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Copper Tip Energy

How to ensure your modularization project is a success!

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Your projects need scheduling and cost certainty now more than ever! Optimize the modularization on your next project to ensure it is successful.

By Cathy Farina

Industrial Modularization has become the main execution method for many facility owners as it has been proven on a global basis to reduce cost and provide cost and schedule certainty. Implementing modularization on a project is complex and requires the executive management and project team to understand what is required on modular projects and what is different from traditional stick-built execution. In order for your project to be successful in implementing a modular execution and design, the following are some critical requirements that need to be considered:

  1. Collaboration and Alignment
  2. Decision to Modularize Timing
  3. Overall Schedule Adjustment
  4. Earlier Expenditures
  5. Additional FEED (FEL3) Phase Effort
  6. Understanding the Modular Design Requirements
  7. Advanced Work Packaging
  8. Material Management
  9. Fabricator and Assembler Engagement
  10. Modular Execution and Design Guidelines and Training


Collaboration among disciplines is required to ensure a successful project. Further, collaboration among teams ensures everyone works together to achieve a common goal. Modular execution (versus traditional stick-built project), requires more collaboration between all stakeholders including the customer, project teams and the engineering disciplines. Changes that are made after the FEED (FEL3) phase have a significant impact on the schedule for a modularization project and must be minimized in order for modular execution to be successful. A successful approach for modular execution would be more of a horizontal organization that promotes collaboration versus a vertical organization that is traditionally used on projects.

In addition to collaboration, team and stakeholder alignment are keys to project success. Alignment workshops should be performed at the beginning of each phase to ensure all the stakeholders and the project team understand and have alignment on the business drivers and the overall modularization strategy.


The decision to modularize all or part of the facility needs to be made early in a project lifecycle. Figure 1 illustrates the optimum timing to determine whether modular execution and design is the appropriate strategy for your project that is based on the Construction Industry Institute (CII) Research RT-283. The optimum timing to decide to modularize should be no later than the start of DBM (FEL2) phase. This is due to the planning and additional effort that is required in the FEED (FEL3) phase to ensure your project us successful. If the decision is not made until the start of the Implementation (EPC) phase, a three to four-month delay in the schedule can be expected. The delay is the time required to rework the FEED (FEL3) documents to address the modular execution and design strategy. Projects that did not incorporate modularization until the EPC phase or later did not see the desired results and were not as successful as incorporating modular execution up front in DBM (FEL2) or FEED (FEL3) phases.

How to ensure your modularization project is a success 1Figure 1 – Optimal Timing for Decision to Modularize (Source: CII Research Report 283-11)


With a modular execution and design, the overall schedule will need to be adjusted to include the fabrication and assembly effort that will be required. This additional effort will reduce the overall construction effort; however, it will require engineering to be completed earlier to support the fabrication and assembly. For traditional stick-built execution, the construction progress curve drives the engineering progress curve based on a typical back to front schedule. For modular execution, the construction drives the fabrication and assembly which drives the engineering progress curve.

In order to successful complete a modular executed project, the engineering will need to be accelerated in the FEED (FEL3) phase to ensure the design is defined sufficiently to support the module fabrication and assembly. The intent would be to issue deliverable IFC with no holds. In a modular execution, engineering is progressed to approx. 18-22% overall engineering complete in the FEED (FEL3) phase compared to the overall engineering progress at 8-12% for a traditional stick-built execution. Figure 2 illustrates comparison of a progress curves for modular execution and traditional stick-built execution.

How to ensure your modularization project is a success 2

Figure 2 – Modular Execution vs. Stick-built Execution Progress Curve Comparison

Sky Eye Measurement


Due to accelerating engineering into the FEED (FEL3) phase, there will be a requirement to accelerate some of the engineering hours from the detailed engineering phase to the FEED (FEL3) phase. This will require some earlier expenditures (compared to traditional stick-built execution), to support the module fabrication and assembly schedule. There will also be additional hours for CSA engineering to support the module structural frame design development.

In addition to the engineering hours, vendor data will be required in the FEED (FEL3) phase for any critical equipment that will have an impact on the design. This will require either an earlier PO for the equipment / instrumentation or a PO for the vendor data only. Any long lead equipment that will impact the module fabricator and assembler schedule will also need to be purchased in the FEED (FEL3) phase.


Modular execution requires the engineering and design activities and deliverables to be completed earlier than traditional stick-built execution. The engineering schedule is moved forward in a modular executed project and each discipline will need to collaborate to achieve the engineering progress (~18-22% overall progress) required at the end of the FEED (FEL3) phase. There will also be a requirement for some additional engineering deliverables and activities to support modular execution. The engineering and design hours will have an increase of approximately 5 to 10% depending on percent modularization. The increase in hours will be distributed differently between disciplines.


Modular design has different requirements than traditional stick-built design. It is critical that the project team understands these differences and incorporates them into the plan and design. The following are some key design requirements:

  • Team Collaboration – discipline teams will need to be proactive and work together with other disciplines to ensure their requirements are understood and planned for
  • Space Management – for placement of all equipment, HVAC, structures, piping and E&I cabling and components, operations and maintenance access and egress
  • Vendor data management – ensuring the right vendor data is available and seeing that reviews are efficiently completed requires extra focus be given to expedite vendor data
  • Module Weight Management – it is critical that module weight management and the Center of Gravity (COG) procedure be developed early in the FEED (FEL3) phase and implemented throughout the life-cycle of the project
  • Material Handling Strategy – a strategy that defines how the equipment and components are maintained during the operation of the plant
  • Designing for Transportation Methods – the modules will need to be designed to withstand the transportation forces depending on the method of transportation


Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) is the overall process flow of all the detailed work packages (EWPs, MWPs, CWPs and IWPs as illustrated in Figure 3) based on the CII and Construction Owners Association of Alberta (CHOA) research RT-272. It is a planned, executable process that encompasses all the work on an EPFC project, beginning with initial planning and continuing through detailed design, procurement, fabrication, assembly, construction and commissioning execution. Incorporating the AWP and path of construction into a modular project is extremely important as the critical path is engineering and ensuring engineering receives the vendor data to support the engineering effort. Incorporating the AWP will allow the modular fabrication and assembly and construction priorities to be communicated to engineering upfront, so they will be able to plan accordingly.

How to ensure your modularization project is a success 3

Figure 3 – AWP Work Process (Source: CII Research Report 272-12)


The success of a modular fabrication and assembly relies heavily on the project team and their ability to develop a detailed material control plan, successfully implement the plan, and effectively communicate and collaborate. The material planning to support modular execution is more critical than a traditional stick-built execution. The components of success are the scheduling of the material POs and having material available at the module yard. In addition, a material management system that supports bulk purchases with allocation by MWP is very important.


The most effective modular execution strategy is to have fabrication and assembly representatives from an approved module yard integrated early into the project team. The benefits to integrating fabrication and assembly include reduced overall TIC due to the ability to have the design incorporate the module yard processes. The ability to execute the project integrating the module yard contractor requires an appropriate contracting strategy with the client. Fabricability analysis is not limited to optimizing fabrication and assembly but also to evaluate the impact of fabrication/assembly alternatives on overall project goals. Fabricability input should be incorporated into designs, even in the conceptual stages. This step will eliminate the need for extensive review later in the project which can result in design changes.


In order to be able to implement modularization on to your project, there will need to be approved guidelines, processes and tools developed to support modular execution and design. In addition, the project team will need to be trained in how to execute and design for a modular project. The project team will need to have an open mindset when implementing modularization as it is different than what has been done traditionally.

For more information on how modularizing your next project can provide significant benefits, check out our other blogs at

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