Common Data Environment (CDE) is the latest buzz word in the EPC project sphere. It is the single source of information for the project. It contains documentation, drawings, graphical model and non graphical data. Common Data Environment (CDE) is mandatory for Building Information Management (BIM). Common Data Environment can exist without BIM as well. Understanding the key challenges of managing large EPC projects first will help to appreciate the role of CDE in project success.
Challenges in monitoring & controlling large engineering projects
Large infrastructure and engineering projects often come with a lot of inherent complexity. As an example, let us consider a Metro Rail Project. Based on our experience, here is the document count breakup of a metro rail project;
- Total number of drawings / document files = 5,00,000 drawings and documents
- Average number of revisions = 2
- That makes the total count to 10,00,000 drawings and documents
- Total files to be managed including comment files is around 20,00,000 plus
- Correspondences amount to 75,000 plus
These happen across the key stakeholders comprising of;
They operate from different locations.
The data flow diagram below depicts the data flow of one of the metro rail projects we worked very closely with. Multiple Design and Development teams submit their work to the general consultant. After verification and validation, the approved engineering design artifacts get forwarded to the project head office. These approved drawings get distributed to project sites. The project sites distribute them to the contractors.
If you can visualize 3,000,000 documents moving to and fro throughout the project, you will be able to appreciate the complexity involved in maintaining the integrity of these engineering artifacts.
Having said that, the biggest problems engineering project managers face are;
- Waiting time – In many engineering projects, Project engineers spend lot of time to get information from others.
- Project status information not available on time – It takes a week to a month for project managers to get the project’s status updates. In the process they loose valuable time to take corrective / preventive actions. This results in costly reworks if detected. If there are undetected errors, they get transferred to the subsequent phases of the project which is even costlier to correct.
- Lack of reliability of available information – The project progress information available is error prone, as the data is manually entered.
- Improper change & configuration management – Improper implementation of the change management process and the version control of the engineering artifacts contribute to the lack of reliability of the engineering artifacts.
- Information overload – Project managers spend lot of time to analyse heaps of data. Too much information leads to analysis paralysis. The root cause for this is information islands across stakeholders which are not integrated.
Solution : Common Data Environment
- Single source of information – is the fundamental principle for data integrity. There must not be any replication of the same information within the common data environment. Seamless integration of the systems across different stakeholders is mandatory to achieve this.
- Fail proof configuration management and change control processes – Maintaining the artifacts under different folders and managing them manually is very inefficient. It may work for very small projects. For large projects it is bound to fail. An integrated approach to change & configuration management is the solution.
- Real time automated status updates – In-order to reduce the lag between the actual event and the status reporting, the best option is to automate the status updates. This will help the key project stakeholders to track the project with almost real time updates.
- Forecasting ability – Knowledge about an issue after the occurrence of the issue will keep project managers in a reactive mode. Ability to forecast anticipated cost and schedule will help the project managers to be proactive in dealing with them.
Implementation of Common Data Environment (CDE) software in engineering projects
Key benefits of CDE
- Single source of information for Client / Consultant / Contractor
- Asset management for operations phase
- Faster review and approval cycles
- Enforcement of quality process management
- Track and anticipate delays
The typical scope of the CDE for a large infrastructure or engineering project is provided below;
Wrench SmartProject: CDE for Engineering
Wrench SmartProject is a Common Data Environment framework trusted by managers of large engineering projects across different industries. The SmartProject platform extends the CDE functionality to offer automatic status updates, schedule forecasting and BIM integration for engineering projects.
Automatic status updates
The Wrench SmartProject’s workflow engine provides the option to pre-define the rules of credit for the different stages of the workflow during the project planning phase itself. This powerful feature provides data about the actual progress during the project execution without any additional data entry. This feature provides almost real time and accurate project status updates.
As discussed before, forecasting the schedule and cost help the project managers to be more efficient. They will be able to anticipate problems with respect to schedule and cost and prevent them before they occur. In the worst scenario, they will be able to escalate the bad news to the higher levels thus avoiding last minute surprises.
The basic information we need to know for schedule and cost forecasting are;
- How much work did we plan to complete as on the review date?
- Out of that how much work did we complete?
- Finally, for the completed work, how much did we spend (money / manpower)
The Common Data Environment provided by Wrench SmartProject makes forecasting a breeze. Here are the snapshots of the dashboard.
Wrench SmartProject provides the digital twin generated from it’s common data environment. Here is a snapshot.
Common Data Environment (CDE) helps to solve the key challenges faced by the Project managers of large construction projects. The Wrench SmartProject helps organizations to create / extend their Common Data Environments (CDE) further by bringing in real time status updates, Schedule & Cost forecasts and BIM integration. This will empower project managers by helping them to be pro-active while making project management decisions. This will in turn increase the project / asset profitability.