'Why Before the What' in Project Cargo

'Why Before the What' in Project Cargo

By Lori Musser

“Projects are on the books. They are happening in the energy sector,” said John Heimsath, president of ACM Logistics & Consulting during Breakbulk Americas’ opening session in Houston.

That is good news for the project cargo sector. The bad news is that many of the projects in the works are over budget and behind schedule. “In North America, 58 percent are over budget and late,” said Heimsath, “It’s even worse in South America.”

There are numerous factors overlapping to disrupt project forecasts and plans. In a nutshell, they relate to the fact that we don’t live in a static world. “These disruptions happen and move things around,” Heimsath said. The disruptions range from technological advances and limitations to changing access to capital, to evolving free trade and protectionist policy. Intra-sector consolidation also impacts projects.

Whether it is a port strike or a new tariff that increases costs of goods, all of these things trickle down. And despite the fact that the pace of change won’t be slowing any time soon, the project industry does have some solutions at hand, he said.

“There needs to be enough flexibility in the industry to understand what it is we are doing and why, and then the next day to reassess and ask the same questions again. You can and should have many contingencies,” said Heimsath, calling this strategy the “why before the what.”

In addition to always searching and periodically validating, companies should take their experiences and see how they fit with all the other members of the supply chain. Heimsath challenged Breakbulk Americas attendees to “learn a bit up and down the chain.”

Of course, understanding what clients really want is the real lynchpin for success. “If you don’t have a real firm understanding of what you are doing, how the process works, who the hand-off people are,” you can’t succeed, Heimsath said. Companies that can recognize, articulate, forecast and measure have the best chance of success in today’s fast-paced project world.