addressed and overcome.
It was difficult, for example, to find the root cause of equipment failure when separated by time zones and distance, and not least culture. The Iraqi supervisors took pride in solving the problems by themselves – and in their own way – which was not always helpful for the BWSC specialists located far away, trying to figure out what had really happened and what could be the cause of the problem.
Likewise, meetings which were scheduled to be held in real life, face-to-face, were complicated due to stringent travel restrictions for Iraqi nationals. It was possible, however, for several Iraqi supervisors to travel to Japan and Europe for seminars and training as well as to work on site at a BWSC power plant already in operation.
Despite the logistical hurdles, the project was an overall success, says John. The RSC platform likewise proved its worth and demonstrated that BWSC can deliver turnkey projects in troubled areas with critical power shortages. A competency that is crucial in regions that must deal with armed conflicts or even natural disasters.
“There’s no replacing a physical presence on the worksite, but RSC provided the next best thing,” said John. “With the Samawah project, we demonstrated an ability to find solutions on the go, from a distance of thousands of kilometres.”
He adds that BWSC has a valuable role to play in war-torn regions or in the aftermath of natural disasters where infrastructure has been hit hard. And with the latest advances in drones, high-speed internet connections and augmented reality, the feasibility of long distance project management has been made easier.
“A stable power supply is one of those crucial elements that need to be in place to make rebuilding efforts successful,” says John. “We’ve demonstrated an ability to deliver, despite extremely difficult conditions.”