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Everything’s Bigger in Texas

by David on April 7, 2015

Many of our blog readers are aware of Schneider Geomatic’s 50+ year history in the Midwest providing engineering and land surveying services that set the standard for high quality and excellent client service. Over the past decade Schneider Geomatics expanded into other regions and most recently has set their sights on the Southwest, identifying Texas as “ground zero” for energy sector projects. Here in the Lone Star State, we are developing a team experienced in operating successfully in this environment. But what’s so different about Texas? Well, size of course.
Let me demonstrate what I mean through the example of a Texas project on a grand scale. In 2010, I came to Texas to be a part of a team of surveyors and mappers, engineers, environmental scientists, electrical transmission experts, and right-of-way specialists working on the transmission build-out program for a 330 mile CREZ project across ten counties from West Texas to a growing area south of Dallas. You may be wondering what a CREZ project is. The acronym CREZ stands for Competitive Renewable Energy Zone. Here’s a little background to help explain their importance.
About 10 years ago, the State of Texas established its renewable energy program and directed the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to identify geographic areas where wind generation facilities could be constructed to increase renewable energy production in Texas and serve the future electric needs of the state. In 2008, the PUC identified five Competitive Renewable Energy Zones covering vast remote areas in West Texas and the Texas Panhandle. In order to benefit the more heavily populated regions of Texas, various CREZ projects were then authorized by the PUC to develop the infrastructure needed to transmit the electricity generated by the facilities in these zones hundreds of miles across the state to large communities such as Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, and San Antonio.
The project I was involved in was just one of several underway at the same time, and from that experience I learned that there is truth to the saying “Everything’s Bigger in Texas!” Everything about this project was BIG including the surveying effort. Our surveying contract was well into seven figures, we had over 200 billing phases to track, and an entire room devoted to storing all the title commitments for over 1700 parcels…you get the picture. Expectations were high as well. This was a project that needed to be routed and engineered on-the-fly and subsequently constructed based on the results of our survey, and it had a hard deadline. The PUC demanded that this line be in-service by March 2013 giving us approximately 30 months after they approved the project to get through the right-of-way acquisition, design, construction and as-built phases before they could “flip the switch.”
I had the opportunity to co-manage the surveying throughout the project and I can tell you that the phrase “How do you eat an elephant?” came to mind. The common answer of course is “One bite at a time.” Another way to express the same concept is that you manage it in smaller parts. Everyone involved agreed that the best way to successfully accomplish this project was to divide it up and treat each part as a separate, but integrated, project. Ultimately the entire length was divided into ten segments, roughly 30-35 miles each. We did not try to tackle all ten at once, but instead we staggered our efforts such that when we reached a pre-determined stage in the first segment, we rolled some of our team over to the second segment, and so on. At the peak of the project work was being done in all ten segments at the same time, but it was winding down in the early ones and ramping up in the later ones.
Were there setbacks? Most certainly. Did we have to make some course corrections? All the way through. In order to ensure the project was a success the entire team adhered to a few basic and timeless management principles:
  • clear and frequent communication
  • consistent follow through
  • tracking our progress
As with any project, large or small, it is imperative to establish methods of clear and frequent communication at all levels, and use them. Set an expectation of consistent follow through right from the beginning, and make that your mantra all the way thorough. And develop a routine to know where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re headed; otherwise, if you fail to track your progress throughout the project you will surely end up in perpetual “crisis management” mode. It sounds simple enough, and of course this is just the foundation upon which all the other details of a project are built.
These principles are applicable whether you are managing your project or leading your people, and they exist at the core of any great company. For over a half-century, Schneider Geomatics has put these principles to the test and have proven that they work. We are excited to offer this level of experience and continue setting the standard in the survey profession for our clients in the great State of Texas in 2015.
Interested in knowing more about our new Texas Office?