With market pressure growing for products to be delivered more quickly and less expensively, companies are continually looking for techniques to streamline their work processes — techniques like fast-track project delivery.

For people responsible for capital project delivery — vice presidents, project managers, engineering directors or anyone involved in project execution — fast-track project delivery can play a fundamental role in any process where there’s a need to get a project to market quickly, or to expand capacity rapidly. Your window of opportunity is short, so the faster you can get the item into consumers’ hands, the better.

In manufacturing, like in so many other industries, if there’s a demand for your project and you can’t meet it, someone else will. There is an ever-present, ever-growing need to fulfill supply and expedite project execution.

That’s exactly where fast-track projects come into play. By presenting companies with a single point of responsibility, fast-track project delivery helps keep their manufacturing processes moving forward while still enabling new and upgraded processes to be integrated into their plants.

When properly executed, a fast-track project has the potential to go beyond giving a manufacturer a business advantage over its competition by enabling it to get its product to market more quickly. Fast-track project delivery also can help mitigate three significant threats to manufacturing: risks associated with costs, scheduling, and safety and quality.

Mitigating Cost Risks

Some of the most common cost risks that manufacturers face when needing to expedite a project include the accuracy of cost estimates, timing of funding, lack of vendor competition and complications from schedule compression.

Using fast-track project delivery, risks in cost estimates are minimized through effective preliminary engineering and scheduling. When the team is able to identify budget issues early in the design process, cost estimates are more thorough, eliminating threats from potential, costly surprises later when a plant moves into production. In addition to identifying possible budget challenges early, fast-track project delivery also establishes processes for communication should the scope change throughout the project life cycle.

Just like the importance of identifying potential issues early in the process, projects can also face significant threats due to the organization’s funding schedules. For most projects, the point in the project life cycle in which the project is funded is a key to the project’s success or failure. By utilizing fast-track techniques to develop a solid communication and budgeting plan, owners can navigate through their organization’s funding cycle. Then, manufacturers have a more solid and secure road map for streamlining the project’s execution cycle to align with the organization’s funding cycle.

By implementing fast-track project delivery, teams are also able to use transparent contracting methods to mitigate cost risks associated with a lack of competition. In many cases, competitive bidding for equipment and construction trades can be integrated into the overall project schedule, allowing competitive bidding for 80 percent to 85 percent of the total project cost. Costs associated with round-the-clock construction can be mitigated by establishing alternative construction work schedules.

Mitigating Schedule Risks

Along with the importance of alleviating cost risks, a fast-track delivery process allows teams to mitigate scheduling risks during the project. When faced with the problem of limited schedule float, fast-track project delivery methodology helps drive decisions — such as the decision to modularize equipment — early in the planning process. Modularizing equipment reduces installation time by shifting construction activities from the field into the equipment shop. When modularizing equipment, it is vital for the project team to engage equipment suppliers early and to establish an equipment expediting plan to avoid potential scheduling roadblocks caused by equipment deliveries.

Through the fast-track delivery process, teams should also identify any permits that might be required for the project and define the appropriate party responsible for obtaining those permits. By designing the project for a phased startup and prioritizing work based on the complexity of each startup, a fast-track project delivery mitigates the scheduling risks caused by projects with limited time available for the startup and commissioning stages.

Mitigating Safety and Quality Risks

While the risks spurred by costs and schedules can cause significant complications for a project, one of the most important risks to mitigate throughout a project’s process involves the safety and overall quality of the project.

In fast-track projects, construction schedules are usually compressed and, in many cases, construction occurs around the clock. In these circumstances, worker fatigue is a serious threat. By anticipating this issue, fast-track project teams are able to mitigate fatigue risk by strategically dividing the work so that the project can be executed in manageable pieces. Along with having a plan established in advance to avoid fatigue, fast-track projects also mitigate issues caused by work area congestion by developing an hour-by-hour schedule that identifies areas of trade overlap and enables the project team to make alternate plans to eliminate this overlap.

Just as these steps create a safer environment for workers, they can also help prevent costly — and dangerous — errors in design and in the field by establishing the framework for robust quality reviews and effective QA/QC processes.

It’s all about finding the balance between going fast and still maintaining responsible control of the project. In an industry where going quickly sometimes means losing control of variables, fast-track project delivery helps companies achieve manufacturing benefits while also avoiding costly pitfalls.

With fast-track project delivery, you can decrease the time of project delivery significantly, maintain a predictable cost and schedule, and still get all the project deliverables you want. To learn more about this project delivery method — and how it helped a snack brand save $4 million — download this case study.

With more than 19 years of experience in the food manufacturing industry, Justin Mitchell applies his skills in food and consumer products manufacturing while working in the Process & Industrial Group at Burns & McDonnell, where he focuses on system design and integration and project management.