This powerful work process can benefit projects of all sizes and scopes -- all it takes is a little fine-tuning
There’s plenty of evidence that Advanced Work Packaging can transform small site-based projects. The earliest case studies looked at large and small projects, and it’s simply a failure of vision to think that this powerful, proven work process can only be applied to multi-billion dollar megaprojects. If you’re managing a small- or medium-sized project, this article will introduce you to the simple steps you can take to make your project more efficient by applying the practices and protocols of Advanced Work Packaging (AWP).
Advanced Work Packaging Basics
Advanced Work Packaging, or AWP, is a construction-driven planning and collaboration system for building capital projects. The key word here is construction-driven: The entire AWP process is focused on creating a constraint-free work environment in the field. A constraint-free work environment ensures that field teams have the equipment, materials and instructions they need complete their work. This reduces idle time, increases labour productivity and improves project outcomes -- the hallmarks of an AWP project.
How do you achieve a constraint-free work environment? You start by creating detailed work packages very early in the project lifecycle, in advance. (This is why it’s called Advanced Work Packaging). These work packages must be informed by a Project Execution Plan and a detailed Path of Construction, and supported by a comprehensive and disciplined stakeholder integration.
AWP is significantly different from standard work packaging, which is not entirely construction-driven. Standard systems bring in construction leaders just before the shovels go into the ground; by contrast, AWP requires that construction leaders be involved in planning from the outset. Standard systems organize work packages around engineering, design or a myriad of other drivers, whereas AWP requires that work packages be organized solely around the Path of Construction.
1 | Focus on Principles
Get familiar with emerging AWP principles and apply them to your current project management system. Focusing on principles helps you see what’s most important (and what isn’t); it also means you recognize that a management system is more than an assembly of tools, management and practices. This is by far the most important step.
For example, one key principle of Advanced Work Packaging is that all activity must be construction-driven. Look at your current practices through this lens and assess the degree to which each of your processes is construction-driven. Practical problems will be easy to see: If your construction team isn’t involved until all the planning is complete, bring them in sooner. Other problems will be less obvious, but equally important: If your materials management team is stuck working with lagging indicators, you field crews may not have what they need to get the job done. Look deep.
Ask your team: How does this principle translate across the project management system you currently have in place? What needs to change to bring the process into alignment with AWP principles? When you have your answers, take action on the areas that matter most to you right now. Perhaps you want to focus on those that are related to predictability and continuous improvement, or those that will reduce risk or enhance collaboration. Or perhaps you’re focused on the bottom line.
Figure out what AWP looks like in the context of your small project, and begin.
2 | Simplify and Customize
The next step to reclaiming AWP for small projects is to undertake the difficult work of simplifying and customizing. Because it has so far been used mainly on large megaprojects, AWP has evolved into a necessarily complex system with many components, several layers and extensive collaboration requirements.
You need to cull everything that isn’t essential to your small or site-based project. This will differ depending on the organization you’re working with and the project you’re undertaking. There’s no one-size fits all approach to simplifying and customizing AWP.
For example, consider your templates. A large project will have templates containing much more information than what is necessary for a smaller project. If you’re embarking on a site-based retrofit, for example, you may need a template with revamp-related information. The goal should always be to collect and share the information that is relevant to your project.
3 | Scale Your Strategy
Write this on a sticky note and tape it to your desktop: “Pilot projects do not drive transformation.” Sure, you’ll need to pilot your new construction-driven AWP processes. But don’t fall prey to the all-too-common illusion that a handful of pilot projects will somehow drive a wholesale transformation of your work processes or your organization. They won’t.
By the time your pilot project is wrapping up, you’ve done much of the heavy lifting in terms of thinking through your internal work processes and testing new approaches. Don’t stop now. Your next challenge is to develop and execute an implementation strategy that looks beyond individual project processes.
Step back and look at the big picture. Consider the culture of project delivery in your organization, reassess your contracting strategy, think big. Then develop an implementation plan that addresses not only the project-specific process, but also the organizational processes as a whole. To leverage all the benefits of AWP, you must not only adopt it at the project level, but at the institutional level as well.
Early Adopters Get The Competitive Advantage
The benefits of Advanced Work Packaging are clear, and it’s increasingly common to see AWP principles and practices applied to megaproject and major greenfield capital projects the world over. It’s still uncommon to see smaller, site-based projects using AWP, and those that move first will secure a strong competitive advantage. Why not you?
Learn more about AWP, click here.