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Advanced Work Packaging: Thinking with the End in Mind

First published at PMI Online Publication

For many years, the construction industry community has focused on field execution planning techniques to unlock field productivity improvements. While many benefits were achieved, those techniques remain limited by the sequencing and the quality of the flow of information produced during the definition and engineering phases.

Traditionally, contractors face a large amount of rework due to poor field planning and poor coordination between engineering and construction. The loss of productivity caused by rework could be prevented by a more proactive alignment effort between engineering planning and construction planning. This can dramatically increase capital effectiveness in construction projects delivery.

More recently, there has been an increased awareness within the construction industry of the importance of thinking with the end in mind by integrating field execution elements and considerations into the definition phase. This typically translates into various initiatives that range from assigning the construction manager to the project during definition before the start of fieldwork to entirely rearranging the sequence of the project work to be driven by field installation, with engineering deliverables flowing into predefined construction packages.

Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) is a work process framework fundamentally based on the idea of thinking with the end in mind. It is designed to allow engineering planning to be driven by construction sequencing. Simply put, this is achieved by breaking down the project scope into Construction Work Packages that are fed with Engineering Work Packages. The AWP framework proposes an enhanced set of practices performed in the construction industry for executing work packaging.

Advanced Work Packaging: Aligning engineering planning with construction planning

AWP is a disciplined approach aiming to improve project productivity and predictability by aligning planning and execution activities throughout the project lifecycle, from project setup to startup and turnover. It is the overall process flow of the development of work packages in a staged, planned and executable process that systematically accounts for engineering, procurement and construction perspectives.

The essence of Advanced Work Packaging is described by the figure below:

The first stage, Preliminary Planning/Design, contains an important addition to traditional work-packaging practices, which consists of adding the construction sequence and the release dates for engineering packages as critical planning elements. Achieving a coordinated planning sequence for all the construction, engineering and procurement specifications is the major goal of this phase. The project is initially broken into a set of Construction Work Packages (CWPs), which define the logical and manageable division of work within the construction scope. CWPs are aligned with the project execution plan and with engineering deliverables, or Engineering Work Packages (EWPs).

The second stage, Detailed Engineering, includes the detailed specification of EWPs. Estimates are further refined and are based on a thorough resource loading, which is prepared for engineering (by discipline), for procurement (by commodity delivery date) and for construction (by area).

The third stage, Construction, involves the development of a set of Installation Work Packages (IWPs) that contain all needed documents in support of safe and effective installation of a specific manageable portion of a system. Each IWP is issued to the field with all the necessary resources in place before fieldwork starts. IWPs are developed and approved by the responsible superintendents or foremen in order to foster accountability and empowerment among frontline personnel.

Benefits of Advanced Work Packaging

The scope of industrial construction projects has always been broken down into smaller and more manageable portions. Among the most common project planning approaches, work packaging has been extensively used and recommended within project management theory to divide the scope of work into manageable units for execution.

However, traditional work-packaging concepts are becoming less and less effective to execute projects characterized by high levels of complexity and uncertainty--especially with the fact that traditional concepts place most of the emphasis on schedule definition and field implementation activities, almost neglecting the alignment between different disciplines that is required since initial project definition.

Being a work-packaging method, AWP integrates work information packaging with engineering, procurement, construction and project controls and enables the engineering team to support the construction sequence and schedule. Evidence of advanced work packaging implementation benefits have been perceived and documented on projects across North America and Australia, ranging from Total Installed Cost (TIC) reduction of 25% in chemical construction projects to a 37% increase in craft tool time in the oil and gas industry.

The cost of implementing Advanced Work Packaging

Construction project environments are complex, and the direct and indirect cost of a change in project management strategy can be difficult to secure. When considering an implementation of an Advanced Work Packaging Strategy for your company or a specific project, any of the discussions and decisions concerning any additional indirect costs during the early phases or the implementation should be taken in context--with the expectation that you should target ranges of construction labor savings, schedule improvements in line with your industry average benefits and your organizational AWP maturity.

Working on your project’s capital effectiveness is an iterative process that, in line with the philosophy of AWP, should involve all stakeholders and align all perspectives on the expected benefits.

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