What do commissioning and steak have to do with each other? At first glance, perhaps not much. Yet André van Schaik, working as an independent commissioning authority for D-TACS, aptly sums up the comparison: ‘When you have a good piece of meat on your plate, you want to know where it came from, what journey it has taken and whether it meets your requirements. Commissioning actually amounts to exactly the same thing, but more comprehensive.’
‘I actually got into commissioning somewhat by accident. I have an engineering background as an owner/project manager at an installation company. Through a secondment company, I was then approached by Marco Bakker of D-TACS, asking if I could do the commissioning of a project. I then had to google first to understand the term,” André laughs. “But it appealed to me immediately and I just started.
‘My first job was at a data center in Amsterdam. I distinctly remember having a thick folder pressed into my hands containing all the test protocols I had to take. I did what it said and it was mostly very instructive. And that’s the beauty: you don’t have to understand everything in detail. A good test protocol is written in such a way that even a layman could perform the tests. The questions are unambiguous. Each question should be answered “yes. If the answer is ‘no,’ give an explanation as to why it is not in order.
A simple example:
Action: Press the light button on the left side of the door.
Consequence: Does the ceiling light come on?
Result: Yes/No, explanation: ___________________________________________
Meanwhile, André has many years of experience in the world of commissioning and has developed into a commissioning authority. That includes creating his own testing protocols. ‘When you write such a protocol, you always have to think: how do I document whether something works in accordance with how it was built?’ Everything is based on the three pillars: action, consequence and result. Moreover, a testing protocol must be reproducible over the long term. In three years, any commissioner should be able to run the same tests.
When asked what makes commissioning such a fascinating profession, André had to think for a moment. ‘Personally, I really like the variety. I am currently working in a data center and last month I celebrated my one-year anniversary at a new construction project of ASML. Before that I worked for three years on the sea lock in IJmuiden. And sometimes you work on several projects at once, so you can be active at three different locations within a week. The work is never boring.
‘Another added benefit of being a commissioner is that it is a lot less taxing on your body than many other jobs in the industry. I worked in construction for 30 years, and it was noticeable. Commissioning is then a perfect alternative. Moreover, seniority and experience is highly valued by clients.
Pros and cons
‘Of course it’s not always rosy,’ André concludes. ‘Every project has its pros and cons. For example, the sea lock in IJmuiden was a really wonderful project, but sometimes it seemed like there was no end in sight. But then the project gained momentum again. What is most important to me about my job is that I go home every day feeling fulfilled. And the fact that on the way home I always drive past three data centers where I did the commissioning only adds to that feeling.