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Well-Equipped Learning Lab: Project Management

Background

The university Engineering and construction Division is to develop some portable, flexible teaching and promotional space for our current and potential students. Six 42GO container units have been donated along with 100,000 budget for converting the containers into working spaces. Any project management task is deemed successful if it can meet the objectives and deliver the expected results by the set date. This project’s objectives include giving students a well equipped learning lab and providing the university with extra learning facilities and space. The project’s success will be judged by how much power the process can save, how much the budget was adhered to and its ability to deliver the objectives.

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This paper has identified five processes that will have to be completed in different timeliness to ensure the computer labs are running. These processes include preparations for the new labs setup and equipment, finding suppliers, putting in place and organizing human resources (labor), lab layout and learning planning, and finally putting all the above mentioned processes together to come up with a complete and operational computer center. The report briefly analyzes these processes, expected challenges and how they will be overcome. The report also costs the project and analyzes how power can be saved.

Planning

This is the first step of the project and determines how the other processes will be run. It will include determining what equipment will be required, where they will be found and how they will reach the designated location. The foundation of any project determines the success of the other process and the final results that the project intends to achieve. For a successful lab layout, the engineering department will first need to establish a good and accessible location for the project and ensure there is a well able and experienced project manager. The chosen site must have the basic facilities such as a well developed drainage system, a waste management plan, water, power and other basic amenities that an active computer lab will require. Since it is within the campus grounds, all these facilities are available. When all the basic necessities are in place, then the step will involve planning for the plant’s operations, site design and architecture, sourcing for materials and purchases for those available.

Problems that are likely to arise in this stage include lack of reliable suppliers, unprofessional designs and lack of proper human power. To alleviate these challenges, the work will be done by the university designers and engineers who already have experience in setting up computer labs and use their existing suppliers to get the equipment and other facilities.

Supplies and purchases

Good suppliers not only ensure quality, but also help the project manager stay within the set time limits when doing a project. An institution whose procurement has a good relationship with its suppliers is bound to get products at a fair price and get them without delays. There are new equipment needed for this project and for this reason, the department will need to have very reliable suppliers.

The process will involve determining how many computers the lab intends to create (capacity), the number of equipment and materials to be bought and what type. After that is done, a panel will be set to interview the new suppliers on their capacity to deliver and negotiate prices. Since the project must have a time line, suppliers who can deliver in the shortest time possible will be preferred. These include computers,printers, lighting tubes, sockets, cables, servers and others mentioned in costing.

Challenges expected include inconsistent suppliers, delayed deliveries and high prices. To curb these challenges, the institution will use existing suppliers, who the institution has established a good relationship with in the time it has been in operation. The department will also try to source as many materials as possible from the local markets to minimize time needed to transport them. Sourcing from the local markets will also make it easier to return defective materials and have others in the shortest time possible. The accessibility of the site makes it easier to transport the equipment to the site hence save time.

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Human resources

“Human resources make up the workforce of any project and help implement policies relating to effective use of resources to produce results” (Cleland and Lewis, 2008). This is the stage that will bind all the other processes together to produce a team that will set-up an operational computer lab. The number of employees needed for the project is assumed to be established a month before the project begins. The rest of the process is expected to take up to four months for satisfactory completion.

The team will be led by one of the engineers from the department to help maintain the university’s standards. The biggest challenge that the step is expected to face is lack of experienced personnel. To tackle this challenge, the project leader will be an engineer in the department who is already familiar with the institution’s policies and quality. It is expected that from his/her experience, the project will of high quality.

Lab layout

The lab layout and learning planning will be the last step of the process. The layout and planning will save the department a lot of money and time by ensuring timely completion and minimum wastage. Planning designs are expected to be ready from the first step, suppliers are expected to be identified in the second step and orders made and delivered. This process will carried out by the department’s staff to ensure consistency with the university’s facilities structures and quality of work. Installation is expected to take one month, with an assumption that required materials will be delivered on time.

The number of equipment bought and installed is classified into three categories. The computers, those required for assembly and those needed to set up a storage facility. This stage of the process is expected to start late due to the fact that some equipment will take a few months to be delivered. The engineers will start with those equipment that take less time to reach the university. Challenges expected at this stage include wrong specifications for delivered equipment and late delivery of material. The person in charge of this stage of the process will be expected to stay in touch with suppliers and inspect the equipment in their facilities before they are delivered. Suppliers will be given strict deadlines and earlier dates of delivery to provide allowance for lateness.

Basic steps will include measuring the containers to establish how many containers can be installed in one. The second step will be identifying the location of power outlets. For safety purposes, there will be no power cables and extensions running on the floor. The third step will be determining the total amperage of the room before there can be any installations. The aim of this exercise is to prevent situations where electrical systems are overloaded. Safety will be paramount to avoid constant power problems. If power problems are not taken care of, students may lose data regularly of be exposed to fire incidents.

Computers will be placed in a semi-circle to ensure each one of them is close to the wall as possible. The arrangement is from the fact that wiring and sockets will be near the wall as much as possible to minimize any contact with the students. The design is also aimed at making instructing and monitoring for tutors much easier. It allows the tutors to have access to each student, making it much easier to offer assistance as opposed to having computers in a row. To fit 15 sitting spaces, there will be at least three feet of space provided between two computers or users.

The design will in such a way that it leaves room and space for shared resources such as the laser printer and the data projector. The space will also be designed in a way that allows the visibility of the entire lab. User comfort and ease of movement will be key in the labs setup.

