Annual Technical Conference

19 July 2023

The primary objective of PPI’s  annual technical conference is to discuss and address the root cause of major capital project cost and schedule overruns via research, discussion and dissemination of Project Production Management (PPM) and its foundation of Operations Science. The conference advances research, education, knowledge and practical application of PPM through the presentation of papers and exchange of ideas between industry and academia.

In support of this, PPI invites practitioners and academics to submit and present their accepted technical papers with a focus on one of the following research categories: Theory (specifically related to Operations Science), Model (the application of simulations, digital twins, robotics, autonomous, IoT, AI / ML) or Control (the use of various systems, protocols, methods and tools that are used to control Project Production Systems).


Bifurcation of Demand and Supply (Schedules vs. Production Systems)

Current project management practice focuses primarily on what to build, when to build and who will do the work. Schedules depicting what work needs to be done by who, and when it needs to be done, establish overall expectations and are used as the basis for reporting and forecasting of project progress. Ignoring the other element of the equation, the supply side, specifically the project production system or how the work will be done, results in the inability to effectively predict and control project outcomes. Understanding that there is a production system and that it will dictate project behavior including cost, quality, duration and use of cash, along with using Operations Science to understand and control its behavior, is key to delivering projects in accordance with desired outcomes. However, not all projects take this into account resulting in less than optimal performance. The purpose of this paper is to define what a project production system is (and is not) and how it compares and contrasts with schedules, while introducing a framework for effective management of project production systems.

Benefits of Modeling and Optimizing Production Systems – An Application on Civil Infrastructure Projects

Civil infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, ports, tunnels, and airports, are critical endeavors for the growth and modernization of societies. Their public nature creates a unique level of exposure and scrutiny where project performance is in the eye of society. But unfortunately, the delivery of civil infrastructure projects suffers from less-than-optimal performance with abundant and striking evidence of schedule and cost overruns, while health, safety, environmental, and quality standards are being compromised. 

Many are attempting to address the criticality and complexity of civil infrastructure projects through the same conventional means that create the current situation, so performance issues not only remain active, but are amplified. To achieve radically better project performance including reduction of carbon footprint associated with project delivery, this paper describes the application of Project Production Management to identify and mitigate production-based risks and opportunities that are typically hidden through the lens of conventional project management practices. More specifically, this paper describes how project teams have unlocked value in the way of 20% schedule acceleration, up to 300% improvement in cycle times, which represents 100% improvement from classic lean applications. This is achieved by adopting a project production perspective including the use of digital technologies to map, model, simulate, analyze, and optimize project production systems, application of the Five Levers of Production System Optimization, and Operations Science.

Project Production Control Implementation to Improve Construction Schedules

Every key performance indicator used to monitor a project’s construction progress emphasizes trade productivity or specific commodity run-down curves. Examples include productivity of welding by quantity of joints completed per day, quantity of NDT (Non-Destructive Test) inspection per day, etc.

By understanding that project production system is the collection of production systems comprising the interconnected network of processes and operations that represent all the work activities to execute a project from start to finish on the one hand and acknowledging 5-levers of project production management [1] on the other, this paper discusses the actual implementation of Project Production Control (PPC) to improve the performance of several production processes associated with the fabrication and assembly of a Central Processing Platform (CPP) Jacket. Fabrication work of an offshore mega project. CPP Jacket, specifically buoyancy tank was selected as it drives the critical path and requires the highest demand of capacity. 7 buoyancy tanks were built, with a total estimated weight of 2,200 metric-ton. These huge buoyancy tanks were designed to be reversed launching & self-upending of the jacket, easily retractable, and reusable for the next project ensuring sustainability. Results showed that an effective application of PPC positively impacted construction progress and productivity while exposing sources of detrimental variability as the focus of continuous improvement practices .

These results were supplements to conventional project management practices and the findings are of high impact to construction scheduling, planning and control.

RPA for Estimating ER Releases

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a rapidly evolving technology that has been widely adopted in various industries for its ability to automate repetitive and rule-based tasks. In this paper, we present a case study of RPA implementation for Estimating Services within Saudi Aramco.

The implementation of RPA has led to increased productivity, reduced processing time, and consistent and accurate estimate production. The paper provides an overview of the RPA implementation process, the benefits realized, and the challenges faced during the implementation process.

