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Navigating an integrated project approach in automotive manufacturing

May 22, 2024

David Hudd

Cost & Commercial Management Principal

Success in the automotive sector, like many others, is driven by cutting edge technology of the manufactured product, delivered to the market ahead of the competition. In the planning and construction of the buildings and facilities that house the manufacturing equipment to create these products, this often means challenging schedules for design and construction that can only be met by implementing an integrated approach. Across the broader sectors of fast, large-scale projects, demand is high, and the automotive sector faces similar challenges of pressure on industry capacity and capability and the compounding effects of scale on risk exposure.

The vision for a new project often evolves into the innovation of the technology that is in the manufactured product and is directly related to what is needed to manufacture it—it’s environment, infrastructure, space requirements, etc. In other words, the building and services around it. Even the way the manufacturing process is completed is important; for example, as more robotic operations are employed, there are impacts on the building design and infrastructure. Ensuring the physical, operational, budgetary and schedule “fit” of these elements can be challenging. Failure to integrate these aspects or a lack of understanding of their constraints will often lead to budgetary and schedule impacts, as these factors lag behind the initial concept for the project.

The vision for a new project often evolves into the innovation of the technology that is in the manufactured product and is directly related to what is needed to manufacture it—it’s environment, infrastructure, space requirements, etc. In other words, the building and services around it. Even the way the manufacturing process is completed is important; for example, as more robotic operations are employed, there are impacts on the building design and infrastructure. Ensuring the physical, operational, budgetary and schedule “fit” of these elements can be challenging. Failure to integrate these aspects or a lack of understanding of their constraints will often lead to budgetary and schedule impacts, as these factors lag behind the initial concept for the project.

Design solutions that are innovative, sustainable, cost effective and time efficient are desirable for these projects, but in all cases the implementation of these solutions must be evaluated and weighed carefully, and the benefits case understood and balanced against the overarching objectives of the project.

Further, employing a concurrent and ongoing cost management practice during the design phase provides real time cost updates and trends, keeps the team focused on the budget, meets the objective of having the cost certainty the project demands, and avoids later delay in cost savings exercises.

Development schedules should work back from a product launch date and create a holistic timeline for all project activities, from initial planning to installation of manufacturing equipment and commissioning. From there, opportunities to introduce efficiencies with standardization, modularization, early procurement needs and, importantly, interfaces, can be determined. Such practices can help project teams optimize value and time and minimize risk at all stages of a project.

For example, on a recent project, an end-date critical milestone for product delivery had been determined by the client and a contractually binding agreement with a third party was put in place before the project team was hired. The scheduling and planning challenge was to work back from that fixed date and develop a robust, achievable schedule of all the necessary steps to get from the project vision to the operational product delivery stage within the available timeframe.

This complex task was broken down into multiple activities, from development of a client brief to site acquisition, through design phases, permitting, procurement, construction, owner equipment installation, commissioning, handover and move in. Each phase was carefully planned for expected duration, interdependencies and consideration of risk to schedule. Throughout each phase the planned schedule was validated, checked and updated as needed and course corrections and improvements were made where possible. The critical end-date could not move, so every opportunity to save time or re-capture any time lost was constantly monitored and evaluated. The use of an integrated, holistic approach ultimately helped ensure the success of this project.

For more on this topic, including our five-point review framework to assure the delivery of fast, complex programs, check out the International Construction Costs 2024 report.

AUTHOR

David Hudd

Cost & Commercial Management Principal