Multi-Office EPC Projects Offer Competitive Advantages During Energy Industry's Lean Times

Vepica shares how collaboration technologies helped it break geographic barriers and deliver greater project economies

Dec 18, 2015, 15:00 ET from Vepica

HOUSTON, Dec. 18, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Multi-office EPC projects using unified communications (UC) technologies have the ability to generate 15-25 percent savings, when compared with traditional approaches, according to Vepica, an Engineering News Record (ENR) Top 225 International Design Firm specializing in the energy industry. A review of the company's key projects over a two-year period demonstrated significant competitive benefits producing models and insights that have proven highly relevant amid the current downturn.

According to Jose Luis Barrios, Corporate Engineering Manager at Vepica, multi-office projects allowed the EPC firm to become more competitive against a backdrop of industry-wide pressure to optimize resources and reduce cost.

"Multi-office projects have demonstrated that access to a wider and more agile resource pool, not only across the firm's own geographies, but also across partnering firms with different core strengths, produce concrete savings and competitive advantages," Barrios said. In addition to the oil and gas industry, the firm has successfully applied its multi-office project approach to renewable energy projects.

Before the rise of modern communication technologies, multi-national firms had to create fully staffed project teams in each location, driving up overhead costs. Long distance collaboration in real time was rigid or simply not possible. However, the age of computer aided design (CAD), 3D modeling and UC have taken the project office from a physical workspace to a far more nimble and fluid asset – characteristics the firm says couldn't be more relevant to today's business environment.

What is a Multi-Office Project?
A multi-office project is any project whose execution involves resources distributed across many locations, countries or companies. The great advantage of this approach is that expert teams can be formed to work on projects combining talents from any number of offices. Collectively, these teams have a wider skill set and are able to reduce the lost productivity and added expenses associated with travel.

Technology's Role

While the adoption of these new technologies and practices took some time and investment, it is well worth it. Vepica began the transition a little over three years ago with the integration of Microsoft Lync, today known as Skype for Business, into its operations.

The firm's project offices on four continents are connected through a virtual network, which allows information sharing across data centers. Information security is a key element of the multi-office project approach. As such, an in-house IT office tasked with safeguarding the privacy of the company's network, as well as assuring that all information is backed-up and replicated to eliminate the risk of losing critical project documents, is key.

According to Microsoft, these capabilities generally have the ability to accelerate project completion by 10-20 percent, a fact borne out by Vepica's own analysis. "Of course, every project presents its own unique challenges but productivity gains were consistently present among the projects we analyzed," added Barrios.

Elements of Success

The firm cited several key success factors and lessons:

  • Office closest to the client usually becomes the project lead and execution center, responsible for the creation of the work breakdown structure for the project
  • The lead office is responsible for project management, including database management and providing information access for all company offices involved
  • Clear definition of roles, responsibilities and authority
  • High value team building and kick-off meetings
  • Standard control and reporting tools
  • Use of single unified database for assurance of integrity
  • Coordinators assigned for execution center, which may focus on specific functions such as equipment procurement or detailed engineering design

Added Value for the Customer
According to Vepica, the embracing of multi-office projects and UC allowed the firm to act locally, being close to the customer in markets of interest while having access to a global resource pool. It is part of the firm's broader business strategy focused on value and differentiation through sharing risk with clients, ensuring more certainty in cost and schedule, the ability to competitively bring highly specialized talent and processes to its projects, and other added-value features including working under lump sum and turn-key arrangements from concept through construction, and even providing project financing in special cases.

About Vepica
Incorporated in Spain, and with operations in Canada, China, Colombia, Mexico, the U.S. and Venezuela, privately held Vepica is a multinational engineering firm specializing in the energy industry. Named among the (ENR) Top 225 International Design Firms for three consecutive years from 2013 to 2015, Vepica provides EPC, engineering, inspection/O&M and environmental services to the oil and gas, alternative energy, chemical, power generation, infrastructure, transportation, mining and telecommunications industries. Founded in 1972, Vepica today has over 2,000 employees and counts more than 40 million man-hours and 3,500 engineering projects on four continents to its credit. For more information, visit