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Power

The most important factor to consider when designing and installing power parameters is safety. The design team will use plug surge protectors, all placed near the computers. Placing them near the computers minimizes the need to use extension cables, which many times sabotage safety measures. The project is aimed at using as much green power as possible. To achieve this, there will be solar power panels installed to be used for specific hours everyday. The photovoltaic cells are expected to produce around 120 watts each at any particular time of the day when they are on during the sunny seasons. A computer uses 60 watts of power on average. 6 complete solar power stations will be put in place, one for each container.

To help save more power, LCD monitors will be used for the students. “LCD monitors and thin client networks reduce power use by an approximated 85%” (Sukhatme and Nayak, 2010). The solar panels will be used for an average 2 hours a day to power computers. The rest of the time, they will be used for lighting. The server and printers will not be connected to the solar power source and will only run on conventional power. The university will slowly increase the use of solar power with time by investing more on photovoltaic panels. “From the Googleplex site in Mountainville California where 9212 photovoltaic panels supply 1.6 megawatts of electricity, it is evident that it is possible to power a big computer lab with solar” ((Sukhatme and Nayak, 2010).

The lab will be installed with a hybrid air conditioner that will run on solar to keep them cool during summer seasons. The system is expected to have lower electricity costs. “Its batteries can run on 24 hours basis depending with the size and when there is no sun, it can be run off of the batteries” (Fanchi and Kwang, 2010). Heating the labs during the summer seasons will be done using conventional electricity, a situation that can be later improved by installing bigger solar panels that can run on a solar powered heater.

The computers are all expected to be installed with software that helps save power consumption. This software is expected to be provided for by the university resource library. The JuicePress software is aimed at optimizing the computers’ energy efficiency. It does so by managing the power states of the machines so that they are only powered when in use. When they are not in use, the software triggers the power save mode. The software also allows the user to schedule power use in the labs and give a detailed report of how much energy has been used within a specified period of time. Using a power calculator provided for in the software, it is possible to establish more ways through which power can be saved.

To save more power, students and staff will be expected to adhere to tough lab regulations such as turning off the computers when they are not in use. Adhering to safety measures will be paramount to ensure that power incidents are minimized. By providing room for as many windows as possible, the rooms will easily cool off on their own during the hot seasons to minimize power used to run the air conditioners. The windows will also allow light in during the day to minimize the need for lighting. In future, the lab can be fitted with transparent roofs to completely eradicate need for lighting using electricity.

Total Costing

Total Costing

Conclusion

Any project management task is deemed successful if it can meet the objectives and deliver the expected results by the set date. This project’s objectives include giving students a well equipped learning lab and providing the university with an extra learning facility. The computer desks are not permanently fixed making it easy to move them anytime the space is required for other uses. The containers can therefore be used as regular classrooms since they are fully equipped with learning facilities such as projectors, white boards, laptops for the staff and printers. The timeliness set will depend with the availability of the materials and equipment required for a fully operational computer lab.

Challenges expected in the project include lack of materials, labor, inconsistent suppliers and defective equipment. Manual jobs such as wiring will be assigned to a contractor who is expected to use his own wiring material and charge the process as a complete package. Such measures will make it more convenient to run the project and have it completed on time. The mentioned challenges will be dealt with by involving as many engineers from the department as possible. That way, there will be consistence with the institution’s quality and requirements for any project.

Layout and planning will save the department a lot of money and time by ensuring timely completion and minimum wastage. Planning designs are expected to be ready from the first step, suppliers are expected to be identified in the second step and orders made and delivered. This process will carried out by the department’s staff to ensure consistency with the university’s facilities structures and quality of work. Installation is expected to take one month, with an assumption that required materials will be delivered on time.

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The number of equipment bought and installed is classified into three categories. The computers, those required for assembly and those needed to set up a storage facility. This stage of the process is expected to start late due to the fact that some equipment will take a few months to be delivered. The engineers will start with those equipment that take less time to reach the university. Challenges expected at this stage include wrong specifications for delivered equipment and late delivery of material. The person in charge of this stage of the process will be expected to stay in touch with suppliers and inspect the equipment in their facilities before they are delivered. Suppliers will be given strict deadlines and earlier dates of delivery to provide allowance for lateness.

The labs’ design is expected to ensure maximum safety and ease of movement. All the steps of the process from design, to purchasing supplies, establishing a team and the actual layout will be aimed at achieving these two factors. Most importantly, the labs are expected to use as much green power as possible and save energy. Measures put in place to ensure this is achieved include use of solar panels, use of energy saving software and rules that ensure proper consumption of power. The labs will also be designed with enough windows to minimize the need for lighting during the day and cooling during the hot season. Further saving can be done in future by having translucent roofing, which will act as natural lighting.

The whole process is expected to cost a total of £99,499.40. Maintenance will include cleaning, paying for the internet bills, servicing the computers and any repairs that may arise. Security measures will include installing a surveillance camera and fire alarm systems. The university, through its security department is expected to provide other necessary security measures such as putting a guard in place. The high security safety boxes will be used to store things such as the projectors during holidays and other staff materials. Licensing will be acquired after 100% satisfaction guarantee has been assured by the design team. Other licenses required include those for energy audits and environmental audits.

From the analysis and costing, the project is expected to be successful. Most of the equipment and materials required are easily available and so is labor from the department. The labs are expected to serve 15 students in each of the container, making a total of 90 computer students. The tutors will have a laptop and projectors for teaching. Some of the software will be purchased and the remaining will be provided by the university’s resource center. In conclusion, the money provided is enough and the project is expected to be successful.

Reference list

Cleland, D.I. and Lewis, R.I., 2008. Project management: Strategic design and implementation. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Fanchi, J.R. and Kwang, W.J., 2010. Energy in the 21st Century. Hackensack, NJ.: World Scientific.

Sukhatme, S.P. and Nayak, J.K., 2010. Solar energy: Principles of thermal collection and storage. New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill.

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