Back to Volume 2 | Summer 2017

Letter From The Editor

September, 2017

Author: 
Ram Shenoy, Technical Director, Project Production Institute, rshenoy@projectproduction.org

Much has happened since the inaugural edition of the Journal was published this past year. The call to improve productivity in major capital projects has become even louder, thanks to several distinguished bodies publishing prominent reports outlining the global crisis in project delivery, and just as importantly, recommending ways to address it. The Institute has been active in promoting the application of Project Production Management, while expanding and broadening its membership across multiple sectors. The contents of this edition of the Journal reflect these activities and associated thought processes over the past eight months.

As PPI Advisory Board member Simon Murray points out in his opinion piece, three prominent reports [1 – 3] were published in the first quarter of 2017, all highlighting the woeful state of the performance of major capital project delivery and proposing recommendations to address the problems. There are many dimensions to the reasons for poor project delivery performance, and all the reports spend considerable time exploring various aspects and opportunities to improve. It is heartening to note the increasing awareness of the need for, and the explicit identification of, Project Production Management (PPM) as a critical part of the solution. The World Economic Forum white paper calls for a “new theory for managing large complex projects,” [1, p.11], with the requirements discussion implicitly calling for control mechanisms to manage variability. The McKinsey report explicitly identifies the need for Project Production Management, recognizing the role of variability and the potential improvement production systems analysis and optimization provides [2, pp. 8, 10, 11, 87, 88, 89, 115]. The UK Infrastructure Client Group report [3] discusses the importance of production management and the need to have a production system in place, noting that the construction industry significantly lags behind other industries in the adoption of modern systems to control design, engineering, logistics and production. All of these reports suggest that the audience for PPM is rapidly expanding across multiple industries and geographies.

PPI’s own recent activities also suggest the audience for PPM is broadening and expanding. The Institute held its 3rd Annual Symposium in November 2016, and it was notable in two aspects:

First, the range and number of industries participating increased significantly over previous years, with several technology companies from Silicon Valley in attendance. We are also pleased to report the Institute’s general membership now exceeds 700 members. In addition, we have added one Advisory Board Member from the finance sector, along with six new Industry Council Members from the semiconductor, technology, oil & gas and life sciences sectors. At the Institute, we strongly advocate that there are many project types and industries wherein PPM is applicable. We want our Advisory Board, Technical Committee and Industry Council members to reflect that diversity of perspective and industry while guiding PPI on its mission to make the practice of PPM a standard across many industries.  Included among the project types are deployments of Electric Vehicle (EV) / Autonomous Vehicle infrastructure, Data Center Programs, 5G Telecommunications Deployments, fixed manufacturing such as Semiconductor Fabrication and Pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities, and Oil & Gas field development.

Second, the presentations by industry participants at the Symposium were extremely well received by those in attendance. Based on the feedback we received on those presentations, we asked the presenters to produce articles for the Journal, two of which we have included in this edition. What is remarkable is that the case examples powerfully illustrate that no matter how far a project has progressed before the introduction of PPM, measurable improvements result directly from the use of PPM in the project. We expect that the Journal readership will find the perspective of industry participants compelling, as they have navigated the change management process necessary to fully realize the potential of PPM.

As we have expanded and broadened the audience of PPM, feedback we received has informed our choice of content for this Journal. It’s become more important to distinguish PPM from other disciplines and practices that are advocated for improving project delivery. As such, the Institute is outlining positions intended to clarify the differences between PPM and other approaches. These articles reflect positions of the Institute as a whole, rather than any single individual, although assembled and edited by myself. In response to specific questions raised at seminars, we have included the following articles in this edition: “My Project is a One-Off: How Do I Leverage PPM?” and “A Comparison of Lean Construction with Project Production Management.” And because we see many references to “production systems,” but no precise definition readily at hand, we have delineated our position on the exact definition of “production system” from the PPM perspective. A primary objective of the Journal is to authoritatively and clearly establish the scientific and technical basis of PPM, so we have included technical papers to provide insight from the PPM framework on the impact of lead times in supply chains, as well as leading and lagging indicators of project delivery performance. The former technical paper on lead times also previews a future paper on optimizing supply chain flows, intended to accompany the case example on supply chain flows in this edition. We’ve also recognized the need to be more precise and rigorous in our use of terminology in our seminars and as we review other publications using similar terminology in different contexts. Accordingly, we have updated a few of the terms in our Glossary, and anticipate continuing to do so over the next 24-36 months to distinguish colloquial usage of words from the technical usage intended in the Journal.   

Throughout the rest of the year, we will continue to hold our informational seminars to attract a wider audience. Thus far in 2017, we have held six seminars, with two sessions in Houston and four sessions aimed at the technology sector in Palo Alto, CA, and all received very positive feedback. Our next seminars will be held on 14 September 2017 in London, England, and to wrap up the year, we will be hosting a full day Introduction to PPM seminar in San Francisco on 28 November 2017. We hope to see some of you there and please bring a colleague along to introduce them to the future of optimal project planning and delivery.


References

  1. M. Buller, I. Costa and I. Rodrigues de Almeida. “Shaping the Future of Construction: Insight to Redesign the Industry”, White Paper, World Economic Forum, March 2017.
  2. F. Barbosa, J. Woetzel, et al. “Reinventing Construction: A route to higher productivity”, McKinsey Global Institute, February 2017.
  3. “From Transactions to Enterprises: A New Approach to Delivering High Performing Infrastructure”, UK Infrastructure Client Group, March 2017.