Managing Documentation on EPC Projects


EPC Projects Require Better Document Management

In Engineering, Procurement & Construction (EPC) projects the engineering component of the project taken on by the EPC contractor includes considerable design review and coordination activities. In comparison to Design-Build contracts, there are many more parties involved in design and design review, leading to many more interfaces that must be coordinated. This adds additional requirements for the EPC project’s document management system (DMS), which can be challenging to implement in a typical DMS. This article outlines the most important documentation processes for EPC projects and explains their effect the project’s DMS requirements.

More Parties are Involved, More Interfaces to Coordinate

On EPC projects the Contractor is responsible for the design, including all coordination and design review required to ensure it all fits together. The following parties are typically involved:

  1. Contractor’s Engineer – Responsible for the design, including all coordination and review of design carried out by Vendors
  2. Vendors – Design and supply components
  3. Independent Checking Engineers (ICEs) – May be engaged to do technical review of specific parts of the design
  4. Employer’s Engineer – May review specific parts of the design

Good Control is Essential

Good control is essential on all projects. On EPC projects it is even more important:

  1. Formal coordination of design tasks is essential. The informal coordination sometimes used by design teams that all work in the same building or for the same organisation will inevitably lead to chaos on EPC projects
  2. There are strict time periods allowed for design, review and rework, which often start automatically on receipt of documents
  3. There are contractual penalties for missing document delivery, review and rework deadlines
  4. There can be serious knock-on effects when interface problems are not promptly detected and resolved
  5. Accurate record keeping and archiving of all communications and documentation transfers between parties is critical:
    1. Document transfer dictates the start of ‘timed’ review and rework periods
    2. Many letters and emails contain contractually relevant statements  
    3. It must be possible to confirm that a project partner has received all information necessary to complete their work
  6. Large volumes of documentation must be transferred to and from distant parties
  7. Project partners must promptly be sent updated revisions of all documents associated with their work
  8. Change control almost always cross organisational boundaries

Recommended DMS Processes

Implementing the following DMS processes makes it easier to stay in control:

  1. Procurement Package Management and Vendor Selection
  2. Receipt and Control of Incoming Documentation
  3. Document Review and Return for Rework
  4. Change Control
  5. Correspondence Tracking and Document Distribution

The DMS requirements associated with these processes are explained in the following sections

1. Procurement Package Management and Vendor Selection

  1. Distribution of tender packages to prospective vendors and suppliers. The packages typically have two parts:
    1. Package-specific documents: technical requirements and specifications
    2. General documents: terms & conditions, general requirements, health & safety, etc.
  2. Receiving and responding to bidder queries

DMS Requirements

  1. Ability to manage a contact list of prospective vendors and suppliers, including the workflows necessary to manage the evaluation and status of the selection process
  2. Ability to transmit large sets of documents, to multiple recipients, including the ability to get positive acknowledgement that procurement package documents were actually received (or downloaded) by each recipient
  3. Ability to easily identify recipients of out-of-date documents and send them the latest versions. This should also include positive acknowledgement that they were actually received by the recipient
  4. Ability to efficiently register vendors queries in the DMS and manage and track the project team’s preparation of responses  
  5. Ability to create and send a summary list of queries and their responses to all bidders for a given procurement package or set of packages.
  6. An audit trail that records all correspondence, so that you can prove that the project has treated all bidders equally and not given anyone unfair advantage

2. Receipt and Control of Incoming Documentation

Once vendors have been selected, each vendor typically sends a list, often in the form of spreadsheet containing a schedule, of the all documents they plan to deliver. The project must then:

  1. Track document delivery to ensure that all documents are delivered by the agreed dates
  2. Provide an efficient means for the vendor to transfer documents to the project.
    1. Ideally the vendor can upload the documents themselves into a vendor-specific holding area in the DMS
  3. File and classify the documents in the DMS

DMS Requirements

  1. Ability to efficiently convert the vendor’s document schedule into “placeholder” documents in the DMS
    1. Assign a project document code,
    2. Ability to store, and search for documents using, the vendor’s document code
    3. Assign classification fields
  2. Ability to implement workflows for each expected document to track its delivery and review status and associated deadlines. This should include links to:
    1. The document’s procurement package
    2. Vendor’s contact details
  3. An “early warning system” to signal when deadlines are approaching for critical documents in order to be able to proactively contact the vendor
  4. Ability to easily identify and report on outstanding and missing documents, by procurement package and vendor

3. Document Review and Return for Rework

Design documents delivered by Vendors must be reviewed by the EPC project team. Design documents may also require review by external parties (ICEs and Owner’s Engineer) as well. The reviews include both technical and interface reviews.

DMS Requirements

  1. Ability to manage the review status, feedback and deadlines of each revision of each document (e.g. by procurement package and by vendor), including the ability to manage different types of reviews, including:
    1. Technical reviews
    2. One or more interface approvals
    3. Final approval
  2. Ability to deliver (transmit) documents to external parties for review, and track the review status, feedback and deadlines
  3. Ability to collect and store review comments and documents, including reports and marked-up versions, associated with a document or a set of documents
  4. Ability to create an official review response to documents and link them to the document(s) under reviewed
  5. Ability to efficiently transmit review feedback and documents for rework back to the vendor or designer
  6. Ability to manage the responsibilities, deadlines and status of documents being reworked, including an “early warning system” to signal when deadlines are approaching
  7. Ability to easily identify and report on documents being reworked, by procurement package and by vendor

4. Change Control

While change control procedures are required on all projects, in EPC projects the propagation of changes to vendors and other parties, and the review and distribution of reworked documents, requires more to effort to coordinate.

DMS Requirements

  1. Ability to manage change control requests, including the following:
    1. Responsibilities, deadlines and status of change control request
    2. Notes and feedback (including documents) about the change control request
    3. Links to related documents (reports, interfaces, contracts, correspondence, etc.)
    4. Links to documents likely to require rework
  2. Ability to easily search for documents likely to be affected by a particular change. This is best accomplished by filing documents using “engineering classifications”, e.g. using classification fields such as: (note that some classification fields should allow assignment multiple classification values)
    1. Engineering discipline(s)
    2. Project location
    3. Procurement package
    4. System & sub-system
    5. Supplier company
    6. Interface(s) (e.g. using a WBS)
  3. Ability to easily find contractual deadlines and restrictions associated with documents that must be reworked
  4. Ability to transmit the final ‘official’ change control request, including all supporting documentation, to all affected parties
  5. Ability to track the the responsibilities, deadlines and status of all documents that must be reworked
  6. Ability to send new versions of reworked documents to all parties that ‘need’ them (see 5.3 below)

5. Correspondence Tracking and Document Distribution

Correspondence tracking and documentation distribution is a major activity on EPC projects. Note that correspondence includes both email and traditional letter based correspondence.

DMS Requirements

  1. Ability to efficiently file incoming incoming correspondence.
    1. Ideally the sender can simply email it to the DMS (including email attachments)
  2. Ability to efficiently file and assign classification fields to all incoming correspondence and documentation
  3. Ability to find all correspondence associated with a particular:
    1. Vendor or other organisation
    2. Procurement package
    3. Change control request
    4. Interface
  4. Ability to efficiently send new revisions of documents to all parties who ‘need’ them. This requires:
    1. Knowledge of what has been sent to whom
    2. Ability to report on who has out-of-date documents
    3. Ability to efficiently make transmittals containing new revisions
    4. Record keeping of all transmittals and documentation transfers