pipeline construction project estimating

Pipeline projects are complex.

The sheer volume of data inputs and sources that go into calculating the optimal right of way, and accurate budget and scheduling estimates is staggering.

The traditional approach to pipeline construction project estimating:

Traditionally, pipeline project managers, estimators and schedulers historically rely on engineering acuity, past experience and logical calculations to help determine project feasibility.

Calculations take the form of extensive workbooks with complex sets of calculations that take into consideration and account for thousands of variables.

Then, once a projection and estimate is calculated, the engineer or engineering team is asked to augment the project estimate. What if’s”, optimizing for business objectives, reducing the schedule and costs and countless other inputs from various stakeholders begin the process anew.

“Depending on the number of iterations to inputs, the repetitive nature of the calculations that go into creating a pipeline construction project estimate can range from simply inefficient to downright painful.”

The fact any pipeline projects are successfully completed in an environment with this many variables is due entirely to the brilliance, dedication and competence of the project team.

This methodology has worked for decades. Some of humankind’s most incredible feats of engineering have been conceived, estimated and executed in this manner.

However, there are downsides to this process.

The problem with the traditional approach to pipeline construction project estimating:

Non intuitive:

Newer team members may be intimidated by the volume and complexity of calculations. Training them or bringing them up to speed to a place of maximum value involves allocating additional resources, which may not always be available due to competing project priorities.

Resource heavy iteration:

Each update to the project could involve dozens of man hours to implement. Whether it be a resource change, adaptation for environmental factors or a tweak to optimize the project schedule, the variables affected are complex, and the impact requires substantial time to define.

Limited accessibility of information:

For stakeholders that require a macro view of the project while still maintaining access to the details that matter, a multi page workbook of calculations isn’t an ideal tool. It lacks the ability to synthesize and convey status reports or other details succinctly or visually.

Efforts are duplicated:

Financial and management team members may require the data to be exported in formats that workbooks lack the functionality to deliver. Data re-entry may be the only solution available.

Once the project estimate is approved, the project team may also need to duplicate their efforts by re-entering data into a scheduling tool.

Limited functionality:

Project owners and controls people want as much transparency on risk, feasibility and scope as possible. Even the most talented engineers may have areas where the “black box” of costs is the most insight available in a workbook, without performing extensive additional calculations.

In short, the traditional manner of pipeline project construction estimating can be less than optimally efficient. The amount of resources that go into creating an estimate are significant.

Automating pipeline project construction estimating with APEX software:

After ten years in the field, estimating pipeline projects using the traditional method, one pipeline construction estimating engineer envisioned a better way.

  • What if there was a way to automate even part of the estimating process?
  • What if there was one standardized set of calculations and one secure place where all the estimating data lived?
  • What if this solution could work the way the project team worked; offering the ability to export data in a variety of methods and formats?

After many years in development, the vision for a better way to manage pipeline construction project estimates was conceived in APEX: Advanced Pipeline Estimating and eXecution Software.

APEX software has been used on many major pipeline projects and has been shown to:

  1. Reduce workload and time spent creating estimates and schedules by up to half the time and effort for double the usable data.
  2. Increase confidence and accuracy in project estimates, costing, scheduling, resource loading and cash flow.
  3. Eliminate or dramatically reduce data loss through migration from one solution to the next.

“APEX was used to update key spreads on a nearly 1000 km pipeline project. The product has been developed specifically for pipeline construction execution modelling of cost and schedule. The professional support provided, the resource loading, scheduling and other analysis capabilities along with consistency of output were key factors in choosing the software.”
John Macleod, P.Eng.TMEP