Research: Hexagon Remote Work & Accessibility Survey – EPCs at home

As mentioned in our earlier blog post, we have executed a Remote Work & Accessibility Survey for Europe, Middle East, India & Africa (EMIA) region in April 2020. Today we will talk about the specific survey findings for the engineering, procurement & construction (EPC) companies – what are the challenges when it comes to EPC companies and the current working from home routine, we all find ourselves in.

With EPCs, three key findings were presented in our survey:

  1. More EPC offices are closed, and more EPC employees work at home compared to owner operators.
  2. While engineering departments continue to work close to normal, construction is severely affected.
  3. Access to IT tools is not hindering productivity, but system performance causes issues.

The survey showed that 74% of EPC offices are closed, and 90% of the recipients were working from home – both of these figures are higher than the survey average. This is very likely due to most of the recipients working in the engineering, procurement and contracts departments of the companies, where work can be executed remotely easier than in construction or facility operations.

The ability to mitigate the effect the current scenario has on fabrication and construction is nevertheless crucial – the construction industry alone represents 13% of the global GDP, and any possibility to lessen the effects of COVID-19 are needed to be taken into consideration. Ways how EPC companies can start to minimize the staff onsite and facilitate social distancing for those who need to be there include:

  • Improve project collaboration with IT tools to facilitate the sharing and exchange of information within and between project stakeholders. If all the departments are aligned and informed evenly, time spent on site can be minimized and resource utilization maximized.
  • Remote expert support to field workers by adoption of helmet-mounted displays and cameras to decrease the need for physical visits to sites.
  • Increased use of reality capture technologies such as laser scanning to enable remote access to “as is” status of work on construction sites.
  • The adoption of electronic tools for shift handover allow exchange of information between shifts without physical contact.

Back to performance
Based on the survey data, accessing tools doesn’t come across as an issue, with 83% of the EPC recipients reporting that they can access necessary tools easily remotely. When it comes to performance, however, the story changes; 50% of the recipients say that the slow reaction time from systems/tools is hindering their productivity. Other reported issues include difficulty communicating with colleagues and licensing issues.

These all become important when compared to the finding that 29% of the recipients report less than 80% of productivity when WFH, with 16% of people saying they are less than 60% effective! With EPC companies struggling with productivity as it is (we have all heard about those billion-dollar mega-project overruns) and the current economic situation adding up to the uncertainty, these are the first steps EPCs can take towards preparing for the post-pandemic times for improved productivity:

  1. Digitize, digitize and digitize – Low levels of digitization have dogged the construction industry for years. Digitizing construction management is no longer optional though, and digitizing and integrating the engineering, construction, fabrication and handover processes will not only improve efficiency in the future but will allow EPCs to minimize staff needed onsite.
  2. Integration – The process industries still generally suffer from multiple, discipline-based information silos resulting in an inconsistent design basis requiring re-work often at high cost on-site. Increased use of cross-discipline integration and consolidation of information into a project digital twin can identify inconsistencies and ensure they are resolved early in the project whilst changes can be executed at low cost and avoid delays and increased work on-site.
  3. Reality capture – A significant proportion of time at construction sites is spent in physically verifying the status of construction against the design. Much of this can be potentially eliminated by increased use of reality capture techniques such as laser scanning.
  4. Personnel tracking – The location tracking of personnel on construction sites can be used to identify where too many workers are gathered at a single location, can send alerts to workers when they come too close to co-workers and can identify where workers stray into areas they are not authorized to enter. The same technologies can be used to dispatch workers avoiding hazardous areas and can direct workers move “one way” and avoid coming into close contact with others moving in the opposite direction in cramped locations.

As we continue to face the pandemic and to adjust to the new way of working for the upcoming months, it’s difficult to foresee exactly when or if things will go back to “normal.” In the meanwhile, we can all take steps towards digitalization to keep ourselves and our colleagues safe. For us, this means continuing to innovate new digital approaches to engineering, procurement & construction – if you are interested in learning more about digitizing engineering, I invite you to visit our Empowered Engineering page.

Take care of yourselves.

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Adrian Park
Adrian has been with Hexagon’s PPM division since 2007 and currently serves as the Vice President for Pre-sales for Europe, the Middle East, India & Africa (EMIA) region. From 2007 to 2018 he worked in Global Business Development for Information Management solutions. He is based in Sandnes, Norway.

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