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Quality Processes and Process Control for Interfacing Between Different Parties

In large-scale EPC (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction) projects, civil and facilities works and systems works are usually under different contract packages. It creates a lot of interfaces, which need to be coordinated between, the different parties. Examples:

Civil structures, access, wholes and penetrations, manholes, raisers, cableways, M&E interfaces, centralised AHU, SCADA, CCTV etc.

In large-scale EPC projects, the contracts with its scope and specifications may be not accurate or detailed in all the points. Changes occur in the course of the project. Remaining questions during the design and construction phase about “who is doing what,” or “is it a VO or should it be covered in the original contract scope,” may have changing answers over time.  The better the coordination during the contract and design phase, the fewer the VOs and problems during the construction phase.  These open issues and questions are usually coordinated and answered during regular interface meetings between the concerned parties.

However, these meetings require a strong and impartial facilitator. This is to ensure the interface problems are clearly identified and understood. Eventually a solution is agreed upon and the party is nominated for implementation. May be a VO is required and an instruction to the responsible party has to be issued. It requires further close monitoring on the implementation of the solution to ensure it is done on time and as agreed. This process from identifying the problem until the solution is implemented to all stakeholders’ satisfaction, is a key performance indicator and is most of the time on the critical path.  In other words, if this quality and change process is not closely monitored with management attention, it will delay the project and is used to excuse LADs.

The Consultant and/or the Engineer of the project usually plays this facilitator role and has to provide clear fast instructions and pick up the issues if not solved. Even if one contract party is appointed with the responsibility for the overall integration, it still requires the facilitator due to the fact that the individual contractor cannot issue instruction to another party. It is also questionable how impartial the nominated party for the integration really is. Hence, the consultant and Engineer has to step in and take the lead to resolve the issues.

So how does one do that? Here some ideas and best practices to coordinate such interfaces:

  • Because it concerns different contract packages, a detailed issue list or database is required. It must be possible to print and officialise the topics under discussion. The database should include pictures or drawings to clarify the topics and reduce ambiguity.
  • To measure the time from the day of the problem discovery until the final resolution as a KPI, the date of record, due date and completion date has to be included.
  • The facilitator must ensure that due dates are kept to avoid slippages in the overall project timeline.
  • Interfaces identified during the contract and design phase should have a written and signed interface coordination form – ICF.
  • Each party should nominate a single point of contact for clear communication channels. Otherwise it is too easy to give excuses of data or information not received.
  • It is important for the facilitator to be impartial and to keep the same standards for all parties.
  • The facilitator needs to have strong leadership skills, knowledge of all contract packages and the empowerment from the employer to make technical and commercial decisions during the meetings.

In summary, if you can accomplish this list, you can be sure to enjoy more smooth communication and processes between parties.