Identifying Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) with the capabilities and experience to design, build and deliver physical assets that perform beyond stakeholders’ expectations is an important initial step in delivering a successful project. Yet when tunnel vision sets in at this early phase of concept and design and firms begin focusing in on the traditional metrics of initial costs, scope and schedule to define a project, the opportunity to raise the bar on obtaining the lowest possible life cycle costs (LCC) through improved long-term performance is often lost before it’s even defined.
"Wrong decisions made early can be salvaged, but 'right' decisions made late cannot." Jerry Madden, NASA PM
As depicted in the following figure, the chance to influence the outcome is greatest at the earliest phases of the project and this is why it is so critical to ensure all the interests, functional and user requirements have been gathered from the stakeholders who supply or operate and care for the asset throughout its life. Not identifying all of these stakeholders may be the biggest mistake managers make that end up costing the asset owners in the long run.
Identifying the stakeholders goes far beyond including the internal departments represented within the buyer’s organization. OEMs, contractors, vendors and other outside suppliers represent a group of external stakeholders often not invited to participate in the project at all. What opportunities are missed as a result of this oversight? The opportunity to engage this group of professionals and to afford them the ability to apply their knowledge to a project and to concurrently gain their ownership is essential to achieving the objectives of all the other stakeholders identified. A tool carefully constructed to identify the right OEMs and other outside stakeholders who can partner with the capital project owner at this level is the Request for Information (RFI).
The RFI is a tool that should be used to inquire about an outside company's capabilities in order to qualify them as worthy of receiving an RFP. An RFI can be used to inquire into the standard practices of a company to quantify and qualify their capabilities and desire to take a project from concept to operation and deliver the value and performance the project owner requires.
The RFI is a tool used to determine who is invited to respond to the RFP and should weed out those companies unable to meet the projects’ and stakeholders’ expectations or perform as a partner.
Recognizing that the biggest opportunity lies in being involved in the design of the systems and selection of the equipment, identifying those OEMs who are most capable of participating and contributing at this early phase provides a strategic advantage to the firm in addition to increasing the value of the overall project. Figure 2 has been proven empirically and largely represents all capital projects with complicated systems and equipment where 80 - 85% of a project's LCC is fixed during the design phases. It is during this phase of a project that nearly 60% of failures & safety issues can be prevented.
Identifying OEMs, suppliers, vendors and contractors with expertise in the maintenance and reliability profession who can translate their expertise into the equipment design and options, documentation, training and services they supply is paramount to achieving the goal of lowering the LCC of each capital project. Requesting a company’s ability to support requirements with respect to an asset’s lifecycle should be considered while developing the content of the RFI.
If you would like to learn more about how to achieve lower life cycle cost, download the complete whitepaper that includes the contents for a comprehensive Design for Reliability (DfR) and Front End Planning (FEP) toolkit.
 Dr. Benjamin S. Blanchard: Design and manage to life cycle cost, 1978, PB - M/A Press
 Ramesh Gulati: Maintenance and Reliability Best Practices, Second edition