Advanced Work Packaging - A Beginner's Guide
Updated: Mar 28
Getting a basic understanding of this construction best practice can be complicated. Learn the essentials in this consolidated overview.
Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) has become a common term in the boardrooms of owners, EPCs, engineering firms, and construction contractors globally. Why? Because it is now showing up as a requirement in bid documentation and contracts. This new program has left many industry teams scrambling to figure out what Advanced Work Packaging is, what the requirements are, and how it changes the way their project teams work.
If you represent one of the industry stakeholders previously mentioned, and haven't come across the need for Advanced Work Packaging in a contract, you may still want to learn more about it. You'll likely encounter it in the near term with the significant uptake and use in recent years. Contractual requirements aside, you may want to consider leveraging it to stake, or maintain, a competitive advantage within industry, as AWP is proven to help you build better, more efficiently, and for less cost than traditional project delivery models.
Where did AWP Come From?
Let's start with a bit of history. Advanced Work Packaging was announced as a best practice in 2015 by the Construction Industry Institute (CII). This announcement was made after years of research and case study reviews, as well as a model validation study. The program has been proven to improve safety, quality, cost, schedule, productivity, and predictability performance on construction projects. A great deal of industry practitioner involvement, and academic research, have been melded to develop this program that is being increasingly adopted by industry stakeholder groups. Continuous development is ongoing, and a few innovative advancement have been made to improve performance in recent years.
But, this movement didn't begin just a few years back. WorkFace Planning (WFP) was touted as an industry best practice in Alberta in the early 2000's; it was developed and advanced by stakeholders working with the Construction Owners Association of Alberta (COAA). The program was primarily focused on developing a model of work packaging for construction crews to address the historically low productivity on large, complex construction projects in the region. Time-on-tools hovered around 37% at the time; there was significant financial incentive to challenge traditional project delivery models.
Combined, WorkFace Planning is now a subset of the Advanced Work Packaging model. What began as an initiative to improve construction execution has expanded to a broader best practice that facilitates improved performance across the project life cycle, primarily by breaking down silos and aligning activities and deliverables to continuously support the end user in the project value chain.
Advanced Work Packaging is a comprehensive work packaging program that can be deployed on most any project type, across any industry. While commonly applied within heavy industrial construction, this practice is also applicable to construction projects in aerospace, infrastructure, residential applications, and commercial building. Advanced Work Packaging has also been deployed on projects outside of the construction industry; however, this article will outline the AWP best practice in the manner deployed on construction projects.
Advanced Work Packaging facilitates the iterative breakdown of a large scope of work into smaller and smaller chunks, or work packages. Through the effective sequencing of the development and delivery of those work packages, the end user at each stage of the project value chain is supported. This iterative process achieves, and sustains, alignment across all key project stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle, which in turn facilitates improved project performance.
Path of Construction
The project team begins with a plot plan and breaks the entire project scope into Construction Work Areas, or CWAs. These large multidisciplinary work areas are defined collaboratively by project management, design, and construction teams. They are sequenced in a manner that optimizes construction resources and equipment, while also supporting the completions strategy. The sequencing of these Construction Work Areas strikes the initial project Path of Construction.
Alignment with Path of Engineering and Path of Procurement
The Path of Engineering, as well as the Path of Procurement, must support the Path of Construction. This means that all Engineering Work Packages and Procurement Work Packages will be delivered in the sequence that supports the order that work will be executed in the field. This alignment ensures that wait time, productivity loss, and schedule delays for construction crews, caused by late deliverables, will no longer be an issue.
Engineering Work Package (EWP) - An engineering deliverable that contains all of the engineering data, drawings, and technical information required by the construction team to build a specific scope of work. These packages are of a single discipline and are geographically confined. Rules of credit will be established to track EWP development as a deliverable to construction.
Construction Work Package (CWP) - A construction deliverable that, using the EWP as the foundation, adds construction planning information such as scaffold plans, construction equipment requirements, and specialty tools to create a detailed construction planning document that may be widely referenced by the construction team. Ideally, EWPs and CWPs are created in a 1:1 ratio.
Procurement Work Package (PWP) - A procurement deliverable that, using the EWP as the foundation, delineates all required materials and equipment required to be sourced for the EWP. This work package is used as a tracking and logistics tool to tag purchase orders, track shipments and components at a work package level, and maintain accurate progress and visibility of work package status. Teams are not required to build a physical work package; a PWP is a package 'container' only.
Installation Work Package (IWP) - An executable discipline-specific package of work, created by planning teams for use by construction foremen. An IWP will consist of enough work for one construction crew for a limited duration of time (usually between 1-3 weeks). These work packages will contain all of the information that a foreman requires to execute the work scope; all work package constraints will be identified and/or mitigated 3 to 4 weeks prior to work package execution.
Work Package Hierarchy
Note: This hierarchy has been simplified for clarity. A traditional project work breakdown structure would be far more complex.
