03 A Modular Project

In which timing and progress reporting are key to an unusual success.


My temptation is to start with what, if this was a movie, would be called Plot Point I, on pages 25-27 of the script. Here, after some previous foreshadowing during the visit by iconic Exxon head-of-all-projects Manny Peralta, prepping for the following week’s visit of Saudi Royalty to our site, Manny expresses “interest” that a similar project in the same facility has hired Henry Kissinger to lobby top management and is offering $1 million dollar per month unilateral incentive bonuses to meet schedule, while my incentive plan is monthly beers at the local pub. Manny sends out Exxon’s top scheduling expert and the top Fluor (our managing contractor) scheduling expert to perform a joint audit on my work. Conducted five months before the first of our five scheduled module-shipment dates, they report that at best I will be three months late – at $50,000 per day demurrage on the ships, plus hugely more in other disruptions – and at worst case six to nine months late! Fade to “bad day” music, as the sun sets over the module fabrication yard…….


Positive Note: this will be resolved in Plot Point II, pages 85-90, after I have convinced my management to stick with me, and Shipment 1, even though we waited an extra four days so the president of Korea could attend the shipping-out ceremony, goes on time, as do all of the other shipments, including the last shipment two weeks early. The time frames achieved compare favorably to Exxon internal “Effective Construction Span” data based on direct construction manhours (13 months actual vs. 18 predicted), and also compares well to the next best bidder for this module work, an experienced Japanese yard (a first-pass contractual six to nine month longer schedule, which might have been negotiated down to, say at best, a three month longer schedule than was achieved). But at what price? 9.1% below the control budget; 21.2% below the estimate at the time of contract award. The modules were insured for $125 million, as part of a roughly $500 million total project.


Bold Decisions:



Selected a Module Yard contractor who really wanted to succeed, and then, as owner’s representative, we stepped into their shoes to help them succeed.  This ranged from mentoring  key personnel, to going to bat with the home office in expediting materials to the field and managing late changes to the drawings and specifications.


“Float Management”, expediting and materials controls were key.  With most materials being ordered out of Fluor’s Irvine office, the Fluor Irvine schedulers tended to allocate most of the schedule “float” to that office, with materials scheduled to arrive at the module yard what they considered “just in time”, but in reality often a bit late.  This changed.  Expedited materials to get them to site, and once on site at the module yard, designated one of our four person Exxon staff to make sure both we and the contractor knew where every piece was located when it was needed to be installed.


Construction Sequencing / Progress Measurement

Module Yard management says: “we have all of Korea to draw upon” (manpower-wise because mandatory military service for young men can be served on construction projects) and they have excellent facilities:  state of the art computer controlled steel cutting equipment (for shipbuilding: their forte), for example.  So the question becomes: How to utilize all of that.  We did two bold things which I believe were the difference-makers.  One, we developed responsibility Flow Diagrams and Interface Curves, so that work could be anticipated and men and equipment allocated.  More importantly, we had an innovative and effective progress measurement system.  We always knew where we were, and the manhours per percent complete required for the next tranche of progress by activity and by module.  We performed regular audits of physical quantities installed in the field to keep it honest, and the progress numbers were tied to monthly payments to the contractor so it had visibility.  Key.




Total Construction Progress (yellow actual progress; below is manhours; bars represent incremental monthly progress/ manhours)


Manhours per %-Complete (yellow actual; dashed is the Schedule Audit Forecast)


The building block of reporting was the weekly report, which we took great care to format and sampled extensively to ensure accuracy with the physical work. The Exxon follow-up visit (to the Schedule Audit Team) considered “the timeliness and structure of the weekly report… to be excellent”.

In terms of timing, each week ended as of Sunday. Monday morning physical quantities were verified at the task level – the Project Management Team (Managing Contractor with Exxon integrated team members) verified the module yard contractors figures through a sample physical check. These weekly reports formed the basis for the Wednesday weekly meetings, and for weeks ending the month served as invoice verification as well.

