Global Insight

Life Sciences – a constantly evolving market

21 March 2017

‘Big Pharma’ is evolving towards a more integrated approach in its real estate strategy, and the Project Controls team is playing a fundamental role in this.

Joe Cusick, Projects Director at Linesight, explores the increasingly important role that Project Controls plays, as 'Big Pharma' pursues greater efficiency and higher returns. 

In recent years, our Life Sciences clients have been focused on streamlining their operating model and looking for efficiencies in every part of their business. This mantra of increasing efficiencies to maximize returns has also influenced the way in which ‘Big Pharma’ executes its real estate strategy. More and more we are seeing these clients move away from a fully outsourced model and traditional project execution strategies. In recent times, our Pharma clients have explored lean construction and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) methods, while bringing more of the pre-construction expertise back in-house.

These innovative construction delivery models impact the role of consultants as well as contractors, meaning that we all need to be as agile as our clients. Lean construction looks to minimize waste and increase efficiencies in the construction process, with the stated intent of maximizing value to the client and increasing speed to market – both key concerns in the highly competitive Life Sciences sector. 

The role of Project Controls in this collaborative environment

With these new project delivery methods, clients are engaging with contractors at an earlier stage - relying on them to carry the load of pre-construction activities and drive through design development with the Design team. However, this collaborative environment still has a place for the Project Controls team. As the pre-construction process becomes more involved and intense, the need for the client to have an expert advisor in place to monitor the process and to challenge / validate project costs, schedule and risks as the design evolves increases. Having the Project Controls consultant there as a challenging partner enhances the pre-construction process; providing constructive advice concurrently with design development and maintaining a focus on the outturn impacts of the design decisions being made.

Equally, the post-contract role is evolving away from the traditional cost and schedule “confrontation”. As our clients’ processes change and evolve, the services that we, as consultants, offer need to do the same. Traditional cost and schedule skillsets, while still relevant, need to be enhanced with new, innovative ways to approach service delivery and project advice. Our post-contract role is constantly evolving, and we strive to promote innovation in processes, tools and the presentation of information.

'Big Pharma' is moving away from a fully outsourced model and traditional project execution strategies towards lean construction and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) methods.

The lean approach to the post contract effort usually means scaling back the size of the team, minimizing or eliminating duplication of effort, and streamlining the reporting deliverables. We have seen this evolve to where there is one master schedule being managed by Project Controls, with multiple sub schedules feeding in to it. Cost Management is also streamlined by having one project cost report managed by Project Controls, which is fed by inputs directly from all project team members, including the contractors. The Project Controls team works collaboratively with all team members, and has transparency and visibility to all costs from all team members. This is a major evolution from the traditional set-up where everyone jealously guards their information, multiple project reports are produced and there is a lack of trust and co-operation within the team. In many instances we have found ourselves being engaged by both the client and the Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) partners to co-ordinate and facilitate the timely flow of information. Being in this core position, engaging and collaborating with all parties is our target role within this new project environment.

The onus is on the consultant to better understand the client and what their drivers are. Furthermore, it is necessary to engage with them at the right level - recognizing what the stakeholders and end users need from their investment. This will lead to us climbing the value “ladder”, becoming true consultants and subject matter experts and providing our clients with pro-active, constructive advice in a timely manner; allowing clients to make informed decisions regarding their investment. This is a challenge that Linesight embraces on all our Life Sciences and other complex projects.

Looking forward

Clients are looking for their partners to bring more value to their projects – new implementation models are challenging contractors and designers to produce more innovation and to drive projects to success from much earlier in the project lifecycle. This allows consultants to provide value in advance of the construction phase, when the cost of change is incrementally lower and much more impactful. All too often project controls arrive on a project when procurement is under way and design is charging ahead – there is less value in minimizing the cost of changes from this stage. The focus must now be pivoted towards early engagement, in order to allow a Project Controls team provide the true value of having them on board.