O3_Insider: Advanced Work Packaging and Engineering

Advanced Work Packaging and Engineering

By Josh Girvin, O3 Solutions CEO

Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) is doing a lot to change the power dynamic in capital project execution. Previously, Engineering owned the early project stages, and Construction was treated as the end result, often being handed information as it became available, in whatever sequence made sense to Engineering.

Implementing AWP helps to correct this by improving early Construction planning on the project and aligning the Engineering and Procurement activities with the Path of Construction. This is, of course, a necessary and much-needed development in the efficient execution of capital projects. But it can also leave a bad taste in the mouth with Engineering, who see the use of AWP as a purely construction-driven process, that has no value to their scope.

So why does Engineering view AWP as a hindrance?

Most Engineering contractors have well-defined processes for project execution they have developed over many years, and that their personnel knows and understand. The introduction of a system like AWP can often be seen as a disruption to that established process, particularly when Construction is being invited to propose the execution sequence.

For most Engineering contractors, AWP is only used on a project when mandated by the Owner and is viewed as something to be tolerated or endured, rather than embraced. The AWP value proposition is typically viewed as being a benefit to the Construction contractor or Owner only, leaving the Engineering contractor to ask, “What’s in it for me?”.

There are, however, some small signs of change within the industry. Some Engineering contractors are recognizing the value in AWP as a delivery process for Engineering scope, rather than purely for the project overall. When applied properly, the use of AWP can help Engineering in the same way that Workface Planning can help construction. These improvements are being keenly sought, particularly by Owners, as Engineering productivity and quality metrics continue to decline, and Engineering becomes an ever-higher percentage of overall project costs.

Let’s take a look at a few of the examples of how AWP practices can help Engineering execution:

Level Four Planning – Much of the drive to improve construction performance has focused on the granularity of the planning and packaging of the field scope. That process has been very slow to be adopted within Engineering, where much of the work is only organized at the discipline level. More detailed and granular planning, breaking down the Engineering scope into smaller executable tasks and reporting progress against those smaller tasks, will provide similar visibility and accountability for the delivery of Engineering scope as Workface Planning has achieved for Construction.

Constraint Management – Typically AWP looks at constraint management through the lens of the end-user, the Foreperson, and crew in the field. Engineering deliverables are listed as a constraint on Installation Work Packages (IWPs), often in the form of “do we have the drawings we need?”. But the same upstream process is rarely applied to Engineering itself. The complexities of modern projects mean that Engineering would benefit greatly from the identification, planning, and active resolution of constraints that can impact their work scope.

Design Work Packages – A relatively new concept within the continuous development of AWP, the DWP is a smaller work package for the execution of the Engineering scope, similar to the IWP for field installation activities. These DWPs, which act as ‘children’ of the ‘parent’ Engineering Work Package (EWP) allow an individual or small team within the Engineering contractor to focus on a specific task until it is complete, and to track that task along with its associated deliverables. This allows us to treat the Engineering scope in the same manner as we would the Construction scope, by “eating the elephant one bite at a time”.

Vendor Work Packages – These critical elements of Engineering scope are often sources for delay and consternation on modern capital projects, with the primary Engineering scope often being delayed or re-sequenced based on the availability of information from various vendors and suppliers. The use of VWPs will allow the Engineering contractor to gain better visibility on the status of this vendor data and, critically, understand what subsequent packages are impacted by that information. Vendor data can be targeted based on criticality, rather than being managed on a “first-in, first-out” basis.

O3 supports ten work package types, including DWPs and VWPs, facilitates detailed level four planning, and has a world-leading constraint management solution. These concepts are no longer aspirational; they are available now.

Much of the benefit from implementing AWP is seen at the construction site, which certainly continues to be the main focus area for improvement. But most projects will also realize significant benefits from detailed Engineering planning and execution, which can help to reverse some of the ongoing declines in Engineering performance.

AWP has been proven to work for Construction. Engineering is the next frontier, and contractors will need to get on board quickly, or risk being left behind.


I am currently assembling a Joint Working Group under the Construction Industry Institute (CII) to investigate the optimization of the AWP process for Engineering. If anyone would like to join this group, to help advance the benefits of AWP within Engineering, please contact me at josh@o3.solutions

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