March 30, 2016

Fluor Senior Project Director on Automating Technologically Complex Projects


Ashish Shah, Fluor Senior Project Director in the Energy and Chemicals Group, knows project management. He has been with Fluor for 28 years, and spent virtually all that time developing and implementing project management processes and procedures. He knows the sorts of problems that arise when you bring a new technology—like 3D capture—into your workflow.

In advance of his plenary session presentation Tuesday at SPAR 3D Expo and Conference, Shah sat down with We discussed what it means to automate large, technologically complex projects, and how he works to align that automation with the overall goal of the project.

SPAR 3D: For those who don’t know you, can you tell me about yourself?

Ashish Shah: I have been with Fluor for the past 28 years. I started out in the process control side of the business then moved into design automation and eventually into project management. I’ve been in project management for the past 10 years.

I have been involved in all kinds of business lines, including energy and chemicals—where I am right now—government group projects, also mining and metals, and infrastructure projects.

SPAR 3D: Now, your plenary presentation—what would you say it’s about? It seems like you’ll focus on the big picture organizational requirements of implementing new technologies, for instance 3D.

Ashish Shah: Yes. It’s about aligning project management and project automation in a large multinational corporation.

SPAR 3D: When you say project automation, what do you mean?

Ashish Shah: A lot of different tools are used to streamline the projects, from the start of the project all the way through the completion. There’s also what we call circular data management, or data circularity—where the data is entered only once and made available to different disciplines and different places as and when needed so that there is no referential disintegrity of the data.

Every discipline has different sets of tools and systems that they use. We decide up front, at the beginning of the project, what tools are going to be used by what discipline and how they’re going to be integrated. Then we try to look at what clients are looking for at the end of the project: deliverable formats, and requirements to ensure that that’s how we proceed through the entire design lifecycle.

SPAR 3D: And you say your knowledge of this process—project automation—has changed your approach to project management? Can you explain?

Ashish Shah: It helps with keeping the project requirements in mind rather than automation as an island. It became easier to have the project automation people align with the project management objectives of a project, which is to focus on cost, scope, schedule, and client satisfaction. So those are the four main elements.

I could direct the project automation teams to focus on these elements, not just merely automating for the sake of automating everything. So that’s what the presentation is going to be all about—different parts of projects, different phases of projects, and what the expectations from project management are vs. what the project automation team should be working on to manage those expectations.

SPAR 3D: So you’re looking at each individual step in the overall context of the project’s larger goals.

Ashish Shah: Correct. And when we talk about projects, we are talking about pretty small projects to pretty large sized projects, from millions of dollars to multi-billion dollars. We divide them into small, medium, large, and mega-projects.

SPAR 3D: Is this sort of discipline, project automation, is this new? Has it changed recently with the influx of new tech, like 3D tools?

Ashish Shah: The approaches and the tools we use continuously evolve with the evolution of technology, but the basic concept does not change that much in terms of what kind of things we need to produce, what deliverables we need to produce, to build a plant.

We are an EPC—we engineer the product, procure the equipment and everything else needed, and then construct the plant and turn it over to the client. Pretty simple process, but each element is very complex.

So, the phases of the project remain the same—the actual process of developing the design, and the procurement, they keep changing and evolving in terms of how they are done and what kind of things are combined and how it is made more efficient.

SPAR 3D: Have 3D technologies been more or less of a challenge to integrate into the general project automation processes?

Ashish Shah: Definitely, it’s a bigger challenge.

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