Advanced Work Packaging for Contractors

By Andrew Foy, O3 Solutions VP of AWP & Construction

I have worked for construction contractors in my career who were really good at project execution. Get in, get done, get gone. Execute lump sum work efficiently, make money, and move on to the next project.

If I had suggested the use of Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) in those companies, I likely would have been laughed out of the room. No doubt the response would have included the words “We don’t need that”.

That attitude failed to take into account a couple of key points. Firstly, they were relatively small companies, and as they enjoyed the success of their good work and grew the companies, the expertise and coherence was diluted. The new people weren’t as experienced or skilled as the incumbents, and projects became more process-driven.
Secondly, they failed to realize that the decision on whether or not to use AWP would soon be taken out of their hands by Owner companies who would start insisting on its use, rather than just relying on the contractor to pick it up organically. (Funny story: Those contractors are now using AWP on their projects. Better late than never).

So the ultimate question here is whether contractors (both Engineering and Construction) should be investing in developing their own AWP processes and technology now, or waiting for Owners to make it a necessity.

The simplest option, of course, is to wait. It makes the business case easier, because you have to do it, and people are generally at their most inventive and determined when they are forced into a deadline. But I would strongly argue against waiting, for two reasons:

1. You lost control of the process

Many Owners these days are including AWP in their contracts. Typically, this isn’t just a case of saying “Do AWP”, and leaving it to the contractors to figure out what that means. Many contracts will include pages and pages of Owner stipulations about AWP standards, processes and technology.

By waiting until you receive the Owner mandate, you lose the ability to map out your own plan for AWP implementation. You have to conform to what they ask for, even if it isn’t necessarily the best way for your company.

If you take the initiative and develop it yourself, you can:

– Assess the areas you want to improve

– Create a process that will minimize the change management impact to your organization

– Find an AWP technology solution that will complement your existing tools for project delivery

– Learn your lessons, perfect your methods, and gain AWP maturity to improve benefits

Then, when the Owner mandate appears in a bid document or contract, you can show YOUR way of doing it. Most Owners will be delighted that they don’t have to drive the process and will easily adopt your methods, as long as they meet their minimum standard.

2. Experience

If AWP is a requirement for a bid or contract, it is reasonable to assume that the Owner will include AWP experience as part of their contractor assessment and selection process. If you are starting from scratch, you will inevitably score low in this category. It shouldn’t rule you out, but it will make it much harder to compete with your peers.

If, on the other hand, you can show history of implementation and a proven track record of execution (particularly on projects when you haven’t been forced to use it), you will greatly increase your chances of success.

AWP isn’t going away any time soon. This is a natural evolution of the project execution process, and you need to get on board with it before you get left behind.

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