How to embrace a modern engineering process that supports the needs of construction, from start to finish
Once you’ve laid the foundation for construction-driven definition and planning, it’s time to turn your attention to engineering. Layer 2 is about transforming your engineering team, process and deliverables so they support construction. In this article, I’ll explain what that looks like in practice, the challenges you’re likely to encounter, and the benefits of making the change.
Who does it, and why?
The move to adopt construction-driven engineering is typically initiated by leaders in an Owner or EPC company, usually as part of the larger process of implementing Advanced Work Packaging across the entire organization. Less often, it is initiated by an engineering team inside a company, or by a stand-alone engineering company positioning itself for growth.
Most organizations adopt construction-driven engineering in an effort to remedy engineering slip, which is one of the biggest challenges facing capital projects today. Some estimates put the average rate of engineering slip at over 40% — a troubling figure that has serious consequences for capital project timelines, quality and budget.
After the pandemic we expect to see more fast-track projects, further increasing the overlap between engineering and construction and compounding these troubling statistics. Construction-driven engineering can help.
Begin with the end in mind
The fundamental question that drives engineering transformation is this: “How do we begin with the end in mind?” In other words, how can we change our engineering process and deliverables to support the construction schedule? In practice, most organizations embarking on Layer 2 find they must dismantle and rebuild their engineering process from the ground up.
The first major component of this rebuild involves scheduling engineering milestones to coincide with the Engineering Work Package release dates, which are themselves tied to the Construction Work Package installation dates. This sounds simple, but in most of the organizations we work with it requires a radical paradigm shift in addition to significant organizational changes.
The second component of the rebuild involves producing Engineering Work Packages that are acceptable to construction. In many of the organizations that we work with, EWPs are released without input or review by construction. That needs to change.
You cannot have construction-driven engineering without close collaboration between construction and engineering. The goal of the third step is to ensure that the assumptions and decisions made by engineering are in line with the logic of construction.
Execution, Challenges and Deliverables
Layer 2 execution looks different in every organization. The overarching idea is that engineers need to reorient their work to focus on the needs of their colleagues in construction. In a large company, this may mean that the construction management team works right alongside the engineering team to offer feedback in the early engineering phases. In a smaller organization, leaders might host “friendly Fridays” at which key people from engineering and construction get together to review the week’s developments to ensure that the needs of construction are being met.
The reality is that every organization we’ve worked with has encountered significant challenges and opportunities at Layer 2. The primary challenge is that engineering departments must undertake major changes in support of the transition to Advanced Work Packaging — the biggest changes in your organization. In addition to cultural resistance, there are significant procedural and systemic issues that need to be identified and resolved at this stage. This takes time, leadership and change management skills and it’s a critical piece of the AWP puzzle: If the engineering team is not on board, it won’t work.
The second challenge is fundamentally a business challenge. As you embark on construction-driven engineering for the first time, you’re going to be scheduling work far earlier than ever before. In doing this, many capital project organizations realize they’re already late, and they haven’t even started. It goes without saying that this is not a popular development, and leaders must manage the fallout with both internal and external stakeholders.
The chief deliverable for this layer is an engineering team with a construction-driven mindset, well-versed in the benefits of AWP and committed to supporting construction through the entire project lifecycle. The secondary deliverable is a documented process for delivering Engineering Work Packages that support and align with the needs of construction. Some organizations need a new EWP template, or updated roles and responsibilities in the engineering department. What your organization needs will depend on your level of maturity.
Keep your eye on the prize
Layer 2 is challenging, to be sure, but the benefits of nailing this step are immeasurable. If you’re on an engineering team and you’ve got a seamless, proactive relationship with the field, your daily work is faster, more accurate, less likely to be sent back for rework and often more enjoyable. For engineering groups and contractors, a construction-driven approach provides a meaningful competitive edge. At the organizational level, the benefits of a construction-driven engineering department impact the entire construction process, improving predictability measures throughout the entire project lifecycle.
If you’re interested in learning more about Concord’s AWP implementation layers, consider watching our free, on-demand Implementation Scenarios webinar. To read the earlier articles in this series, follow the links below. If you’re ready to transform your own engineering group, contact us today!