AWP’s Desperate Need for Consistency

By Josh Girvin, O3 Solutions CEO 

“Oh yeah, we do AWP” is a very common statement in industrial construction, usually thrown out a split second after an Owner company says they plan to use Advanced Work Packaging on a project. Heads are nodded sagely, and assurances are offered: “No problem at all. We know all about AWP and have been doing it for years”.  

The problem, almost inevitably, comes when work is underway. The Owner thinks that they have explained their expectations well and that the contractor understands the requirements. The contractor has probably even put on a PowerPoint presentation to show their experience with AWP, filled with lots of impressive graphics and industry buzzwords. But when the project is moving forward and deliverables are due, things start to slip.  

“We didn’t realize you meant that!”, often followed by “We haven’t had to do that for other clients”.  

The issue is consistency; there is no standard agreed version of what “doing AWP” on a project actually means. Some Owners will have very detailed procedures. Others will leave it to the Engineering, Procurement, and Construction contractor(s) to decide what it means.  

We don’t allow ourselves to suffer the same ambiguity in other critical areas of project delivery. I have never, for example, heard an Owner tell a Contractor to “shoot some of the welds; whichever ones you feel like”. We make standards, specifications, and procedures, often to the point where the contractors are drowning in detail.  

We need, as an industry, to do the same for AWP. We need a system where an Owner can say “On this project, we will perform AWP to the requirements of standard XXX-123”. And we need that standard to be available and consistent across the industry.  

It will not be one size fits all. There will have to be options.  

  • Projects vary in size and scope. 
  • For some projects, the Construction contractor may not be involved in AWP at all and may be limited to WorkFace Planning.  
  • You might be lucky enough to work on a project with Engineering 100% complete by the time you mobilize to the field, in which case the prioritization of Engineering becomes moot.  

And we need to allow for different levels of maturity in implementation, both from the Owner and the Contractors.  

This standardized categorization will not come from a Contractor or even an Owner. As with AWP itself, it will need to be led by a group such as CII or COAA. To kick-start this process, O3 is currently Chairing a CII Committee that is developing a multi-level AWP categorization. The results of this work will be published soon, describing what each category means and the relative investment and benefits associated with each. If you are interested in supporting these efforts reach out to me and I would be happy to add you to our committee.  

Until that is done, treat AWP Implementation the same as you would when hiring a new employee. Dont rely entirely on the resume. Some contractors have excellent AWP procedures, often written by consultants, with no idea how to implement them. So do the same thing as you would when hiring that employee: insist on an interview. Not a PowerPoint presentation. Not a sales pitch. Just a conversation. It will very soon become apparent whether they understand AWP or just pay it lip service.  

Owners need to be diligent in their analysis of the Contractor’s AWP maturity and then they need to reward those contractors that can demonstrate that they take AWP seriously. For more on this subject see my previous blog on how Owners need to Own AWP. awp categorization tool


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