Jeremy Kalmus: An Engineering Career
By Lori Musser
Meet Jeremy Kalmus, a structural engineer who works for Bechtel in Houston as a civil, structural and architectural, or CSA, engineering group supervisor. For more than 15 years he has carried out design, engineering supervision, front-end estimating and construction for oil, gas and chemical projects. His portfolio includes liquefied natural gas, coker, pipeline and refinery projects.
Kalmus married his high school sweetheart and settled in Texas, where his children are on the cheerleader and football teams. A dedicated supervising engineer with a solid work ethic, he remains a staunchly-determined family man who devotes any free hours he can find to spending time with his family.
But, Kalmus has been known to burn the candle at both ends. He has worked on projects from Australia to Abu Dhabi to Algeria during his time with Bechtel Oil, Gas & Chemicals. He even spent a year at Bechtel’s Shanghai office, training the CSA team on steel design and automation software for a Gulf Coast modular project.
A Texas A&M University hire, Kalmus has worked his way up through the ranks at Bechtel. In the early years he designed steel structures and foundations.
“Over time, my interest leaned more toward steel design, which led me to focus more on structural steel,” he said. “Once the Shanghai assignment was complete, I followed the project to the jobsite for three years, where I worked as the resident engineer. In this role, I supported the construction team for all aspects of the project.”
That included the supply chain interface.
Engineering, Supply Chain Intersect
Successful project engineers quickly develop cross-functional leadership skills. In addition to the distinct technical skill sets of their chosen field, engineers collaboratively work to solve problems from a project’s very beginnings, often through component transport to final installation, and sometimes to operation, maintenance and even project disposition. As lifecycle project management gains devotees, an engineer’s role gains complexity.
During his three-year stint as CSA resident engineer for a project in Port Arthur, Texas, Kalmus recognized that “some of the more complex challenges were related to the module load-in and the setting of these modules.” As the vital role of supply chain elements became readily apparent, Kalmus continued to hone his project management expertise while working with broad-based teams that exposed him to freight handling skill sets and technology, from cranes and self-propelled modular transporters to tugs and barges.
“Once I returned to the Houston office, I took a lead role for an Australian LNG project. This was a modular project so engineering was required to engage with all parties that served a key role in delivering the structures,” Kalmus said. It was on this project that he learned to embrace all functions of engineering, procurement and construction , or EPC, to successfully execute certain aspects of the project.
For him, the importance of the supply chain interface has been a recurring theme. “After the Australian project, I found that my next few assignments were similar in a way where I could use the knowledge I gained from past assignments and apply to current situations,” he said.
The Bechtel Way
Houston-based engineering giant Bechtel aims to be the world’s premier EPC management organization by achieving extraordinary results for customers, building satisfying careers for its people, and earning a fair return on the value it delivers. It certainly has the resources and knowledge to undertake just about any project, and, in fact, has projects, people and offices in more than 40 countries.It takes world-class expertise to achieve that sort of reach. Global EPC projects are nothing if not complex undertakings, with thousands of workers, a web of suppliers and vast inputs of material, equipment and services.
There is perhaps no greater threat to a project’s success than silos of information. First-rate project management is built on a strong culture of shared learning. Part of Bechtel’s corporate culture involves identifying key lessons learned to serve as guidance for similar projects, Kalmus said.
Taking lessons learned to a higher level was a natural progression from Kalmus’ continued exposure to the significance of the engineering-supply chain interface.
“After Bechtel completed three world-class modular LNG projects in Australia, we wanted to capture all the valuable lessons-learned data from these projects. Bechtel Engineering was challenged with producing a document where we identified all the critical steps starting with conceptual design decisions (what to modularize), and ending with setting the modules in their final positions,” said Kalmus, who took the lead role in developing this roadmap.
“For more than 12 months, our engineering, procurement and construction team members participated in brainstorming sessions, where we eventually ended up producing the final document – a management instruction called the Cross-functional Work Process for Sea Transportation of Structural Modules – detailing the steps required to successfully complete a project where you have modules that are transported via barges or ships on the open ocean,” Kalmus said.
“The tool we developed is innovative. It’s a game changer,” he said. The level of detail is such that each step of the project EPC process, including all aspects of the project cargo supply chain, is anticipated. “When you move 70 to 100 or more modules for a project, each move is still unique,” Kalmus said, but there are parallels. Bechtel’s new tool is now used by its EPC teams on other projects to prevent surprises and inform their management decisions.
Large, perhaps US$5 billion to US$15 billion projects require cross-functional engagement, of which Kalmus has become a steadfast advocate. “I like to encourage my team to engage with all functions – rigging engineering, logistics, naval architecture, construction, etc. – that have a role in the successful delivery of oil and gas modules.”
One of his mantras is working together instead of alone, and another emphasizes the importance of communication and collaboration. “We work in an environment that is changing constantly, and if we keep moving forward without confirming the starting basis we could encounter issues at the end when timing is critical,” he said, noting that engineers need to remain flexible at all times to help achieve project goals related to schedule, cost and other imperatives.
He described the engineer’s role in a typical move of oil and gas industry modules. After receiving a set of design parameters, the engineer seeks clarification as needed, and confirms the starting basis is still valid before finalizing the designs.“Large-scale and/or geographically diverse projects provide challenges that you will find impact the design parameters greatly. The design engineer must think out of the box,” he said. For example, depending on the mode of transport, the structural framing of the module may be impacted. It is important to understand and communicate how the modules will interact with transportation systems.
“On one of my last projects, we were about to complete the construction of our module and start preparing for loadout when we found that we needed to change the barge type. I had to quickly assemble a team so that they could assess the new design parameters and input these into analysis and simulation files to run comparisons, so we could verify the modules could be shipped on the new barge,” Kalmus said. Once the team verified the module was safe for shipping, engineering then had to prepare updated design documents.
Value of Communication
Managing shipments of multimillion-dollar, high-and-heavy modules is a highly integrated, interactive process. At Bechtel, the process is facilitated by in-house procurement and contract specialists providing end-to-end supply chain management. Bechtel’s supply chain organization provides global procurement and contracts services supporting large, complex projects located almost anywhere. Their goal is “the responsible purchase and safe delivery of quality goods and services, from reliable and diverse suppliers and subcontractors, where they are needed, on time, and at the lowest total cost of ownership.”
“Engineering typically engages with our in-house logistics team, not outside service providers. The logistics team determines when and if it is appropriate to engage outside logistics service providers for input. Since we can handle this in-house we are able to limit the challenges,” Kalmus said.
He noted that there is always a need for continual attention and improvement to communication and collaboration through a shared work-process where all disciplines understand the entire process and their individual contribution to successful delivery outcomes.
Project component design and engineering influences supply chain choice, and vice versa. Large-scale modular projects that involve long ocean voyages present special design challenges because of the potential to encounter numerous forces during transit that, for example, produce accelerations and induce bending, Kalmus said.
With time, there has been a trend toward larger modules, and as individual modules have become larger, the challenge increases. “When we encounter challenges like this, the design team will need to consult with our in-house experts, including logistics, rigging engineers, and naval architects, so that we can achieve the project goals. The only way we can overcome these challenges is to continually communicate and collaborate with all the functions involved,” he concluded.
Based in the U.S., Lori Musser is a veteran shipping industry writer.
Photo credit: Bechtel
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