By Josh Girvin, O3 Solutions CEO
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
Roosevelt’s words are a perfect summary of choosing a Pilot Project for your first implementation of Advanced Work Packaging (AWP). While picking the wrong project is infinitely preferable to not starting your implementation at all, your chances of success will be greatly enhanced by picking the right project.
So, what does the right project look like? I’ll lay out several factors that can guide your choice:
You might not have a choice, especially if you are working for a contractor company. More and more Owner companies are now specifying AWP as a requirement on their projects, and if you want to win the work, you have to get on board.
Your management team may also target a specific project for strategic reasons, where the project outcomes are critical or the company is trying to make a good impression on a new client. In these cases, AWP can be used to help mitigate project risks, regardless of contracting style.
Timing is everything
I have written about this before; when it comes to an AWP project, timing is everything. Choosing a pilot project that is early in the front-end engineering stages will give you the best chance to influence the outcomes. Too many times, we see projects trying to implement AWP shortly before the field crews are mobilizing to the site. That isn’t really AWP (it’s actually just Workface Planning), and it won’t maximize your potential return on investment. So, instead, look for a project that has just passed the Concept/Select stage and is working towards refining its scope.
Typically, a pilot project is a way a company will assess whether AWP will work for you, and you will look for positive results from that pilot before agreeing to implement AWP across your portfolio. In that case, it makes sense to select a pilot project that will return results in a reasonable time period. You don’t want to wait five years to see productivity gains and other benefits, so don’t choose a very long project. Look for something that can prove the results in a relatively short time, and then expand from there.
Select a project with an appropriate level of complexity, where early construction input can have a significant impact on the outcome. If you pick a simple project with a single discipline and a lump sum contractor, you are not likely to see significant performance improvements. And if you pick one that is too complex, you might be biting off more than you can chew for a pilot implementation of AWP.
Align to your goals
When you are choosing a pilot project, you should have already gone through the process of deciding what the key desired outcomes are for your company. When choosing the project, select one that can meet these outcomes. If your company is targeting improvements in certain key disciplines, make sure they are included in your pilot. For example. if you are targeting improvements in safety, pick a project that allows you to have influence over the safety performance on site. If your pilot project can’t support your company’s AWP goals, it will never be seen as a success when viewed through the lens of your key performance indicators.
Crawl, walk, …then run
AWP does not have to be an “all or nothing” approach. You can choose to start slowly and build up your maturity over a series of projects. Some companies start their AWP journey with a target of producing better CWPs, in order to support contractor bids. Some will target creating Installation Work Packages (IWPs) for certain key disciplines at first, like pipe and steel, and then expand from there.
Whatever you do, make sure that the goals for AWP align with the project you choose. And make sure that you keep expectations in check. Don’t let management get carried away with the idea of 25% savings in labor (and 10% savings in TIC) on your first AWP project with you just getting started with a small part of the AWP process. Set correct expectations early.
Return on Investment (ROI)
Pick a project that makes sense financially, where your company will see a suitable return on its investment. Implementing does AWP costs money, and you need to make sure that the savings will outweigh the costs. O3 has a sophisticated ROI tool to show the various costs and savings available with AWP. A simplified version is available on our website. So if you have a number of projects under consideration to be your pilot, run the numbers on each and see which one will give you the best bang for your buck.
Last, but certainly not least, identify a project team that is appropriate for implementing AWP. The selection of the people will be every bit as important as the selection of the project itself. Select a project team that has shown a consistent willingness to embrace change and is eager to learn new processes. Find people who understand the value of AWP, and what it can do for their chances of successful project delivery. A reluctant Project Manager or Construction Manager can do more damage to a pilot AWP implementation than any other factor, so choose your people with care. For the other project teams, once they see the success of the pilot, they will be keener to jump aboard and support AWP.
There is no magic recipe for picking the right AWP pilot project. But if you follow these basic principles, you can identify the one that gives you the best chance of positive outcomes. And from there, you can expand AWP across your organization, improve your organization’s AWP maturity, and reap all the benefits that it brings.
Good luck. And if you need us, we’re here to help.