Managing large energy and mineral resources (EMR) projects in challenging environments
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The viability of energy mineral resources (EMR) construction projects is contingent upon the state of the world economic climate. Oil sands projects in Alberta, Canada exemplify large EMR projects that are highly sensitive to fluctuations in the world market. Alberta EMR projects are constrained by high fixed production costs and are also widely recognized as one of the most challenging construction projects to successfully deliver due to impacts from extreme weather conditions, remote locations and issues with labor availability amongst others. As indicated in many studies, these hardships strain the industry’s ability to execute work efficiently, resulting in declining productivity and mounting cost and schedule overruns. Therefore, to enhance the competitiveness of Alberta EMR projects, project teams are targeting effective management strategies to enhance project performance and productivity by countering the uniquely challenging environment in Alberta. The main purpose of this research is to develop industry wide benchmarking tailored to the specific constraints and challenges of Alberta. Results support quantitative assessments and identify the root causes of project performance and ineffective field productivity problems in the heavy industry sector capital projects. Customized metrics produced from the data collected through a web-based survey instrument were used to quantitatively assess project performance in the following dimensions: cost, schedule, change, rework, safety, engineering and construction productivity and construction practices. The system enables the industry to measure project performance more accurately, get meaningful comparisons, while establishing credible norms specific to Alberta projects. Data analysis to identify the root cause of performance problems was conducted. The analysis of Alberta projects substantiated lessons of previous studies to create an improved awareness of the abilities of Alberta-based companies to manage their unique projects. This investigation also compared Alberta- based projects with U.S. projects to point out the differences in project process and management strategies under different environments. The relative impact of factors affecting construction productivity were identified and validated by the input from industry experts. The findings help improve the work processes used by companies developing projects in Alberta.