8. PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND CO-ORDINATION ASPECTS
The SaFES contract was initiated with a full consortium meeting held at the Padborg Poultry plant in December 2000. The meeting was attended by the designated representatives of the five partner companies that would be participating in the trial. This was the first time that many of the companies had met. On the first day, everyone introduced themselves and indicated their hopes and aspirations from the trial. The EC objectives of the trial were examined and re-affirmed, details of all the work packages were discussed and a common understanding of the project achieved. On the second day we had an opportunity to view the entire plant whilst in operation giving valuable input for the hardware definition stage. Possible CCPs were examined theoretically and then viewed in situ. This was most invaluable in gaining an understanding of the complexity and scope of the application. The meeting thus served a dual function; covering the financial / administrative / technical requirements and an opportunity for the team to gel. In the bid it was stipulated that the co-ordinator be the chairman of the consortium and would chair the meetings of the consortium. This was accepted and worked well, with agreement for the agendas and writing the minutes for the consortium meetings.
The success of the project can be attributed to several factors. The consortium partners have been involved in the project from the beginning of the contract to the end. Each organisation had one major point of contact and other key personnel were identified from the beginning and continued through to the end. In particular the electrical engineering support provided by both of the users proved to be of an excellent standard. So the SaFES project has been very fortunate in that respect. English was the language of the consortium and we were very fortunate that our partnersí command of English was exceptionally good across the board. There were no extraneous partners, everyone had a role and a purpose towards the success of the trial.
At the start of the contract the co-ordinator devised monthly time-sheets that could be used by all partners with a suggestion that they be used as a consistent format for recording of hours. Furthermore, later on in the trial questionnaires were devised by van Helsing for Scanfo, Padborg, Emborg, NQA and Oak Crown so that we might deduce assessments of the SaFES tool. These questionnaires were personalised to suit each participantís role, being formulated to tease out as much information as possible from each of the assessors in an unbiased fashion. They were a very successful mechanism for obtaining succinct yet comprehensive answers / reactions to a fairly complex concept under trial. There was also a general understanding that all communications be copied to the Project Co-ordinator; as far as is known this was always done! The major mechanism of communication between the partners was e-mail. On the whole this was a very efficient and cost effective communication mechanism. However, as e-mails become more popular as a mechanism, they become less efficient due to overload and pressure of work. Telephone calls were made when human communication was necessary to gauge reactions and engage in discussion quickly, to remind people of tasks not done (after e-mail reminders failed to take effect). All deliverables were sent to the EC by e-mail (followed by paper requirements) and also to the experts (once they were appointed) and all project partners.
For much of the time, the team worked together in close collaboration; extensive reviewing of EQMCís SaFES HCI was undertaken by Scanfo to ensure all HACCP requirements were met and to make it suitable for generic use in the industry. The e-mail interchange at this stage was very intense and culminated in the HCI functionality we see today. During the first 8 months numerous meetings were held between EQMC and van Helsing to jointly design the more robust system and to ensure that the way forward met the objectives in the bid; areas covered at this stage included market assessments of bolt-in modules in terms of DAQs, GUIs and system considerations. Furthermore, it was at this time that the SaFES concepts were being jointly developed and made their debut in the Venice paper.
As projects go, this was not complex as there were not that many linkages and inter-dependencies. The consortiumís requirement to have a robust hardware solution for the Padborg site caused considerable delays to the trial as there was no readily available product on the market that exactly matched the requirements and no money in the budget to develop such a product. That coupled with the fact that the consortium needed to attract a company with a specialist capability that would see the commercial benefit of working on the project at risk in the hope of future Return on Investment. This was an ambitious aim, which was achieved meeting the objectives of the trial and enabling the consortium to compare a PC-based system with a more robust SBC-based system.
During the course of the project even though the partners and their personnel were constant, there were changes in the management and legal ownership of many of the companies involved. Scanfo Apsí owner and lead consultant became the Admin Director of Foodsafe A/S and so his focus turned from HACCP consultancy to food hygiene systems. Scanfoís major part of the project was over by this time and so the project was not adversely affected. The remaining industrial dissemination activities are being undertaken now. Oak Crown Meats (sub-contractor to EQMC and a trial site for cooked meat) has been taken over by Tulip UK. Padborg Poultry was taken over by Rose Poultry on 1 April 2002 - a very critical time for the project. The take-over of Padborg and Oak Crown, the two trial sites may have implications in the downstream usage of the SaFES tool as presumably each will have to comply with their new corporate directions; conversely, these changes could be considered as an opportunity for further widespread usage.
The co-ordinator was mindful of the conflicting pressures on the trial sites. Nevertheless, in some partnersí instances there has been little incentive to deliver on time. It has been very frustrating and time-consuming to have to request the same information many times over before it is received. Retrospectively, it would have been more cost effective for the Project Co-ordinatorís office to have issued reports to the EC with indications in red as to the delinquent parties as many of the Project Co-ordinators of large consortia do.
More participation in conferences was undertaken than expected, providing the opportunity to converse with other projects. Other projects were met with applications touching the food industry, however, they were addressing collective marketing and logistics issues rather than operational issues and so there was insufficient synergy to pursue relationships with such projects.
It is timely to reflect that the SaFES projectís budget was small in comparison with the European Commission IST average. Retrospectively, the consortium has done well to accommodate the size of concept under trial within the EC budget. The ensuing work has been substantially subsidised by the co-ordinator, van Helsing Limited and the software developer, EQMC Ltd. and Padborg. The reporting overheads, although not complex have been time consuming in relation to the total budget. The consortium seriously considered extending the scope to include participants from the Newly Accession States and a time extension was granted for this purpose. As it transpired, to have added further objectives to an already tight schedule would have been unwise and problems experienced in the development of a SBC based ISP system solution caused the project to slip to fill the new project duration.
The project needed a substantial amount of management commitment and patience to drive the project forward and provide the exacting deliverables required by the EC - this positive attribute was recognised in both project reviews.
At the end of the project, all participants are pleased to have taken part and have acquired a great deal of knowledge concerning the application of e-Work (especially in the food industry, but applicable more generally) which will be utilised in developing each of the partner organisations and their products. Furthermore, the concept of SaFES has been proven, lessons learnt. There is now a greater understanding of the psychological issues associated with e-work within the food industry which can be addressed and developed to good effect. There is also a far greater understanding of the pressures experienced in the market, the market requirements and the issues that need to be addressed.