Project Measurement

For Progress measurement, the work was broken down into level

  • Task: (2-6 for each Activity)
    • note: we took great care into seeing that the module yard contractor properly weighted the tasks – our goal (perfection) would be a straight line manhours per %-complete curve… to that end, such items as the hydrotest of piping and punch-list reconciliation were given maximum weight, while earlier, easy to perform tasks were weighted more lightly.
  • Activity (13 for each module x 28 modules = 364 activities)
  • Project (the sum of all activities)

Construction Flow Diagrams

These were prepared for contractual discussions, with overview from Exxon (me), between the managing contactor’s home office staff (responsible for drawings, MTO’s, and owner furnished equipment) and the module fabricator’s schedulers, prior to work start. The CFD’s facilitated the kinds of discussions one might now have in a Constructability VIP workshop (see my post): work package sequencing; construction area layout; crane selection and sequencing; material storage, verification and delivery; manpower and congestion studies, etc.). Think coordination and cooperation, here.

CFD 1of3CFD 2of3CFD 3of3

Construction Flow Diagrams (sheets 1, 2 and 3) – a very early rough draft!

Responsibility Flow Diagrams and Interface Curves

At the “getting started” and “hitting stride” phases of each of the 13 major activities, interfaces surfaced as a major factor towards successful completion. We developed some Responsibility Flow Diagrams” and some “Interface Curves” to assist in our management of these processes. Note that most of the problematical interfaces were internal within the module fabricator’s organization. The Interface Curves were useful in discussing backlogs to accumulate before action was taken.

RFD 1 0f4RFD 3 0f4RFD 4 0f4

Responsibility Flow Diagrams (sheets 1,3 and 4) – Steel Fab and Erection (typical of base frame, module support and superstructure systems) – also a rough draft!.



Interface Curves – Baseframe Drawing Issue, Cutting, Assembly



Interface Curves – Baseframe Material Delivery and Assembly



Interface Curves – Superstructure Steel Drawing Issue, Order, Delivery, Cutting



Interface Curves – Piping MTO, Order, Isometrics and Shop Drawings


Work Remaining Schedules

During the later stages (ten weeks before shipments), conformance was keyed to the work remaining schedules. These were based on the Owner’s Team early punch lists. In this regard, as well as in their assistance in the field, the owner’s Team deserves major credit towards the module fabricator’s on time performance.

Our 20 April forecast based on piping progress, manhours available, and actual productivity concluded that if we required ten full weeks after piping reached 95%, shipments would be 1-2 weeks late. As it turned out, it took an average of only six weeks from piping 95% progress to shipping, and modules were ready 1-4 weeks early.




Project Scope in numbers:

Number of Modules 28

Total Module Weight 14,300 MT

Direct Field Manhours 2,130,000 mhrs

Construction Drawings and Isometrics 4,400 drawings

Mechanical Equipment 1,300 items

Tagged Instruments 4,750 tags

Valves and Fittings 31,200 items

Pipe 29,300 meters (17 miles)

Electrical Conduit 50,000 meters (28 miles)

The Project in Pictures:

M01 Baseframes

Base Frame Girder Fab: 07 July  Start; 20 Nov Complete

M02 Baseframes

Base Frame Assembly: 10 Aug Start; 31 Dec Complete

M03 PipeFab

Pipe Fab: 25 September  Start; 20 May  Complete

M04 Superstructure

Superstructure Cutting: 26 October Start

M05 SSPreFab

Superstructure Panels Prefabrication: 23 November Start


M08 Equip

Equipment Setting: 08 January  Start

M09 PipeErec

Pipe Erection: 08 January Start

M10 ProgressJan38

Progress end January: 38%


The Project in Pictures, continued

M11 Feb49BnsSilos

Setting Bins and Silos: Progress end February 49%

M12 InstrElec

Instrument and Electrical: 12 February Start


M14 March54

Progress end March: 54%; Peak Labor Force March 29 at 1,223 workers

M15 April69

Progress end April: 69%; also peak monthly progress: 14.9%

note: the letters on the large bridge-crane in the background are three stories high – this was reputedly the largest crane in the world at the time (although not needed on our modules)


M17 June85

Sea Fastenings / Tie-downs: 05 June Start; Progress end June 85%

The Project in Pictures, continued

M18 Loadout


M19 Ship1

Ship 01: 17 July

note: the ship size is approximately 460 by 105 feet

M20 Ship2

Ship 02: 29 July

M21 Ship3

Ship 03: 30 August

M22 Ship4

Ship 04: 09 September

M23 Ship5

Ship 05: 24 September



modules 160

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