The goal of micropackaging is to break something complex into something that is very easily understandable and easy to execute upon. Installation Work Packages are micropackages. They contain everything needed by a foreman to execute a scope of work, including a list of tools, all relevant drawings, scaffold plans, and bagged-and-tagged materials. They are the IKEA furniture packages of construction projects.
IWPs enable foremen to spend their time supporting their crews rather than looking for material, scheduling cranes, submitting requests for information, or engaging in other planning tasks. Planning teams are brought in to support this work package planning; through this process executable work packages are created. All constraints are identified and mitigated prior to the work package being released to the field.
The IWP is the crew's execution document and plan for a defined time period. Construction crews do not self-select work. Work packages boundaries are derived and sequencing is established collaboratively between planning and supervision teams far ahead of the planned execution dates.
Additionally, crews don't select work fronts based on the engineering packages and material that happen to be available; they collaboratively derive the optimal construction execution sequence during early planning sessions. Engineering and procurement activities will support the agreed upon execution strategy, ensuring that construction teams always have the deliverables they need to optimize their resources. In Advanced Work Packaging, we always begin with the end in mind.
Installation Work Packages that have been added to the 3 week look-ahead are fully executable, and will be worked within the timeline that they are scheduled (barring any unforeseen circumstances).
To effectively implement Advanced Work Packaging, WorkFace Planners are brought in to support construction planning activities. These highly technical construction planners work closely with supervision teams to scope work packages, create and compile work package content, and resolve issues and roadblocks prior to the work package being issued to the field.
These individuals play an integral role in the success of the AWP program. Without micropackages, construction productivity improvements cannot be effectively achieved. The more time foremen spend focusing on planning work and managing roadblocks, the less time they have available to support their crews. As a result, productivity suffers.
Placing highly qualified team members in these roles is key to program success.
From Bulks to Completions
One of the greatest benefits of micropackaging is the tracking of data at a task level. An IWP is released to the field to be executed by the foreman. When that work package is complete, it is walked down by the General Foreman and Quality Control. Packages must be 100% complete to be signed off. No more leaving minor tasks behind to be caught during discipline or pre-test walk downs.
In the event that a work package cannot be completed, those tasks are removed and added to a running work-to-go list; these tasks will be packaged for execution at a later date. This practice enables complete transparency into percent complete at a work package level, but also at a system level. As the project nears the completions phase, planners work diligently to prioritize work packages containing specific system components, and to close out incomplete activities that would otherwise end up on a punch list.
We always say that the last 10% of construction requires 30% of the effort, primarily because at the end of each project you end up sending teams out to clean up work that should have already been completed. This practice is costly and detrimental to schedule performance. AWP facilitates better systems completions planning and shorter schedule completion timelines, which benefits clients and contractors alike.
Project Controls Alignment
The work package breakdown should be reflected by all project reporting tools, including the project schedule. Within the Advanced Work Packaging program, work packages become an integral part of the project lexicon. Work packages are only of value if they can be planned, tracked, executed, and reported to effectively.
The following schedule levels are paired with the work packages that should be identified and sequenced within that schedule level:
Level 1 - High level project schedule
Level 2 - Construction Work Areas (Denotes the Path of Construction)
Level 3 - EWPs, CWPs, PWPs
Level 4 - IWPs
Level 5 - Used in shutdown/turnaround applications. Includes tasks within the IWP
Benefits of AWP
The benefits of Advanced Work Packaging have been documented in case studies and were reported by CII Research Team 319 in 2015. 25% improvements in craft productivity have been documented, as well as total installed cost reductions of up to 10% for mature programs. However, broader analysis is required as projects studied are often self-selected; those project teams who experienced less desirable performance outcomes are less inclined to participate in industry research.
Project teams that are deploying AWP experience varying degrees of project improvement, dependent upon the maturity level of the program, current project performance levels, and the team's commitment to change. Generally, improvements are found; some teams have recorded substantial benefits. AWP also yields improvements in safety performance, as better work package planning eliminates risks caused by lack of proper safety equipment or lack of clarity in work scope.
Further, AWP yields improved performance visibility, which Clients are extremely keen on. Collecting data at a micropackage level, and requiring 100% completion of released work packages prior to crews beginning another work package, drives improved accountability and facilitates better decision making. The ability to visualize accurate data enables you to see where performance is trending on a weekly basis.
The reported benefits of AWP are yielding increasing adoption by facility owners, EPCs, and contractors on capital projects of all sizes. More research is required to quantify performance gains with this practice; this is expected to occur over the next 2-3 years as more project teams employing the practice review, analyze, and share their data. The key to driving program advancement is to gain more detailed insight into the drawbacks and costs of program implementation, thereby enabling teams to make course corrections and drive improvements. To date, there has been very little published information to support this effort.
Interested in learning more about Advanced Work Packaging and WorkFace Planning? One of our Advisors would be happy to connect with you.