It is no secret that the larger the project, the more challenges and issues an EPC faces to successfully execute against it. Studies have shown that a majority of the largest EPC projects come in over-budget or delayed, with 3 out of 4 projects at least 40% behind schedule.
Although they don’t get the attention that mega projects do, smaller projects face the same challenges. And the impact to your company can be just as devastating with delays, misalignment, misunderstandings, poor collaboration, and more. There are a number of factors that can contribute to missed deadlines and budget over-runs. Some are unavoidable but most can be mitigated by understanding the root cause and applying new techniques.
In this blog, we will take a quick look at the common challenges that plague EPC projects of all sizes and how digital transformation can help you overcome them so you can deliver better results for clients, every time.
“A tremendous amount of collaboration occurs on a typical project between technology licensors, multiple EPC firms, engineers from many disciplines, estimators, project managers, owners, subcontractors, consultants and regulators.The problem is that much of this collaboration is happening through brute force and is rife with problems and limitations. Emailing spreadsheets that are soon out of date, conference calls where key people are missing due to conflicts, and changes in scope or schedule that are not distributed in a timely manner result in thousands of wasted work hours every year.”
Paul Donnelly.Hydrocarbon Processing / January 2020 AspenTech
- Lack of Visibility – From initiation through the final stages of execution, tracking the design aspects throughout the project plan is essential to reducing surprises, frustration and rework not to mention that milestone dates and deliverables are completed on time and on budget. However, keeping an eye on things can become difficult to do when you have multiple tools, teams, vendors, suppliers, and stakeholders to collaborate and align with daily.
- Insufficient Collaboration & Communication – No matter the size of your project, clear communication and cooperation are key to delivering on time and on budget. Since one person cannot fulfill all of a project’s needs, managing people across internal and external teams with various timelines, agendas and workloads can be cumbersome, especially if the methods you’re relying on include outdated spreadsheets, hard-to-track email chains, and siloed file transfers.
- Outdated, Inconsistent Information – Often times, project team members may keep their working files of project information on shared drives and personal PCs. Usually this is due to a lack of central data hub to place files, or they want to avoid the wrong party viewing the information in an unsecure location. The problem with this is that with multiple copies floating around on the team to work from and make changes to, project members can become frustrated and confused as to what information is the most current and correct.
Think about the age-old adage of what constitutes insanity – repeating the same mistakes over and over and expecting different results. Although often attributed to Albert Einstein, whoever imparted these truthful words could have been talking about EPC projects… If what you’re doing is not working, repeating them again and again will not bring you better project outcomes the next time around.
So it’s refreshing to hear that according to AspenTech’s Concurrent Process Engineering Industry Survey, two-thirds of EPC firms declared that they were undertaking, or planning to undertake, a major initiative to improve productivity, speed and agility. The article goes on to say that many industry executives are targeting productivity improvements of at least 30% (measured in work hours and dollars), and plan to increase their overall responsive to customers throughout the project lifecycle from bidding through handover.
With this in mind, what can your company do address the common challenges that hinder your project execution? And, how are you planning to increase project performance, productivity and enhance execution and delivery for clients?
According to the article by Hydrocarbon Processing regarding the trends taking hold of the EPC realm, in less than ten years, EPC leaders will have fundamentally empowered their workforce with smart technologies that are capable of significantly reducing risk and redundancy in everyday tasks and processes, leveraging the advancement of AI, data analytics, and high-speed computing to increase efficiencies as well as raising the standards for traceability and accountability for information without the reliance on paper documents.
In the new era of online and remote working, now more than ever, the desire for many EPCs is to be able to share project data more broadly across various teams, functions, vendors and suppliers using secure, rule-based technology in order to increase transparency from planning through to execution, and allow for all vested parties to track deliverables and progress in near real-time with information that can be trusted.
Undoubtedly, technology is helping companies to make significant progress toward addressing and automating many pain points; however, technology alone is not the answer. If people and processes are not accompanied by technological advancements, any operational initiative in the pursuit for improvement will fail.
Nonetheless, it is not uncommon for companies to develop or buy, support and maintain various software applications and technology platforms, most of which are incompatible islands of information. This is unwieldy and expensive, and acts as a barrier to speed and collaboration. Within the next decade, it is expected that many successful companies will have taken stock and inventory of their tools – specifically their value, costs, maintenance, scalability, etc.
One of the biggest takeaways from the last year of remote working is the targeted advancement from IT leadership to limit their strategic investments to software that drives better collaboration, cuts operational costs and improves agility and resiliency, as noted in this article from CIO. Partnering with a smaller number of trusted suppliers that offer broader solution coverage and make it easier to move data around, companies can dramatically lower costs, foster a connected workforce, speed up projects and increase efficiency.
Hexagon PPM Division’s SDx Projects
Hexagon PPM Division’s web-based, data-centric solution SDx Projects is designed to help you reduce project costs, time, and risks associated with poor project performance. Here are just a few of the benefits customers can expect to receive.
For starters, SDx Projects can help you mitigate additional costs and risks associated with last minute changes that sometimes occur late in the project. By enabling greater visibility into the design for stakeholders, the element of surprise is significantly reduced, which allows for better project awareness and control. This transparency also improves collaboration and communication between parties who are assisting in project execution and increases greater participation for meeting obligations and deadlines, ultimately reducing rework – thus helping keep the project on schedule and budget!
Effective communication is an essential prerequisite to the success of any project, requiring contributors to work together. HxGN SDx Projects provides the ability to send queries between project participants and reference relevant project information such as tags, documents, contracts, purchase orders, and elements of the work breakdown structure, all within a single system. HxGN SDx Projects ensures that communications are immediate, everyone is working on the same “single source of truth,” and all actions are recorded, traceable, and reportable. Project stakeholders have immediate knowledge of the status and an overview of the complete project that is current, complete, and consistent.
HxGN SDx manages all of the engineering information, while traditional document management systems can only function on document metadata. Our solution incorporates full document and tag management capabilities, including sign off, revisioning and number allocation. In addition, you can easily create business rules for routing documents that leverage the data and relationships giving you more control and putting fewer mis-routed documents in your inbox.
With the vast amounts of information and documentation exchanged between parties on projects, controls over privacy and access to information are paramount, yet much of the information needs to be shared. A project may include a wide range of stakeholders, such as clients, contractors, suppliers, non-governmental organizations, and local and federal authorities, all contributing information for many reasons. HxGN SDx Projects allows project contributors to upload information into the portal for review, while providing project stakeholders the ability to collaborate on the information while maintaining the appropriate level of control to ensure that proprietary or private information is visible only to approved participants. In short, SDx has security and permissions that work the way you do, without having to spend a fortune on configuring a document management system.