Construction is as old as civilisation, and we’ve always been concerned about running projects efficiently.

We can only wonder at the project management involved in dragging two-ton bluestones 150 miles across difficult terrain to build Stonehenge. We can be certain they did everything they could to be as efficient as possible, even in around 3000 BC. The same thinking would have been going on when the pyramids were being built at a similar timeframe in Egypt.

Whilst we have no records of specific processes introduced on these projects, the first writing began to appear at a similar time in Mesopotamia. Amazingly, much of this early writing is directly concerned with tracking some of the variables important for delivering project efficiency.

For example, clay tablets from around 3000 BC discovered in Southern Iraq record the beer given to workers as part of their daily rations.

Record of the beer paid to workers in 3000 BC. The first ever payslip?© Trustees of The British Museum

Also, nearly one-half of the Babylonian ‘Code of Hammurabi’ (1754 BC) deals with matters of contract such as the wages to be paid to labourers in grains of silver. Were these the first payslips and timesheets?

The Code of Hammurabi from 1754 BC. The first ever timesheet?Photo by Rama / CeCILL

Today, more than ever, the efficient management of labour, equipment, and materials is at the forefront of every project. Whether you’re building a pyramid in Ancient Egypt or a high-speed rail network in 2017, you need to get to grips with the options at your disposal to effectively manage your labour, equipment, and materials.

Smart management of your labour, equipment and materials

On every project, there are generally lots of people involved (your labour), there are all kinds of tools they need to get the job done (your equipment), and lastly, there are all the components, ingredient parts and raw materials needed to put the project together (your materials).

The combination of these three elements equate to what it will cost to implement your project and you obviously want to manage each of these in the most efficient way possible.

The modern way to approach the management of labour, equipment, and materials is by implementing an effective work packaging process to deliver a project on schedule and within budget.

What is Work Packaging?

Work Packaging is the process of breaking down all of the tasks in your project into manageable and discrete parts that can be distributed to teams to complete efficiently.

Work Packaging also takes into account the project’s timescales (or Control Schedule), and it does this to enable all the different teams to work together seamlessly. The design and engineering teams need to deliver specifications to the procurement teams efficiently. Likewise, the procurement teams need to get everything on site and on schedule for the construction teams.

Sensible Work Packaging also continues on through the Startup Phase and into the Maintenance Phases so as to enable continuous handover of the project to the owner whilst retaining all of the knowledge acquired on the project during construction.

All of this information is controlled in the form of Work Packs.

What is a Work Pack?

Work Packs or Work Packages detail the labour, equipment, and materials required to complete tasks according to timescales set out in the Control Schedule. The information in Work Packs provides those who are managing the budget, the schedule and who are responsible for efficient delivery of the project with an overview of what needs to happen to complete more high-level areas of work.

What is a Job Pack?

Work Packs can be further subdivided into several Job Packs, or even Job Cards. Job Packs contain everything that the team on the ground needs to complete the task. For example, Job Packs will be created on a discipline basis for the Electrical, Instrument, Mechanical or Piping teams and all of these Job Packs will be assigned to one Work Pack based on the scope of a high-level Work Order.

The Job Pack contains a detailed list of what needs to be done to complete a task. It includes descriptions of specific tasks, detailed instructions about to how to complete the job, all the related drawings, it defines roles and responsibilities and sets out safety requirements and inspection procedures. All of this according to the delivery timetables specified in the control schedule.

The Work Package Engineer and Work Package Planning

So, a Work Package is a set of documents that describe how something is to be built or maintained. It is a set of instructions that is used to inform the client and the people in the field how something will be done.

The process of creating Work Packs pulls information from a variety of areas. The concept of what needs to be achieved is provided from Design Engineering. A Work Package Engineer then takes this and formalises the scope of work, adds the materials required to complete the job, the work instructions – maybe as a marked up drawing, video clip, completes a risk assessment, creates/verifies the appropriate Inspection Test Plan (ITP), pulls relevant drawings, inserts scaffolding requirements, adds in QA Tests and then closes out the documentation.

Creating Work Packs is usually a manual process and very labour intensive. The problem with this is that it takes a set length of time to produce a pack and the only way to scale the process is to add more people.

Another issue with the manual approach used by most organisations is that the person building the pack may be using the same process but different people build the packs in a different way and perhaps with different content for the same type of activity.

The Completions Connect approach to successful Work Packaging

There are many software vendors offering digital solutions to Work Packaging, but not all of them approach the problem in the same way.

We start from the premise that it’s absolutely fine that a company might want to go about the work packaging process in a completely different way from some other company who takes a different approach.

We celebrate this variety and Completions Connect is built from the ground up to allow complete flexibility of approach in process. We’re never going to try and force you to work within some convoluted one size fits all model.

Our focus is to carefully map your real-world processes so that, together with you, we can roll out a digital solution that reflects processes already proven to work for you in the real world.

The objective then becomes simple: to automate as much of the manual process as possible in order to deliver the efficiencies of labour, equipment, and materials.

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Five benefits of taking the right approach to Work Packaging

If you invest effort in setting up Work Packaging properly, these are some of the benefits you can reap for your project.

1. Create packages of a consistent quality

This means less rework – the process involves various stakeholders reviewing the pack for correctness and each time it is up-revved without being approved is a failure of process

2. No need for constant training

Train as you go – the process auto creates the starting point and allows the Work Pack Engineer to become more of an auditor. Only updates for the unique additions are required for the particular pack

3. Retain learned knowledge in the business

Corporate knowledge is embedded in the process rather than being a reference document.

4. Increase quality

Changes the focus of Work Pack Engineers from completing the process to reviewers looking for flaws and creating perfection.

5. More easily manage the change process

If engineering information changes, a properly designed methodology makes it easy to identify work packs that are affected.

Efficient interfaces can also be created with scheduling and planning systems to track progress and execution of work packages. This gives full consideration to the interrelationship between different work packages to eliminate potential clashes in simultaneous work.

Coupled with the time management functionality available within Completions Connect, allows for tracking of actual man-hours expended against time allocations and therefore norms to be created against individual tasks and work scopes.