A pilot plant is an indispensable thing for launching new products and scaling up chemical production. However, starting a pilot plant isn’t always straightforward. It involves several risks that many people are not aware of. The most common problems people face when starting up their own pilot plant are budget overruns and deadlines.
Despite the challenges you face, starting a pilot plant is a great idea. In fact, there are many advantages to starting a pilot plant. Not only do pilot plants allow you to collect important process data, but they also allow you to test industrial-grade raw materials and equipment. If you are thinking of raising a pilot plant, but you’re not sure where to start, here are some of our top tips to get you started:
1. Make Sure You Create a Commissioning Plan
Before starting your pilot plant, you need to make sure that you create a commissioning plan. This will need to list all of the known tasks that need to be completed in detail. A good commissioning plan needs to describe every job and provide an estimation of the resources and time that will be required. It should also assign each of these tasks to a specific person and set a target date. Although most people skip this step, it’s extremely important if you want your pilot plant to be successful.
2. Make Sure You Review the Design Before Construction is Complete
Another extremely important tip that will help you successfully start up your pilot plant is to make sure you review the design of your plant before construction is complete. The good news is that it’s usually pretty easy to spot problems with your design during the building process. Common examples of problems that can be spotted during this process include a level sensor that is unable to see the level for calibration or a valve meter that lacks the level for calibration.
3. Employ People Full Time
While there are both pros and cons to hiring full-time employees, evidence suggests that starting a pilot plant is much easier if you employ people full-time. In fact, commissioning a unit using only part-time personnel can take up to 3-4 times longer to complete the tasks than employing a full-time team.
4. Read All Instructions and Manuals in Advance
Before starting a new pilot plant, it’s important to make sure that you read all of the manuals and instructions in advance. New pilot plants almost always involve new equipment. All too often, plant operators choose to not look at the manual until the equipment is having issues. Only at this point does the need for calibration or different installation become obvious. Sadly, this is usually the point at which pilot plant operators realize that the equipment doesn’t suit the unit’s operating conditions. All of this should have been spotted and addressed in advance.
5. Be Organized
The last tip we’re going to give you is to be organized. Nothing goes as fast as something that is organized effectively and planned well. While it takes time and effort to plan and organize in advance, it saves a lot of time and effort in the long run.
Starting a new pilot plant can be challenging. This task is made even more daunting if you’ve never started a pilot plant before. If you’re thinking of starting a pilot plant, make sure you follow our top tips above.