Large-scale construction projects require collaboration from many different parties. Engineering, procurement and construction need to integrate seamlessly to deliver projects on time and on budget. But bringing all the necessary data and methodologies into alignment has always been a challenge.

With the growing acceptance of Advanced Work Packaging (AWP), this is beginning to change. Although the construction industry historically has been slow to adopt and utilize technology, it is starting to realize that the right technologies can help increase productivity to get jobs done safer, faster and on budget.

Going Digital

The adoption of AWP is essentially about moving from a document-centric workflow to data-centric execution and virtual project delivery. Engineers typically provide detailed documentation to procurement and construction. However, because each of these teams operates according to its own methods and objectives, that documentation can easily be misinterpreted.

In a document-centric workflow it can be difficult to make sure that all teams understand and agree on the structure and coding to communicate what materials are needed, what has been purchased and when it will be available on-site relative to construction. This kind of miscommunication inevitably leads to delays and downtime.

Achieving AWP on large-scale projects has required digitizing many of these processes and integrating them into a singular digital platform. Project teams have had to develop consistent structures and coding, thereby helping eliminate the silos of the existing document-centric workflow.

Integrating Across Functions

At its core, AWP is a highly integrated communication process. It helps communicate scope, schedule and progress, and it digitally connects all phases and initiatives of your project. This allows you to plan work well in advance, which helps provide cost and schedule certainty and enhances productivity during construction.

When implementing AWP, many construction companies integrate construction early in the engineering process to define construction work areas (CWAs), engineering work packages (EWPs) and construction work packages (CWPs) in the 3D model and in the schedule. As these packages are released during detailed design, this information is integrated with procurement information and design documentation to start building early installation work packages (IWPs). All teams can then view a digital representation of the project and know when work is planned to be done.

Testing the Plan

After the IWPs are created, the engineering and construction teams can run a simulation and receive instantaneous feedback. Other simulations and tests can evaluate safety and material availability, as well as consider how design changes will impact performance in the field.

Previously it was difficult to simulate scenarios and visualize feedback, but AWP technology makes it possible to simulate plans in 4D (schedule integration) and 5D (costs and estimation), modify test parameters and rerun the simulation. Once any identified changes have been addressed, the updated plan and all relevant supporting information can be packaged and delivered to field supervisors.

Looking Ahead

Aggregating all construction information in a common platform allows for ongoing optimization. Whether your focus is cost, scheduling, safety or quality, you can evaluate the relevant variables, develop an efficient plan and communicate the details to all parties.

Eventually, AWP will even make it possible to digitize turnover to the owners. Construction companies will be able to create a “digital twin,” or digital replica, that can be integrated with the owner’s operations and maintenance system to support effective asset management over the life of the structure.

Scott Hendrickson is director of business technology and strategy at AZCO, a Burns & McDonnell company. He combines his knowledge of software and IT systems with heavy industrial design and delivery to ensure successful technology implementations. He has extensive experience providing technology visions, strategy, road maps and assessments from working with many heavy industrial clients and technology trends in the industry.