Promoting collaboration between design and engineering teams

By Rob Bryant, EVP APAC at InEight

Design in construction projects is the early stage of a project that is critical to accurate budgeting and planning, and workflow collaboration is essential. Research indicates that compared to other units, the design team operates in a somewhat siloed environment where their toolsets and processes are less integrated into overall project management. This barrier between the design and engineering teams needs to be addressed as the design process creates a solution to a project brief and prepares instructions allowing that solution to be constructed.

Challenges of managing the design process

In the construction industry, the design process is a multidisciplinary and complex process that must be carefully managed to improve the efforts of the different participants and the various organisations. Information flow, interactions, and toolset innovation are common issues seen by many.

Insufficient communication causes low visibility into the design process. The reality is that while working on alternative delivery projects, design and construction teams not only work in silos, but often concurrently. This creates misalignment, which can quickly result in budget overruns and schedule delays.

For the design team, new project delivery methods also demand more visibility into design progress, which applies more scrutiny and pressure to deliver. For the construction team, budget planning and scheduling activities are at risk of not being current due to evolving design quantities.

With large and complex projects, such as multibillion-dollar road, rail power, and complex multi-use construction, the engineering design activity is also more complicated. Progressive contracting methodologies, including early contractor engagement, are another reason to focus attention on improving the communication and capture of early and detailed design. Capturing the latest requirements and having visibility of an integrated design process are becoming more critical to achieving good project outcomes.

Time, money, and reputation can all be saved with accurate design information, facilitating smoother planning, approvals, and early procurement exercises. In 2022, maximising lead time for materials, plant and labour are more critical than ever. All rely on early and accurate visibility of the design process.

As we consider all the ways greater certainty can be brought to engineering and construction projects, developing ways to have a high level of confidence as it applies to the key assumptions in the design phase is essential.

Connect data sources of truth to provide confidence

Data capture is second nature in projects. The challenge is ensuring you work from a trusted source, and ensuring you are consistent in referring to the latest source to base decisions on. The problem is compounded by scale, with more data points, more stakeholders and more risk of inconsistent and inaccurate data sources being applied.

Best practice in project control solutions includes structuring workflows and decision points to refer to a verified and consistent source. Enter once, validate currency and ensure updates are shared and applied to downstream calculations.

In practical terms that means that designed work package updates are reflected in cost items and quantity items, moving all measured points of the project forward simultaneously and automatically.

As construction projects are increasingly automated through digitally controlled processes, coordination tools are able to move data smoothly from design studios to job sites.

A pilot program run by InEight shows that when deploying well-integrated design management toolsets on more than $14B of design-build and other alternative delivery projects, design quantity growth risk was reduced by 20% and engineering cost was reduced by 10%.

A sophisticated design management system provides visibility and transparency to stakeholders. For instance, when it comes to design scope, users can perform planning activities in a standardised method and associate configurable master and project-level data. Moreover, they are also able to assign work breakdown structure (WBS) phase codes to design scope items, which returns earned quantity value data to the WBS phase to help manage overall project budgets, earned value, and earned revenue.

When the foundations of design management are addressed it allows for a much easier task in reconciling the progress of design activity. Simultaneous progress in all deliverables of the design stage can be verified and tracked toward earned value and the essential progress payments.

With deviation risk mitigated, being able to reconcile the planned vs actual costs as the project moves through construction is then much more predictable.

At a time when material and labour resources are in high demand, and as contractors and owners all seek to improve productivity, managing the design phase to determine a successful project outcome is not something to be ignored.

Connect project stakeholders to minimise risks to project budgets

A project is successful when it achieves its goals and meets or exceeds the expectations of its stakeholders. Engaging with project stakeholders and obtaining their commitment to the project objectives are critical to a smooth execution process.

The main stakeholders are typically executives within an organisation that have the authority to allocate resources and make decisions related to the project. However, project members need to collaborate not only with the internal environment, but also with people outside the organisation, from clients to contractors and suppliers.

It is important to identify all project’s stakeholders in advance. Since project managers typically have little or no direct control over these individuals, the project’s stakeholder ecosystem must be tightly connected and coupled with a strong communication strategy.

Omitting important stakeholders, such as designers and engineers who worked through the design process, could lead to inaccurate project budgeting if the error is not quickly addressed.

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