Lean Demystified: Operations Science Explains and Expands Lean

Using the basic principles of Operations Science, this paper seeks to reveal the secret, one that is hidden in plane sight, of the success of Lean. The list of seven, eight or even ten forms of waste are replaced by one malefactor, variability and the three buffers that will always be present to couple demand with transformation.

Lean Methods in Nuclear Power

The future of nuclear power lies in finding ways of designing and building power stations that are faster, cheaper and more predictable than the present arrangements. We need smarter competitions between suppliers that will encourage them to develop standard designs made up of modular components that are delivered using modern production systems.

Nuclear power is returning to the energy agenda in Europe and elsewhere because of the challenges of Climate Change and a refreshed understanding of the need for energy security. Nuclear power has a cost problem which is largely driven by the high cost of construction and long build schedules.

This paper addresses the key ways of making nuclear power affordable by: taking a programme approach, adopting modern production methods that are commonplace elsewhere but not applied in the nuclear industry and by creating production systems that profit from series build as against one-off projects and drive efficiency throughout the supply chain.

It has been shown that by applying these ideas to small modular reactors they can quickly become competitive with current large reactors and with increasing volume become competitive with renewable energy.

Misconception of Kanban in Project Delivery due to Schedule-based Thinking

Kanban, a subsystem within the Toyota Production System, was popularized throughout the world alongside just-in-time (JIT), fool-proofing, heijunka, kaizen, andon, hoshin kanri, etc., as part of Lean Manufacturing approaches and techniques. Kanban’s simplicity, effectiveness, and robustness are well-understood by many.

At the same time, it is probably one of the most misunderstood Lean terminologies regarding what it is and how it works. Rather than adopting the intended purpose of the original Kanban system, some take the literal translation of the word. Since the literal translation of the word Kanban is signboard, many have taken the position that any visual board that provides visibility is not only a Kanban board, but also leads them to believe they are using Kanban. Search the word “Kanban board” on any popular search engine, and you will see this is true. While this is a brilliant (or devious) marketing ploy to attract those that are looking to enhance their organization or project’s performance through the adoption of Lean techniques, this exacerbates the confusion as to what Kanban really is.

In this paper, we will describe what Kanban is (and is not), how it works, why it is effective, and how to leverage it for the delivery of capital, deployment projects, and their supply networks

Product, Process, Resource – an Integrated Modeling Approach for Production Engineering and Industrialized Construction

The concurrent development of product designs and process designs, typically to achieve a balance of customer requirements, product functionality, and predictable buildability, is one effective technique in the pursuit of industrialized construction. Too many customer requirements and functions, and the product becomes difficult and unpredictable to deliver. Too much focus on cost & manufacturability and the product falls short of customer expectations.

This presentation discusses the application of Product, Process, and Resource modeling as a critical enabler to industrialized construction. Modular product architecture, comprehensive work packaging, and standard production processes are applied to a configurable system of products for use in a specific type of industrial project, the hyperscale datacenter. A 3D manufacturing simulation platform is used to concurrently design and simulate product, process, and resources (PPR) such as equipment, cranes, and crews. The comprehensive PPR model supports production engineering, optimization, re-use, and production automation.

The resulting impact on a global program of hyper-scale datacenters will be discussed, along with implications for adjacent industries such as pharmaceutical production, residential construction, and more.

Simulation Preemption of Construction Operations

Construction simulation models often need to interrupt activities in progress when events such as equipment breakdowns or differing soil conditions are encountered. The new functions and statements to support activity preemption directly in the STROBOSCOPE simulation system are described and illustrated by two examples.

The first example involves moving soil using two wheelbarrows and two laborers and investigates whether interrupting the loading of a wheelbarrow by the return of an empty wheelbarrow that starts loading immediately can improve long-term production. Variability in the loading and hauling times makes it difficult to predict when the preemption of loading would be beneficial, even when the operations are balanced.

The second model involves undersea land reclamation where two cranes unload barges loaded with construction fill material. When only one barge is available, then both cranes work together to unload the same barge. When a second barge arrives, it takes over one of the cranes and both barges continue to unload using one crane. When a barge departs and there are no other barges waiting, the barge still unloading can switch to using both cranes. Unloading a barge can switch between using one and two cranes multiple times, with the remaining unload time either cut in half or doubled each time. Modeling the multiple dynamic reallocations of cranes and the remaining time to unload illustrates how the new STROBOSCOPE preemption capabilities can be used to model preemption in general.

