How mismanaged documents can wreck your EPC project

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Excellent communication between stakeholders of an infrastructure construction project is critical for successful execution. Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) are typically the three main important phases of an infrastructure project.

If you imagine such a project to be a special form of manufacturing, you will realize that construction is a very chaotic form of manufacturing. Only excellent communication between different teams and different stakeholders of the project can bring some order to this chaos.

During the course of an EPC project, the information that flows through Engineering, Procurement & Construction phases, is communicated through a large number of technical documents and drawings. Hence to tame the flow of this information, it is necessary to first track and control the flow of these documents and drawings.

The absence of a proper document tracking and control mechanism has the potential to actually harm your project in a number of different ways.

Communication gap between different stakeholders

Usually, at any stage of an infra project many different stakeholders are involved – Design Engineers, Buyers, Vendors, Contractors, Consultants, Auditors, Project Developers etc.

These stakeholders need to contribute their expertise and share their inputs on different documents and drawings as the project progresses.

Missing out on some of these inputs can jeopardize the project costs and schedule at later stages.

For example – if a vendor is going to supply a pump, even preliminary drawings involving that pump can be circulated to the vendor. Then details like ‘footprint of the pump and its accessories’ can be properly conveyed and confirmed by that vendor.

Delay relayed to critical milestones

Documents and drawings that are part of ‘critical project activities’ can have a more direct and obvious effect on the overall project schedule.

For example – if approval of purchase order for a long lead item is stuck with someone for x number of days, your overall project timeline will move by x number of days! Yes, communication and approval of such critical documents can have a high impact on your project.

Hence it makes a lot of sense to identify such documents and drawings, track their progress and ensure their speedy dispatch and approval.

Movement of documents doesn’t get tracked

If your team is simply relying on emails and shared folders for sharing documents and drawings, it is very difficult to monitor the movement of those drawings. Sometimes that can lead to problems.

Consider a scenario where an engineering package with 50 drawings is expected on site by end of the week. Before going into the hands of the construction team, these drawings need to be properly reviewed by different teams and approved.

In absence of a proper tracking mechanism, the project manager doesn’t get to know if these drawings get stuck somewhere in the approval process. That can potentially jeopardize the construction schedule down the line.

But you can’t solve a problem if you don’t find the problem in the first place. So absence of a mechanism to directly track movement, approvals and revisions of your documents and drawings is a risk for project execution.

Rework caused by gaps in communication

This has to be the most common source of problems on construction site.

Construction teams plan and execute their work based on detailed drawings from the design engineers. They work on sites which are distant from the design offices. So a construction team is completely dependent on what they can see and understand from the drawings in their hands.

If these drawings are sent via email or paper based document transmittals, that creates a significant communication gap between the construction manager and engineering/project manager.

For example – if the site team doesn’t have the latest set of drawings in their hands, there is potential for modifications and rework later on.

Or take another example – where latest photographs of completed work are not available to the design engineers. Then their design will not account for the work that has already been done.

Communication gaps between engineering and construction teams has always been a big source of headache for project managers.

Small design changes having magnified effect schedule & costs

Any experienced project engineer would know that some design changes that don’t seem to be significant in the drawing, can actually have a huge impact on overall costs or schedule of the project.

Consider a scenario where a pipe thickness or schedule is slightly increased to the next size. That design change can happen for a number of different reasons. But this change can potentially lead to a high increase in the material costs.

If the drawing is getting revised and design engineer does not fully understand the importance of the changes, he may not put is through the proper approval cycle.

So the risk is actually originating from not following the approval process strictly, regardless the magnitude of changes.

Strict compliance with the document/drawing approval process can mitigate such risks.

Incomplete communication trail

Usually, there are multiple stakeholders in any EPC project – contractor, consultant, vendor, project developer, auditors etc.

When working on large and complex projects, problems and hiccups occur commonly. Sometimes these problems get escalated to disputes.

Having a clear record of all kinds of communication with other stakeholders is going to help you in such cases. While most communication gets tracked in emails, some communication is document based – such as approval, comments, markup, attachments etc.

If a bunch of your documents are in paper based hard copies and other communication is in emails, it becomes difficult to tie all those pieces together.

Having a single coherent communication channel with all stakeholders can actually lower this risk.

Can technology help?

The problems arising from mismanagement of documents & drawings are basically coming from lack of proper communication. But this shouldn’t really be a problem, especially in the age of lightning fast digital communication tools.

The trick to successfully use technology for managing your documents and drawings is to properly merge the following –

  • Document storage – shared folders, shared drives, cloud servers
  • Communication channel – usually email
  • Project planning & controls – mostly happens manually or in excel sheets
  • Review & approval workflow – paper or email based approval

WorkPack is a project and document management platform for EPC projects, which has combined the power of – document storage, emails, spreadsheets and approval workflows on a single platform.

This platform has helped engineering and construction companies across different verticals (Oil & Gas, Solar Power, Shipbuilding, Rail, Highways, Real Estate etc.) to streamline and control the flow of their project documents & drawings.

WorkPack can also help your project team to get a firm control over your documents & drawings.  But don’t just take our word for it. Create a free account on WorkPack and check it out for yourself. Feel free to get in touch in case of any questions.

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