Case Study: Optimizing WFP Execution

Project Overview

Series of sustaining projects
Fort McMurray, Alberta
$300 Million annual budget
October 10th – 22nd 2011

Scope: Optimize the execution process of construction through the application of Workface Planning to achieve predictable results in the fields of Safety, Quality and Productivity.

Phase 1 objective: Conduct a review of the existing applications of Workface Planning: Inputs, Processes and Outputs. Capture the results and develop a summary that maps the current state of applications and effectiveness.

The review was conducted simultaneously across three departments: Infrastructure, Base Plant Projects and Tailings Projects. This summary addresses the findings as they relate to:

Base Plant Projects:

The attached scorecard for Base Plant scored 175 from a possible 300 for the existing system of Workface Planning:

Positive Highlights:

  • The three key contractors, all have standards for FIWPs and have dedicated Workface Planners
  • All work is executed from Field Installation Work Package
  • The contractors, coordinators and project support staff are all keen to optimize the execution process.

Leading Opportunities:

  • The contractors all have the capacity to develop Planned Value for their FIWPs from industry standards but need direction to do so. This could lead to a standard for reporting Earned Value and then to a bank of historic data that would enhance the predictability of estimates.
  • The contractors all have the capacity to develop level 5 schedules in Primavera and then load them with Planned Value, Resources, Durations and Progress. This could be accomplished if Base Plant had a master level 3 schedule that the contractors could access, electronically.
  • The peaks and valleys of construction could be eliminated by developing and maintaining a backlog of executable projects. This would effectively reduce the cost of projects and increase the number of projects that could be completed in a given year.
  • Cycle times for the preparation of executable projects could be reduced by allowing the contractors to purchase and manage most of their own materials (as proven by Infrastructure).
  • Utilizing the imbedded contractors during design to develop optimal construction sequences would streamline the execution process and have a positive effect on the number of RFI’s and FCN’s.
  • The permit process and the start time of the craft contribute to a significant reduction in ‘access to the workface’ during the first period of the shift. A review of the process could identify some opportunities for alignment.


The contractors are all applying their own variations of Workface Planning, which all show great potential. The creation of an Owner standard for Workface Planning that governed our contractor expectations for project controls, information management and the size and contents of FIWPs would help the contractors to perfect their own systems and then guide them towards the next level of accomplishment.

The Owner project scheduler has a working model for schedule development, distribution and population by the contractors that can be rolled back up to the master schedule and used to track progress. When perfected this process could greatly increase the quality of reporting across the suite of Base Plant projects and also reduce the amount of effort required from the current levels. The effectiveness of this process would be heavily influenced by the application of Earned Value management.

The peaks and valleys of engineering and construction are negatively influenced by the financial cycle of annual budgets that encourage projects to be started and finished in the same year. A review of the process may show that there are opportunities to level resources and optimize the effectiveness of Engineering, Procurement and Construction which will reduce project costs.