Operational Readiness

Operational Readiness is a condition that is gradually achieved through carrying out activities that result in the safe startup of process.

Loss or non-conformance is higher during the shift in starting up a process, and, therefore, a structured and safe startup can reduce risk.

In today’s article, we’ll be looking at operational readiness; we’ll be covering 

What is operational readiness?

Operational Readiness is a method that ensures a process achieves a state of readiness by executing a structured series of defined steps that result in the processes safe startup.

Operational readiness is usually used in the following circumstances:

  • New Processes
  • Processes that have been stopped, pending change
  • Processes that have been stopped for alternative grounds.

Where processes have been stopped (and are being restarted). They may have been shut down 

  • A short time ago
  • A long time ago.

Operational readiness can also extend to the start-up of a facility; however, this can be viewed as a process, albeit a complex one consisting of many activities that meet a particular goal.

Operational readiness is seen as an essential step in reducing the risk of issues or non-conformance during the startup of a process. Where processes are complex or have high risk, an error resulting from failure can, at worst, result in loss of life or injury.

What does operational readiness involve?

Operational readiness is based on two core tasks.

  •  Planning 
  •  Reviewing

1/ Planning

Planning involves establishing the steps you will undertake in order to assess readiness.  

Plans will, of course, vary on requirement (and sometimes industry) but generally involve some of the following:

  • The process and any equipment used to carry it out are in line with the design specifications of the process 
  • All equipment is available for execution of the process
  • The process has been assessed and deemed safe 
  • Appropriate procedures are in place 
  • Routine maintenance activities have been identified and owners are in place
  • Emergency procedures are in place, 
  • Training has been completed
  • Risk analysis has been carried out

Plans will vary depending on the size and complexity of the process being assessed. This might be fairly straightforward for a process such as manufacturing a component to highly complex in the opening of a new facility.

2/ Reviewing

Once your plan is in place, you will execute it, reviewing each requirement (or step) to establish whether a state of readiness exists.

The output of the operational readiness assessment activity is either

  • Confirmation/authorisation that the process is ready to safely start, or 
  • Detailed actions that must be completed before the process can start

Why are processes stopped?

As well as new processes that need to be established, operational readiness can also be related to restarting processes that have been stopped.

Numerous events might cause a process to be stopped; these include:

  • Changes in demand
  • Safety issues
  • Precautionary (i.e. an external event such as bad weather)
  • A process change

Operational readiness helps to re-establish a process in a safe and controlled method. This is especially important given potential concerns if the process has been previously shut down due to an incident.

Why use operational readiness?

The need for operational readiness is driven predominantly by ensuring that processes work safely and effectivity.  

In terms of safety – evidence suggests that more incidents occur at the ramp-up/commencement of a process

In terms of effectivity, ensuring that a process is ready to be implementned through a staged methodology helps ensure it’s succesful release.

Operational readiness helps us by:

  • Ensuring safety is included in the process start up
  • Ensures requirements and dependencies for processes are captured
  • Avoids the potential for start-up and shut down as a result of issues found in-situ once the process has started
  • Acts as a repository for decisions made around the process

In practical terms, this means:

  • Conditions required by the process can and are not being met are captured
  • Lack of documentation about how the process should operate can prevent process launch
  • The readiness state of tools and equipment is validated
  • Staffing issues are highlighted 

Processes can be complex and issues can arise from a number of factors from people, systems, processes and both internal and external events. 

As a result, business needs effective capability that deploys, operate, and maintain the systems and procedures. 

Who carries out an operational readiness review?

The assessment of readiness reviews will vary depending on various factors, including process significance, safety risk, equipment used.

Where the readiness requirement is straightforward with minimal safety concerns, the review may involve the operator who might execute a checklist.

More complex processes may involve a range of personnel from the operator(s), Quality, Safety. Final sign off may require someone in authority to make the final assessment.

How do you carry out an operational readiness assessment?

The process is likely to depend on complexity.

Where the process is simple, the operator may follow a document verification process to ensure that the process is ready to commence.

Where it is complex (or the process is high risk), the review may include significant details and review many factors from equipment, personnel, facilities, requirements assessment, Quality, Safety etc

The assessments are often multi-stage and can take weeks/months to conclude, requiring multiple levels of sign off.

In practical terms, the assessment usually follows the use of a checklist (or series of checklists) that validate the process for operational readiness.

What is an operational readiness checklist?

Actions relating to the smooth ramp-up and start of a process can be complex, and steps may be overlooked.

An operational readiness checklist provides a structured tool that includes the specifications and criteria that brings a project or process into a condition of readiness; it ensures the following of a pre-planned commencement process.

By their nature, operational readiness checklists will vary depending on what is being assessed.  

They are, however, likely to have a number of common elements; these include:

  • Information relating to the business, process, the location being assessed
  • Information pertaining to the reviewer
  • Information on what should be assessed. This may include detailed information relating to specifications or technical content. On complex assessments, this information can be significant.
  • The standard that must be achieved to ensure process start
  • The sequence of what should be assessed 

Benefits of operational readiness

As we’ve described above, there are numerous benefits to operational readiness; these include:

  • Governance
  • Improved safety
  • Schedule achievement
  • Reduced cost (as you avoid what goes wrong)
  • The whole business is prepared for the start of the process

Issues associated with operational readiness

As with any process, there are some issues to watch out for; these include:

  • Operational readiness can often be neglected because activities are usually not part of the project lifecycle.
  • The transition from project work to operations is not streamlined.
  • The process is ill-defined, and requirements have not been identified in the Quality plan
  • There is a failure to engage all stakeholders
  • Risks have not been identified correctly
  • Those responsible for operational readiness are not part of project/program governance
  • Stakeholders may have different views on what constitutes readiness
  • Risk may need transferring between processes, and not all stakeholders may be part of the process.


In summary, operational readiness is a process that helps an organization transition a process from design through to deployment.

Operational Readiness helps the startup (or restart) of a new process.

Using an operational readiness process can significantly improve the success of a process/project providing smooth operation from the start.

Have you helped your organization in the development of an operational readiness process? Do you have tips or learning to share?  

As ever, we’d love to hear from you.  

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