5 Ways to Overcome Challenges in Large-Scale Metal Fabrication

#1. Answer The Call For Cost-Savings & Collaboration from Owners

 

Owners want to see something different in today’s large scale or heavy metal fabrication projects. They want new ways to save money that don’t involve decreasing the caliber of approved project engineering or reducing the quality of scoped materials to fit within a budget. Having experienced years of inefficiencies in the management of large scale custom fabrication projects, owners are looking to work outside the silos of the past. A flexible and collaborative approach to project management will answer their call.

What does a flexible and collaborative approach to large-scale fabrication projects look like?

Besides being a mouthful to say, it involves:

  1. Collectively identifying the final objectives of the project
  2. Outlining the realistic costs for completion
  3. Understanding the capacity of every stakeholder
  4. Acknowledgment of the unforeseen
  5. Early Contractor Involvement (ECI)

Not that the above list of items are revolutionary to the management of a project, but in large-scale metal fabrication projects, Early Contractor Involvement specifically has been limited. Establishing and committing to the challenges, goals, plans, and timelines of the project stakeholders has in the past been done individually and sequentially. Owners today want to implement an approach that is collective, tying together project milestones for all involved as early in the process as possible. For heavy-duty metal fabrication this is a paradigm shift, but can be done if addressed and embraced early on in any project.

 

#2. Promote Different Perspectives

 

With a collaborative approach employed from the get go, managers overseeing projects must promote sharing of the varied perspectives of stakeholders. Each project is likely to have a wide range of individuals with technical and practical experience and therefore the project must consider ideas and recommendations from at least five (5) major stakeholders:

 

  • Owner
  • Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC)
  • Fabricator
  • Field Contractor
  • Transportation

Saskarc project stakeholders - Owner, EPC, Fabricator, Field Contractor, Transportation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Early Contractor Involvement is employed directly with metal fabricators, their expertise can lend many benefits to the overall project. For example, a fabricator’s intimate knowledge of readily available materials and pricing can better inform an engineer’s design. If for instance, a project requires costly materials with a long-lead time, there may be similar alternatives available that the fabricator would recommend. They can also provide input on design and construction inefficiencies reducing fabrication costs. This would allow for changes to be made prior to the execution of a finalized design and eliminate costly post-design add-ons and modifications.

One major fabrication consideration that is sometimes overlooked early-on in the design stage, is the potential for a modular build or modular components. Those large-scale metal fabricators who have on-the job experience with modularization can offer insight from other industries that may very well transfer favorably to those that has never taken a modular approach to construction. If this is the case, the many benefits of modularization can create efficiencies for meeting milestones, and even go as far as reducing a project schedule, reducing risk and sometimes cost.

Other areas in which a fabricator’s expertise can be applied is with freight and transportation. Modularization experts often work closely with freight companies to provide route studies in order to identify maximum shipping envelopes in order to fabricate within the constraints of the shipping barriers. This way, the fabrication can be done indoors in a controlled environment at a constant pace with minimal disruptions and be shipped to site in the largest pre-assembled pieces for just-in-time installation.

 

#3. Open ALL Lines of Communication

 

Removing all real or perceived barriers to communication among stakeholders sounds dreamy right? Well, it is actually possible in-real-life with a collaborative approach.

Managing large-scale fabrication projects has always required stakeholders to communicate. But it is important to owners that this communication now occurs throughout the entire lifecycle of a project and not just on piecemeal basis as a project progresses. By ensuring that regular updates are communicated to all involved will garner the support for a continued collective approach. Who doesn’t appreciate being kept in the loop and thus be able to make adjustments as they’re needed, rather than take a reactive approach, much later down the line?

 

So, be it a small part, a large part, or merely an advisory role, managers and stakeholders will need to provide updates, offer insight, solicit feedback, and request approvals from those they may not have ‘typically’ worked with in the past.

 

It is also important that managers now utilize more than one channel of communication. Different people communicate in different ways today; ensuring that all stakeholders remain engaged in whichever method of communication works for them is key to a successful project.

 

#4. Identify Increased Accountability for ALL

 

With everyone ‘onboard’ to answer the call from ownership for a new way of doing things collaboratively, accountability immediately increases for all. Working together from start to finish, the Owner, the Engineering Procurement Construction Team, the Fabricator, the Transport Team, and the Field Contractor will gain transparency into every stage of a project. This establishes a mutual understanding of what each stakeholder is ultimately responsible for.

 

Sharing current knowledge of project status with each stakeholder allows for a deeper understanding by all, as well as collaborative problem-solving for everything from who is answerable for missed deadlines and poor work quality, to how to achieve further gains in productivity through innovative practices. Increased accountability can only benefit the project as a whole.

 

#5. Complete an Authentic Assessment

 

It should go without saying that every major project requires a good, hard, honest look by all stakeholders. An authentic assessment should be completed as early as possible, by every stakeholder for each of their respective areas of project responsibility. Each assessment would be unique, considering the different roles on the project but because of this, it would serve as a resource for the rest of the stakeholders to better understand one another’s approach and decision-making process. As previously mentioned, the expertise that each ‘player’ can potentially provide early on can produce cost-savings.

 

The best assessment methodology to provide owners today is one in which ‘everything is considered’.

 

Assessment Investment

 

Considering all the details and reporting that would be presented in this assessment, it seems far fetched to believe that it would be offered free of charge from the stakeholder, right? The truth is, a lot of the information gathered, would have been compiled anyway in the bidding stage in order to estimate a fair cost for their services. Since the assessment is offered to the customer before the project has been awarded, with no guarantee that it will help their chances of being selected, it may seem like a lot of work up front. Evidently, the benefits of having a technically sound proposal is worth the investment when you want to be commercially competitive and present ‘the total package’ to your potential customer.

 

If a substantial amount of time and effort is required up front, a technical expert can work directly with the owner or EPC engineering firm in a project walk-through as an extension of their team. This would allow them to better understand the project plan and provide a more thorough analysis and a more detailed recommendation. In the event that a design concern is raised or a transportation issue flagged, or perhaps a field-tested tactic is presented early in a project, this can have a maximum impact leading to potentially major cost-savings.

 

Working With Saskarc

 

At Saskarc we believe there’s no such thing as too much information! We appreciate open communication from our partners and we are happy to offer a fabricator’s perspective and expert advice, as often as possible. Early contractor involvement is a cost-saving and collaborative approach, and if it is adapted by all stakeholders involved, project optimization will be achieved.

We can work with owners, engineering team, and other contractors to provide a fabrication design assessment specific to modularization for review by all stakeholders. Our assessment examines a project, even in the early stages, for full or partial modularization opportunities. We encourage you to reach out to us for your feasibility assessment as early on in the design stage as possible. Contact us today!