With construction delays affecting the path to commercialisation for many constructors in the Energy from Waste (EfW) sector, Simon Marr argues that there is a better way to build plants.
Construction delays are frustrating and costly, but they are also largely avoidable for constructors who are willing to think differently about how they plan and build a project from the outset.
With the pressure on constructors in the industrial sector to fast-track the route to commissioning, the most common question we get from clients is ‘How can we shorten the program?’, usually followed up by ‘How many hooks can we get on the project?’
It’s about the number of lifts, not the number of hooks
There is a tendency in our industry to think that more cranes on a job is a sign of productivity. We don’t think like that because we know that there is an alternative approach that delivers increased productivity with fewer cranes, fewer lifts and less cluttered worksites with the ability for project managers to control the critical path.
The challenge around program is really about how efficiently we can get material into the project. So, instead of asking ‘What cranes do you need?’, our philosophy is to ask our client, ‘How do you want to construct your project?’ — because if we can reduce the number of lifts required by lifting heavier, modularised pieces, we can add real value back into a project across a number of areas, particularly in terms of helping to secure the program.
Construction is often a lot more complex than it needs to be, so the challenge – and opportunity – in the projects that we get involved in is always to take the complexity out of the project. We ask ‘How do we get a cranage solution that really takes risk out of the project?’ in terms of program, planning, and ultimately safety. What we are ultimately trying to do is drive a positive outcome for our client, that gets them to their end goal and project completion on schedule, and even earlier.
The real opportunity then becomes how early we get involved in the project.
Early engagement is the key to success
One of the biggest opportunities for increased productivity and efficiency on a project is in changing the mindset of how craneage is procured. We ask our clients to think about cranage as a partnership, not just a procurement function. That’s because there is often a disconnect between the engineering and planning of a project, and how cranes integrate into the project’s construction logic. The current approach, where the end-user of the crane issues a list of cranes required for a project, with no visibility on the logic behind how these cranes will align with the construction methodology is flawed. This often creates a situation where more cranes are used on already congested sites to fill the gap that could have been covered by an aligned crane logic.
At Marr, we are not just cranes and crew for hire – and that fundamental point of difference is where we add the most value. The most successful projects we have worked on have integrated a holistic craneage solution that meets the requirements of the construction logic being adopted. That means that the architects, engineers, and contractors responsible for the design, engineering, and delivery of a project can achieve results with accelerated programme to commercialization, lower project costs and most importantly, the platform for improved safety, higher quality, and ‘greener’ construction by seeking advice from cranage experts early in the bid and design development of a project.
Thinking “big” with construction methodology
One of the main benefits of early engagement and strategically deploying heavy lift tower cranes, is that it opens the door for the constructor to “think big” with their construction methodology. When craneage solutions are integrated early into the project planning stages, substantial lifting capacity enables modularisation – and this is where productivity drives a real step change in the program.
Where traditional construction thinking would be for lifts of two tonnes or four tonnes using mobile or crawler cranes, our approach is to say, ‘Why not lift in 50-tonne and 100-tonne pre- assembled modules and upsized components through fewer yet heavier lifts, and take the complexity associated with the assembly into a more-efficient and controlled environment?’ This not only helps to de-risk and protect the schedule but also improves quality because off-site assembly can also be done in a controlled environment where quality is central.
With this kind of thinking the opportunity to support Designed for Manufacture & Assembly (DfMA) construction offers constructors increased capability to lift in larger and heavier pre-assembled modules and components – such as headers, boiler tube banks and turbine components – thus avoiding the need for onsite welding, heat treatment, non-destructive testing (NDT) and working-at-height risk and access requirements.
The crane should be the servant, not the hero
Having the right cranage solution on a project means the crane will disappear into the background, because the crane should be there to support the construction methodology, not complicate it.
For the EfW/WtE sector this means there is an approach to cranage that allows for modularised lifting – using fewer cranes with smaller crane footprints but larger lifting capacity – that also releases site areas for laydown and pre-assembling to support a modularised construction methodology. It doesn’t need to be a choice between one over the other. You can have both with a single solution that provides the flexibility to do the light and heavy lifting across a project without the complexity that comes with using heavy lift crawler cranes. Project teams also have the opportunity to react to unscheduled lifting across the whole project, has a direct impact on schedule while at the same time providing de-congested and safer sites.
Ultimately, by taking complexity out of the project, the right cranage solution allows project teams to shift their focus from coordinating crane activity to delivering construction and reaching project completion on schedule, or even earlier.
Simon Marr is the Managing Director of Marr Contracting.