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Responsibilities and accountabilities for industrial facility commissioning and startup activities

James T. O'Connor (Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA)
Brant Mock (Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA)

Construction Innovation

ISSN: 1471-4175

Article publication date: 3 June 2020

Issue publication date: 24 August 2020




Successful commissioning and startup (CSU) is critical to successful capital project completion. Industrial facility production and operations can also be affected by the level of CSU success. Specifically, transitions between construction, commissioning and startup (CCSU) phases, as well as between project organizations, have been identified as an opportunity for improvement across the industry. The purpose of this paper is to establish and clarify CCSU accountabilities and responsibilities for industrial-type capital projects across these transitions.


This research used a panel of industry practitioners to assist with data collection, review research products and provide industry perspective. The authors used the insight of these CCSU experts to craft new CCSU models. A separate set of industry practitioners was used to validate the findings, and an illustrative case study is also provided. Descriptive analyses and statistics aid the interpretation of research findings.


Substantial research findings include: three novel CCSU project delivery models, a comprehensive CCSU activity flowchart applicable across industrial sectors, and an extensive CCSU RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed) matrix detailing responsibility and accountability assignments across 60 project functions for all of the 124 CCSU flowchart activities. Four key leadership functions are found to be accountable for most of the CCSU process. A need for frontloading CCSU activities during construction is clearly demonstrated, and the value of administrative activities as enablers of core CCSU activities should not be underestimated.

Research limitations/implications

The findings contribute to a more accurate model of CCSU execution best practices for industrial applications. Specifically, CCSU project delivery models give insight into high-level transition structures between organizations and across phases.

Practical implications

The extensive listing of CCSU activities along with suggested accountability and responsibility assignments for each activity give CCSU managers a starting point for ensuring that important tasks are not left undone during this critical phase of capital projects.


New CCSU models for industrial capital projects presented in this paper (including CCSU project delivery models, activity flowchart and RACI matrix) constitute substantial contributions to the industrial construction body of knowledge. These models provide more comprehensive coverage of CCSU topics than their predecessors, and specifically address activities and issues pertinent to industrial construction. The establishment and clarification of responsibility and accountability assignments are of particular value during this high-transition stage of capital projects.



O'Connor, J.T. and Mock, B. (2020), "Responsibilities and accountabilities for industrial facility commissioning and startup activities", Construction Innovation, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 625-645.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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