Understanding Advanced Work Packaging

Capital projects have been around for hundreds of years, expanding in size, expense and complexity over time. They also have a well-documented reputation for exceeding budgets and timelines, putting the focus on productivity issues as a culprit.

In the last 20 years, however, a different approach to project planning — advanced work packaging (AWP) — has been changing how those projects are organized and built, redirecting the focus toward efforts that markedly improve productivity in order to rein in costs and delays. Just how much improvement is AWP capable of delivering? According to the Construction Industry Institute (CII), it can boost productivity (time on tools) up to 25% and shave 10% off of total installed cost. When you take into account the substantial expenditures involved in building large-scale capital projects, this can translate into a significant impact on the bottom line.

Now considered an industry best practice, advanced work packaging can be a rather complex planning process — and an increasingly required one. With that in mind, let’s take a high-level look at what it is, how it differs from standard work packaging, and what construction companies stand to gain by implementing it.


Timing is key with advanced work packaging

Construction managers often have not been included as part of early-stage planning and discussions. Rather, they’ve merely been expected to show up just as ground is ready to be broken.

That late-stage involvement may have been a key factor leading to budgets and schedules that were overshot because they adhered to the more standard work package for engineering and design rather than a more real-world-focused one for construction. With advanced work packaging, construction managers are brought in at the very beginning to organize the actual work.

But that doesn’t mean construction operates as a siloed function. AWP brings together construction, engineering and procurement into a collaborative relationship to determine their respective deliverables in support of the construction-driven plan — before work begins on-site, hence, advanced work packaging.

What this does is bridge the well-worn gulf between plan details normally determined by engineering and design, and what construction actually needs to build the project. Advanced work packaging hyper focuses the project scope by taking an incremental approach to organizing the work from the perspective of construction’s role. How? By arranging workflow along a start-to-finish timeline, called a Path of Construction, which continues through commissioning and up to handover to the client. The work is broken down into more easily manageable chunks of sequenced tasks (work packages) throughout this path.


Everything in the right place, at the right time

Organizing units of work along this construction continuum gives more control over not just the process but especially the constraints that impede productivity. Chief among these are the unavailability of jobsite resources and a lack of job-specific details.

Naturally, work slowdowns occur if scaffolding has yet to be built, not enough tools or supplies are on hand, materials are delayed in transit, or heavy equipment is delivered to the wrong area of the jobsite.

Just as important as those resources is access to job task information. This can be the latest drawings and 3D models, material safety data, installation instructions, checklists or permits. Not having the right permissions to view these items or being faced with missing, insufficient or obsolete information merely adds to the waiting game (especially if they’re in hard copy and have to be retrieved from a jobsite trailer).

In both instances, they put a ding in the ability to keep costs and delays in check. And that will be reflected in earned value management metrics — including schedule performance index and cost performance index — that track job performance.

The advanced work packaging process meticulously determines what is needed, when it is needed and where it is needed, so everything is available for site crews to properly execute the work. Think of it as a “mini project in a box.” All the components that a single-discipline or multi-discipline site crew needs to complete a specific task — from tools and materials to digitized information — are “packaged up” for that unit of work, known as an Installation Work Package (IWP).


Benefits of implementing advanced work packaging

Besides more effective project planning, less downtime for site crews and tighter control over costs and schedules, proactively removing constraints early in the process through AWP can yield other positive effects, too.

  • Reduced labor costs resulting from less idle time
  • Increased quality resulting from fewer change orders
  • Improved project performance in terms of schedule and cost outcomes, validated by earned value management metrics with limited deviation outside of their operating ranges
  • Streamlined final inspection and commissioning processes with less likelihood of incomplete or unsatisfactory work occurring and winding up on punch lists
  • Less risk of withheld contract retention and threats of litigation for liquidated damages
  • More accurate project predictability gained by planning incrementally and identifying constraints up front — so that individual work packages, and therefore the overall project, are more likely to be completed on time and on budget according to original estimates

Advanced work packaging is a solid concept that, used to its best advantage, can do wonders for your project outcomes. InEight Plan can help streamline your AWP plans as well as everyone’s efforts, so all teams have what they need for a more efficiently managed and built project. Curious how it works? Schedule a demo to see how it can benefit your future projects.

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