Why a Project Integrator Plays a Crucial Role on Any Airport Construction Project

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In an era of a growing number of public-private partnerships in the aviation transportation space, it has become clear that when one designs, develops, or modifies an airport terminal, a specialist – called a Project Integratormust be on the team and should be identified as early in the process as possible, most preferably during the concept development phase. Whether it be teaming with an airport authority, general contractor, or airline operator, the Project Integrator will focus on different integration and interfacing aspects of the airport development project such as technology integration, aesthetics, various programmatic components, and even social interactions.

As a systems engineering practitioner, I see many common threads between a systems engineer’s role and that of a Project Integrator. I learned many years ago that a systems engineer wears many hats during the execution of a project’s lifecycle which includes design, development, implementation, operation, maintenance, and even retirement and disposal. The same goes for a Project Integrator.

So, what are the specific roles of a Project Integrator and what primary functions must the Project Integrator successfully accomplish? Using the build-out of a new airport security checkpoint as our example, the Project Integrator needs to wear the following hats:

Requirements Manager and Allocator: The federal regulator (in the U.S., that’s the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)) sets the requirements from both a high-level perspective (e.g., how many security lanes or mod-sets must be built, which technology will be used, etc.) and a lower-level perspective (power requirements, distance between lanes, etc.). The Project Integrator then needs to translate and communicate those specifications, which are in the hundreds, to the checkpoint design/build team. Misunderstanding the TSA’s strict guidelines will lead to scrap and rework, delays, increased costs, and frustration among the numerous stakeholders. Additionally, where there are also state and/or city regulators to work with, the Project Integrator can untangle and clarify the many, and potentially conflicting, intertwined and/or confusing, requirements between the regulators, obtain concurrence from each, move the project forward thus mediating costly delays.

Project Coordinator: When building out a security checkpoint there are many stakeholders (e.g., Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), base building engineers, technicians, equipment riggers, local TSA, Airport Authority, etc.) that require one focal point of contact to manage and coordinate the installation of all checkpoint security systems, subsystems, and ancillary equipment. That one focal point is the Project Integrator who has a clear understanding of the big picture (e.g., the need for a passenger-friendly and visually appealing checkpoint), an attention to detail to address items like the identification, coordination, and management of all electrical power requirements (e.g., size and quantity of circuits, type of receptacles, location of receptacles, etc.), and intimate knowledge of data requirements (network topology, quantity and location of data drops, terminations, etc.). Having ‘too many chefs and not enough cooks’ leads to extreme inefficiencies because there is no longer one decision maker giving informed responses to myriad questions that come up during project execution. In many cases, you have numerous ‘perceived’ leaders providing their opinions, which unfortunately may not align with the project’s goals.

Project Scheduler: The schedule is the glue that ties everything together on any project. The Project Integrator needs to ensure that it clearly lays out what work needs to be performed, which stakeholder organizations will perform the work and, of course, the deadlines that must be met. With most projects, changes to the project schedule are inevitable. Managing those changes and understanding how they impact other parts of the project is not only a science but an art. Without a viable integrated schedule, it is nearly impossible to complete the project on time and on budget.

Customer Liaison: Being onsite from the beginning to the end of a project enables a Project Integrator to be keenly aware of its many moving parts. They can act as both a watchdog and an advocate for the customer. They also have the ability to interact frequently with the regulators, keeping them up to date on implementation changes, risks, issues and concerns. Without having that customer liaison onsite, you risk not having meaningful input as things change and adjustments occur. It is also essential that the Project Integrator be attuned to the customer’s needs, both relayed and anticipated, to ensure a communication continuity that aligns with the customer’s expectations when relaying information to other stakeholders.

Logistics Manager: There are a multitude of fluid and dynamic components within the supply chain and logistics operations. The top priority for a Project Integrator is to ensure that the missions of all equipment providers, both government and Industry, are aligned. The Project Integrator coordinates the shipping, delivery, and off-site storage of all security checkpoint equipment from the various OEMs, and also coordinates with base-building contractors/subcontractors for all site access, deliveries, work hours, labor/work rules, temporary services and on-site storage.

Verification Analyst: Prior to the TSA’s Site Acceptance Testing (SATs)/Integrated Site Acceptance Testing (iSAT) of the checkpoint screening equipment, the airport authority, general contractor, or airline operator must ensure that the screening technology is ready to be transitioned over to the TSA. The Project Integrator will use TSA-provided testing procedures to confirm the system meets the specified requirements. Questions normally arise regarding the actual outcome of the tests versus the expected outcome of the tests. The Project Integrator is in the ideal position to answer these questions and to address any anomalies. Without having that expertise on-hand, the airport authority, general contractor, or airline operator may be required to purchase multiple, and costly, TSA-testing cycles, resulting in additional delays in obtaining TSA approval to deem the checkpoint operational for screening passengers.

As an airport authority, general contractor, or airline operator goes through a terminal redesign or modification project, there is often the tendency to undervalue the need for a Project Integrator who, most likely, is not a high priority on the ‘to-do’ list. This is short-sighted. Hiring a skilled Project Integrator is a relatively small financial investment when one considers the potential dividends. A Project Integrator is like a capable experienced quarterback who knows what it takes to make it to the “Big Show,” stays calm and cool while they oversee, coordinate, execute and successfully complete your most complex jobs. Every project has distinct elements and goals and presents unique challenges that demand constant attention. A Project Integrator understands the big picture, but also sweats the small details, is OEM agnostic, in order to work well with all parties, and has the knowledge and experience to drive your project to a successful, on-time completion. By investing in a Project Integrator, you are getting an extra set of eyes laser-focused on the process, results and, of course, your bottom line. It is an investment you won’t regret.

 

K2 Construction Consultants, Inc. Security Screening Group is an industry leader in implementing critical infrastructure security capabilities at airports, and other large and small transportation facilities around the world. We design, plan, manage, and install screening technology solutions for passengers and customers, screening and scanning technology solutions for baggage and cargo, and surveillance and monitoring technology solutions for access control. Focused on providing holistic solutions, our security experts and systems integrators serve as trusted partners to our customers, providing innovative and implementable solutions to the most complex security-related construction and modernization projects. We offer the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), airlines, airport authorities and airport operators a comprehensive service offering, by teaming with top-flight partners across the aviation industry spectrum. Those partners include general contractors and construction companies, original equipment manufacturers, logistics experts, and transportation specialists.

For more information, please contact K2 Construction Consultants, Inc. Security Screening Group at info@k2consulting.com or 301-656-2228.

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Steve Karoly is Executive Vice President of K2 Security Screening Group and former Acting Assistant Administrator for the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Office of Requirements and Capabilities Analysis. Karoly also served as the TSA’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Security Capabilities and CBP’s Chief Engineer and Director of Systems Engineering for the Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition (OTIA).

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