Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Vacuum Sewers

We presented at the 2011 Conference on Coastal Engineering Practice on August 22, 2011.  This conference is hosted by COPRI (Coasts, Oceans, Ports, and Rivers) Institute of ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers).

The topic of our presentation was 'Vacuum Sewers – A Viable Alternative for Coastal Areas' and is presented below. Should you want a copy of the paper, please send us an email and we will provide you with a copy of the  paper.

We have several lessons learned on vacuum sewer projects and will be very glad to share it with anyone looking to install a vacuum sewer system. Please feel free to contact us.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Challenge for CleanTech

PROTEUS Consulting is very involved in CleanTech and we are pleased to see the innovation happening in recycling, renewable energy (wind, solar, hydro, biofuels, biomass), energy efficiency, water efficiency, gray water, lighting, electric motors, information technology, and green transportation. The aim of these technologies are to create a smaller environmental footprint and reduce pollution. This indeed great that it's happening, it was needed.

The concern that we have, however, is about sustainability. Sustainability is about incorporating all the three aspects - economic, environmental, and people, and to look at viability of a technology / project on a long-tern life-cycle scale. This is best shown in this graphic by Water Corporation.

Most CleanTech projects we are finding these days are predominantly in the second Economic slice (i.e. "Find Efficiencies"). Most technologies deal with "Prevent Harm" in Environmental slice with very few actually looking at "Conserve Environmental Value". As for the Social aspect, most of these technologies are also in the first slice - "Protect Health & Wellbeing".

We feel that the push has to be towards "Create Value, Enhance Ecological Resilience, and Enhance Communities". For that life cycle analysis of the proposed technologies is essential and imperative. As an end-user, owners should ask for a comprehensive assessment of the entire technology and evaluate it's complete impact. As a clean technology provider, one should also look at presenting this information to the client. How else can a technology really be proclaimed as a 'CleanTech'? What are the metrics?

Another post on this issue can be found here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Strategies for Managers to Achieve Excellence in the Workplace

Below is the second of the two presentations I gave this morning at the 2011 AWWA Education Extravaganza. This talk actually flows from the first one. You cannot fix the problems in your organization or the greater society if you have not fixed yourself first. Working on yourself is the first step.

To be an effective manager you have to do two things - set forth a clear set of values and performance (results) expectations, and have a rigorous appraisal system. Additionally, you also have to earn the trust from your team members in order to be able to energize and activate them. That requires two things - be candid all the time, and do what you say (no matter how hard it is!)

Enjoy the presentation below. If you want a copy, please email me at consultproteus at gmail dot com.'

This presentation was also full house, standing room only! I was very happy.  Here too, I look forward to your reactions and input - What do you think? What has been your experience? What are your challenges? Please share your stories or issues with me, I will love to hear them.

I gave two presentations today. Find the first presentation here.

How to improve your work and life - be Happy!

Below is the first of the two presentations I gave this morning at the 2011 AWWA Education Extravaganza  I picked an unusual topic to talk about at a Water Industry event - Happiness and how we can achieve it. It is a topic that no one wants to talk about but everyone seems to be curious about!

As I said during the talk and I repeat here: I am no expert. Most people in the audience and who are reading this are most probably older than me and had life experiences more profound than mine. I do not claim to be any 'guru' in this field or in anything else, I am human. I have my frustrations, my struggles, my fears, and my anxieties; I also have my goals, my dreams and my hopes - just like everyone else out there. I have made some fabulous choices in life, and some really terrible ones. I am in no position to dispel any profound wisdom - what I share here is knowledge that I have gathered during my life experiences. I am just sharing my 'Aha- moments' with everyone - in the hope that it may help someone out there who is looking for an answer.
I have "miles to go before I sleep".....

If you want a copy of this presentation, please email me: consultproteus at gmail dot com.

We had a full house this morning! Standing room only! I was very pleased. I hope I made some connections today, and was able to plant some seeds that will make my audience take the path towards peace in their lives.

I will VERY interested to hear from you - What do you think? What is your perspective? What has been your life experiences? What has been your lessons learned? What are the issues you are working on? What do you struggle with? What do need help on? Can I help you?

I gave two presentations today. Find the next presentation here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Three Recommendation Letters for PROTEUS

I am very pleased to share with you three recommendation letters for the projects we performed this year.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Quality Assurance and Quality Control

I have noticed that many professionals, and even very accomplished managers, tend to lump 'quality assurance and quality control' together as if they occur together and mean the same. In reality, QA and QC are two as different a concept as can be! I hope I will be able to dispel a bit of that confusion.

Every organization seeks to achieve higher quality in their work, whether it is a product or a service they offer. These organizations seek to maximize the ability to meet its goals with a minimum of mistakes, inefficiency, and waste. And why not, this endeavor has many long-term benefits: reduction of costs, a delighted client, good future business prospects, etc. The process to achieve this continuous improvement has several steps and is, however, usually mistakenly termed QAQC.

QA (Quality Assurance) is a set of activities (e.g. a quality audit) that are aimed to ensure that the processes followed in the organization are actually happening properly and meeting the objectives. For example, a document control audit to check if all correspondence is being filed properly at the right place for easy access and future retrieval is a QA exercise. QA also works to develop processes to better handle issues. For example, when a problem has been identified in the project execution, say drawings are being issued for construction without a mechanical engineer's review, the QA manager will then modify the project execution process to include a step that includes a review of drawings by a mechanical engineer. So, the bottom line definition is that QA is that it is process focused, that is, development of methodology and standards. The goal of QA is to find a problem in the processes and make sure the checks are implemented at the right level of detail.

QC (Quality Control), on the other hand, is the set of activities that evaluate the product. So, in the above mentioned example, the mechanical engineer checking the drawings is a QC activity. This activity is focused on finding defects in particular deliverables. In a production line, inspection and testing of a sample would be QC. Here the task is to find if the deliverable / product meets the stated level of detail and specification requirements. To stress the point - this is a fault finding activity.

Now, the confusion arises, I think, is because organizations are not sure about assigning responsibility for these two activities. More often than not, these activities are assigned to the same individual - the project manager. This is not the right approach, and I have seen many cases in my career where the final quality of the project suffers due to this.

In my opinion, the project manager should be only responsible for QA and not for QC. Of course, it also depends on scope of projects. For a $5M or less construction projects, the resources are usually strapped and the PM is forced to do both, and usually manages to do a good job. But, in projects, especially $50M+ construction projects, it will be near impossible for a PM to do both QA and QC and produce good results. There are too many details to consider and the focus shifts away from QA thereby compromising the project. For such projects, the PM should focus on QA and QA only. He/She should have the lead engineer or a third technically savvy engineer deal with the QC part of the project. When setting up the project the PM will need to put sufficient QC check points in his/her project execution strategy to ensure the 'fault finding' is adequately happening on the project and the quality of the final deliverables going out of the door meets (or exceeds) the quality standards promised to the client. His/her job is to constantly monitor the operations to make sure the QC checks and the recification is happening. On projects greater than $150M, there should be dedicated QA manager.