Developing a Business Case to Productize

The future of capital project execution for the heavy industrial sector needs to look at innovative ways to improve productivity and project success, which includes the implementation of productization methods. The benefits of a productization strategy are not well known, however industrial productization is becoming more communicated within the industry as the future implementation model. Industrial productization utilizes more of a manufacturing style approach to not only improve productivity but to reduce overall lifecycle costs and schedules and improve overall quality and safety.

Industrial productization combines modularization and standardization methodologies, to take advantage of repeatable components, equipment and facilities to reduce non-value add execution and design waste. Companies need to develop a business case to productize to ensure that the supports the use of the optimum amount of both modularization and standardization, captures the business drivers and benefits and to align the program teams with the productization strategy.

This paper will discuss the requirements and timing that companies will need to develop an effective productization business case that will complement the overall project business drivers.

Target Value Delivery of Building Projects

All projects set targets and try to steer to them. Fundamental improvement in project delivery comes in large part from how targets are set and how projects are steered to meet them. Target Value Delivery is a process for setting project targets for value and their corresponding cost prior to design and steering design and construction to those targets. Value and cost targets are set to achieve project objectives. Consequently steering design and construction to those targets is what management can do to make projects successful.

Launching Projects Without the Big Waste

Getting projects off to a good start is the aspiration of every project manager and a critical first step towards smooth flowing work later.  Unfortunately, many of our large projects are stymied before the construction team gets a chance to mobilize.  Few aspects of project delivery are more disruptive or wasteful than discovering the desired scope cannot be completed at an acceptable cost after most of the design budget has been spent and bidders have been thoroughly exercised.Project after project suffers through this frustration yet the industry continues to utilize the same basic process, analogous to holding a position on the beach while being soaked by wave after wave.   Maybe we don’t move because we fail to recognize just how big the waves have become, how much waste is really involved or that there are very practical alternatives.  Projects would be much more successful and provide a much better experience for the participants if we could eliminate this Big Waste. 

Some of the waste is readily apparent.  The wasted effort of preparing detailed design documents that are subsequently reworked or discarded and the effort wasted by bidders is not difficult to visualize.  The time lost to value engineering, re-design and re-bidding leads to either expensive schedule compression or delayed benefit and is also quite evident.   A still larger, but less commonly recognized, waste could be the opportunity cost of features and value unnecessarily stripped out of the project or never considered during the design process. 

The struggles are not over even after initial agreement has been reached and contracts are signed; most project teams seriously over-estimate the degree to which they understand the project Scope and how it will be accomplished.    In other words, the conventional process will likely conceal misalignment and cause even greater disruptions when it is finally discovered.  As with any quality problem, the sooner we can address the underlying misalignment the better we will be able to mitigate it.

Part of the issue described above deals with timing, communication and commercial tactics. This challenge is addressed by many other papers and will be described briefly in this one.   The typical Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is also part of the problem because typically does not extend to become a Work Integration System.   This paper will describe the Collaborative Design and Scoping (CDS) can be combined with Fundamental Scope Blocks (FSBs) to help us address one of the underlying root causes of lousy system performance.

The benefits of the CDS and FSB concepts create value beyond launching the project.  Creating the basic units of work that will subsequently flow through the project production system is equally important.   Organizing the work into chunks aligned with how it will be performed, coupled with an understanding of how chunks affect one another creates a great foundation for creating flow.  The combination of the smoother start and smoother downstream flow will make your projects more successful, less risky, and much more rewarding for the participants.

Application of Operations Science to Design a Project Production System: A Case Study in Building Construction

Managers of construction projects have been focusing on cost, schedule, quality, and safety to measure project performance using conventional metrics from administration management. These conventional metrics have led them to underestimate or overlook how variability, prerequisites for starting work, and work-in-process (WIP) affect project performance, which is a problem. To tackle this problem, concepts from Operations Science (OS) can be applied to construction production system design (PSD), focusing on metrics pertaining to throughput, work-in-process, cycle time, and capacity utilization. While the application of these concepts in building construction is still uncommon, this paper demonstrates by means of an example case study (a healthcare building in Northern California) how this may be done. Since OS has its foundation in a manufacturing industry context, this paper will comment on the assumptions necessary to apply it in a construction industry context and the implications of these assumptions. The methodology used in the case study leverages the use of an OS-based production analytical model. This case study illustrates the use of OS metrics at the project level, given certain assumptions (i.e., steady-state production system, no matching problem). As a conclusion, the use of OS for PSD provides a basis for understanding the “behavior” of a construction project and its performance regarding interrelated OS metrics.

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