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Construction Site

A Lean Approach to Plant Design

Feb. 23, 2021
Integrated project delivery is focused on collaboration and increasing value.

Integrated project delivery (IPD) started with healthcare projects and has now migrated to manufacturing. This design and construction delivery method incorporates lean construction tools in an enhanced collaborative approach, resulting in construction and design teams incentivized to work together early in the design process and throughout the remainder of the project. It brings together the entire team—including the owner, designer, constructor and trade partners—under the same contract, focused on meeting project goals and objectives, while bringing the greatest possible value to the client.

At its essence, IPD is about eliminating waste throughout the design and construction process by increasing collaboration, with all stakeholders having a vested interest in project success from the start.

IPD in Manufacturing

A major advantage of IPD is it allows the design and construction team to react to change faster and with less impact on both schedule and cost. This is of particular importance in manufacturing because it’s common to start the construction of a facility before all the process equipment requirements have been identified.

A current manufacturing plant project—one of the largest ever to be completed via the IPD delivery model—is a great example of the flexibility inherent in IPD delivery. Eight weeks after the kickoff meeting, the pandemic forced the entire team of over 100 people to work from home. The team had to immediately learn how to collaborate using tools such as Skype and Microsoft Teams to keep the project on schedule. The client’s leader recently weighed in on the IPD approach:

“I thought [COVID-19] was going to severely impact how work could get done and our ability to work collaboratively,” the leader said. “However, the team didn’t let COVID-19 hamper our progress. IPD enabled us to move much faster than we would have if we had used a traditional contract. And although the team did struggle with budget at the start of the project, we were able to reduce more than $200 million from the program through target-value design.”

The Benefits of IPD

One of the main benefits of IPD over more traditional models—such as design-build and design-bid-build—is that the project owner is able to maintain design flexibility longer in the process.

Within the structure of an effective Integrated Form of Agreement (IFOA), the project is approached as a whole, with the focus of the entire team on project success as defined by the owner. The inherent flexibility of IPD allows parallel and concurrent design paths to determine which solution is best in the end.

Another benefit in the manufacturing environment is that IPD allows for a “nuanced” fast-track delivery. An IPD team spends a significant amount of time planning on the front end, with the design and building phases essentially morphing into one continuous flow. Construction can begin before design is completed, allowing the team to radically improve schedule performance, eliminate change orders and therefore reduce the chance of schedule delays. The collaborative nature of IPD also helps to adjust the schedule quickly by accelerating specific areas to meet the needs of the field or slow down portions of the work to allow process design to catch up.

IPD Advantages:

·      The IFOA aligns the entire team’s goals and objectives.  

·       It reduces non-productive conflict because the entire team is focused on adding value to help build a better quality, lower risk and faster project.

·       It includes individuals with cross-functional skill sets and backgrounds, allowing problems and risk to be assessed and uncovered early in the process, and evasive action can be taken well in advance.

·       It allows for greater innovation through continuous collaboration among all team members.

·       It requires fewer change orders and RFIs—in best-case scenarios, none.

·       It improves project efficiency and production, which in turn improve the client’s bottom-line project costs.

Tips for Successful IPD Projects

The following are tips for successfully managing a project via the IPD model:

1.       Create team buy-in at the start. The key team members need to agree to and sign the IFOA at the beginning.

2.       Transparency from the beginning is key. It is critical to be very clear on the budget at the beginning of the project.

3.       No excuses for lack of collaboration. Check egos at the door. If necessary, make personnel changes quickly.

4.       Set up effective and flexible co-location (multidisciplinary teams doing their daily work in a single location).

5.       Leverage video conference technology. In-person big room meetings are very important, but we have learned that virtual Big Rooms can also be very effective.

6.       Live the motto: “Do what’s best for the job as a whole.”

7.       Encourage all team members to “speak up” and offer their valuable input.

8.       Focus on prefabrication. Ultimately, that’s where the savings are generated.

A Win-Win

There are manifold benefits to using the IPD project delivery model versus a traditional project delivery framework. Utilizing an IPD approach will collaboratively harness the skill sets of all parties to optimize project outcomes, resulting in a win-win that reduces waste, cuts costs, improves productivity and maximizes efficiency.

David Verner is executive vice president of Gresham Smith's Industrial market. He has more than three decades of experience working with national and international clients on designs for a variety of building types in diverse markets including advanced manufacturing, automotive, and FDA regulated facilities. You can reach him at [email protected]

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