How leading companies can harness technology to execute work packages with dazzling efficiency
Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) is reshaping the capital construction process, but current project management methods and tools simply don’t allow most companies to leverage the full benefits.
It’s a bold statement, yes, but the hard truth is that trying to implement AWP with existing project management tools is like putting wooden wheels on a Tesla: You’ll never know how fast the engine can go, because the wheels will break long before you reach top speed.
AWP has become an industry best-practice because it works. The construction-driven definition, preparation, and organization of project work has allowed companies to make great strides in integrating engineering, procurement and construction, saving up to 25% of total installed costs. Those are significant gains.
The problem is that many companies stop there, and vast amounts of critical non-engineering information remain outside the Advanced Work Packaging ecosystem. This results in “knowledge leaks” that compromise both the effectiveness and efficiency of capital construction projects. Weak communication and poor integration means critical information goes unshared.
“Our competitive advantage [today] is not just that we’re supersmart, but in how we bring other people together,” Katrina Pugh told the Energy News Record in a recent interview. Pugh, the director of the Information and Knowledge Strategy Program at Columbia University, said much of your company’s tacit in-house knowledge is never verbalized.
“We have blind spots,” she says. “We don’t always know what we know.”
Where are your knowledge leaks?
In a typical capital construction project, assurance and reviews are still conducted by outside organizations, and there is no established, standardized mechanism for integrating their findings into future work packages. In most companies, benchmarking and analysis still take place separately from AWP practices, as does the administration and evaluation of project controls. Safety findings and applications often meet the same fate.
Our industry’s current attempts at integration typically come through the project delivery system or the process map. Whether you’re using an Integrated Project Delivery system or the Stage-Gate process, these static approaches simply aren’t enough — not if you want to reduce budget overruns and transactional costs in an increasingly competitive world.
While AWP provides a solid project foundation, the execution plan only lays out the sequence in which work must be done. It doesn’t tell you what information you’ll need to do the work, or when it should happen relative to external events and inputs. It doesn’t tell you who is responsible for accomplishing the work, or even who is accountable.
We cannot expect AWP to succeed if we’re using old tools to manage this new and more complex type of collaboration. We need new tools that can help us to ensure that the right person makes the right decision at the right time. If we’re going to succeed with teams that number in the hundreds and even thousands of people, these tools must be both independent and eminently reliable.
Your technology should mirror your fit-for-purpose work process
Lauren Trees, principal research lead at the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC), says many organizations are looking to address this challenge with big data and predictive analytics as well as cloud computing and advanced collaboration tools — and the possibilities, she said, are exciting.
“From machine learning and natural language processing to full-fledged cognitive and artificial intelligence (AI) applications, organizations are just starting to grapple with the potential behind these new technologies and the resulting shifts in how employees access and analyze corporate knowledge,” she wrote recently on the APQC Knowledge Management blog.
Consider, for example, the power of linking non-engineering information to new 3D models. As an industry, we’re already benefitting tremendously from new technology that allows us to build the asset’s digital twin before construction, and companies are already tagging these 3D models with advanced work packages. Adding sequence and time to these 3D models, effectively allows you to build a movie that shows the construction of the asset.
However, to ensure that truly reflects the reality of construction execution, companies need to connect all the other pieces of the puzzle: people, data, procedures and institutional experience. Full integration is key to leveraging the full benefits of AWP.
New tools for a new era
Our industry is entering a new era, and they key to plugging the knowledge leaks is to connect non-engineering information with the existing engineering data.
To start, we need to connect real-time field inputs like readiness and progress reports with our digital twins. Knowledge libraries must be connected with physical work packages. Ultimately, this critical integration process can be expanded to include a live Project Execution Plan, live project management deliverables, even a live organizational chart.
The platform technology to do this already exists. It remains only for companies to take the leap.