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Terms like lean and agile, Critical Path vs Critical Chain and Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) are not new concepts to the construction industry. In fact, they’ve become increasingly familiar amongst both owners and EPCs globally. 

However, if you’re reading this silently confused about the differences, we guarantee you’re not alone! The concepts themselves are often muddled as they overlap in their framework and goals, not to mention they’ve been adapting over time from their origins in manufacturing to better fit construction. 

Here’s a quick run-down of what you need to know, and why Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) holds the key to it all.

Defining ‘lean’ and ‘agile’

Lean is the term given to a philosophy designed to create value and minimise waste without sacrificing productivity. While lean began in manufacturing, it is now considered a set of practices which are applicable to virtually any work process. In construction management, lean focuses on three key factors:

  1. Creating processes to maximise the flow of materials and information
  2. Increasing the value generated by a project
  3. Utilising paradigms to plan, execute, and control the construction process 

Lean construction looks at a project as a holistic system, viewed from the top down. However, as we are aware, a top-down process doesn’t always translate to success on the ground. 

Agile, on the other hand, is a conceptual framework for guiding a process that focuses on increasing value and reducing risk. This is achieved by managing complexity and maximising flexibility. Similar to lean, agile focuses on three key factors:

  1. Break down a project into small, manageable parts
  2. Prioritise time management and reviews
  3. Encourage feedback and input to improve processes

Agile construction projects respond to externalities by being open to changing requirements and providing frequent communication and deliverables to the customer. 

However, it’s important to keep in mind that when it comes to construction, changing requirements and feedback simply can’t be as free-form as it is in software development.

Critical Chain vs Critical Path

Critical Chain project management does not allow for multitasking, instead focusing efforts 

on the maximum number of tasks capable of being handled based on resources. Those who are working on the critical element receive support from the organisation (e.g. postponing daily tasks) to focus solely on their critical task. Critical Chain also ignores individual time buffers for completion of tasks, rather than focusing on task completion time overall.

By comparison, Critical Path focuses on the longest chain of tasks without a time buffer. In other words, the tasks that must be completed before a project can move forward. If tasks on the Critical Path are completed early, other tasks are also capable of being completed early. 

Critical Path project management allows for multitasking, particularly on critical tasks. Because of the in-built multitasking, critical path allows for individual time buffers.

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Where Does Advanced Work Packaging Come In?

By incorporating many of the above framework’s key objectives, Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) starts with the end in mind and seeks to eliminate risk, productivity loss, and cost by improving project visibility, predictability and overall performance. 

Officially announced as best practice by the Construction Industry Institute (CII) in 2015, AWP was built by project experts for project experts, and has since proven its value across many major projects across the globe. 

Fundamentally, AWP involves developing an entire Construction Work Package (CWP) and then creating sub-packages, such as Engineering Work Packages (EWPs), Procurement Work Packages (PWPs) and so on, which are aligned to the overall project and provide all stakeholders with a path to completion. 

According to the Construction Owners Association of Alberta (COAA), AWP can reduce the total cost of a project by ten per cent, while simultaneously improving labour productivity by up to 25 per cent. 

The COAA website has countless case studies, however, on one particular project, a contractor using AWP processes installed pipe at 2.6 hours per foot, while another contractor on the same project using traditional methods installed at 3.4 hours per foot. That’s a 24 per cent productivity gain using AWP methodology.

As traditional methodologies become increasingly ineffective in today’s projects due to high levels of complexity and uncertainty, it’s easy to see how Advanced Work Packaging has become ultimate strategy for success. 

To learn more about the cost of implementing AWP and see the potential returns it could bring to your project, check out this free ROI calculator and start your AWP transformation today. For more information visit https://bit.ly/2GC8dqg 

This partner content is brought to you by Hexagon PPM. To learn more, visit  hexagonppm.com

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