Seven benefits of modular project design

Modular project design provides engineers many potential benefits such as saving time and money and also making customization much easier.

04/27/2017


Image courtesy: Bob Vavra, CFE MediaModular design is an approach in which engineering projects, even complex ones, are created using standard modules. Engineers can combine these modules in different ways depending on the needs of the project. For organizations looking to reduce project costs (i.e., any organization involved in engineering or construction), taking a modular design approach can be ideal, especially for greenfield projects. It can make the difference between operating in the black, rather than in the red on both a short-term basis as well as in the long term. 

1. Saving time and money

This is, by far, the biggest advantage to modularity. According to McKinsey, oil and gas companies that adopt a modular approach have cut their direct project costs by up to 15% and their project delivery times by up to 20%.

2. Reducing rework and leveraging organizational knowledge

Many firms still start every new project from scratch. That's like recreating the wheel - again, and again, and again. By creating standard modules and reusing them across different projects, you can drastically reduce the amount of rework your engineers have to do. This also ensures that you're tapping into your employees' combined organizational knowledge for continuous improvement, rather than just filing that knowledge into a drawer somewhere and having to relearn it for every project.

3. Futureproofing

Along with leveraging your organizational knowledge in the present, you need to think about the future. How will your firm compete with low-cost competitors for future work? What can be done when the project demands are high, but the budget for hiring additional engineers just isn't there? Implementing a modular approach and starting to build a typical library now will help engineers be ready for whatever challenges tomorrow brings.

4. Customizing made easy

Engineers often run into many situations requiring customization. Standardized modules allow engineers to tackle this problem in two ways, both of which are easier than starting from scratch:

  • Creating typicals with different options and variances. A typical library can include multiple versions of the same basic module, each with different options and variances. In our experience, using different options and variances, the user can design an entire plant with as few as 50 to 60 typicals.
  • Using the standard module as a starting point for further customization. In cases where something completely unique is needed, engineers can still use a proven typical as a starting point. For efficiency, that beats the heck out of starting with a blank piece of paper.

5. Concurrent engineering

In concurrent engineering (also called "simultaneous engineering") multiple engineers work on different aspects of the design at the same time. This saves time and money since no one has to wait for someone else to finish. With modular design, engineers can work on different modules independently and then bring them together to create the final deliverables.

6. Outsourcing

Similar to concurrent engineering, outsourcing work is much easier using a modular approach. Project managers can assign outsourced talent specific modules to work on, rather than having to integrate them fully into your systems and processes.

7. Tracking and analyzing data

Standardized modules also allow you to better track and analyze your project data. For example, you can record how many times a particular module has been used, how often it has to be modified, and what its performance and repair metrics look like. This information will help you improve your internal processes as well as raise the quality of the work you deliver to clients.

Ryan Nabozniak, application consulting engineer, Aucotec. This article originally appeared on Aucotec's website. Aucotec is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

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