Navigating Common EPC Project Challenges
April 28, 2023
Fabrication & Construction
Detail Engineering & Design
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Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) capital projects are complex and present various EPC project challenges. Therefore, it's essential to understand these common challenges and apply strategies that successfully navigate them to ensure project success. This article will discuss common EPC project challenges and what can be done to overcome them. 

Defining and Addressing Common EPC Project Challenges

The challenges EPC capital projects face can be organized into several key categories. In the following table, we introduce each EPC challenge (with links to a more detailed analysis below) and provide a brief summary of mitigation strategies. 

EPC Project Challenges


Key Mitigation Strategies


Conduct risk assessments; administer job safety analysis; apply the hierarchy of safety controls

Project Scope Management

Craft a detailed project charter outlining the project scope, objectives, and key stakeholders

Cost Overruns

Follow detailed budget plan; monitor costs consistently; implement project controls system

Schedule Delays

Employ a Critical Path Method (CPM) schedule

Quality Control

Implement a Total Quality Management (TQM) plan

Risk Management

Develop and implement a comprehensive Risk Management Plan

Stakeholder Management

Outline a communication plan and engage regularly with stakeholders 


Safety is a critical consideration for capital projects. The inherent risks involved in these projects require careful planning, implementation, and monitoring to ensure that workers, the environment, and assets are protected from harm. Therefore, contractors must take a comprehensive approach to mitigate safety risks. A thorough strategy addressing safety challenges will require EPC projects to: 

  • Conduct a thorough risk assessment
  • Administer a job safety analysis
  • Develop safe work procedures
  • Provide appropriate training and equipment
  • Implement appropriate safety measures 

To successfully navigate this EPC project challenge, safety risks should be evaluated early. For instance, contractors can assess risks during the bid walk to ensure the project safety plan covers detailed specifics. Early identification is key. 

The hierarchy of safety controls offers contractors another strategic approach to navigating hazardous work. Applying a range of safety procedures will help protect workers and assets from harm while preventing rework. Contractors should not rely on a single safety method to protect against multiple hazards.  

Project Scope Management

Illustration showing checklist and graph to represent scope creep

Another common EPC project challenge is scope creep, where the project scope expands beyond its original definition. This can lead to increased costs, delays, and decreased quality. 

To avoid scope creep, it's crucial to have a clear project scope defined as early as possible. Additionally, project scope should be reviewed regularly throughout the project to ensure the original parameters are upheld or to determine if adjustments are needed. 

A detailed project charter outlining the project scope, objectives, and key stakeholders can help ensure project alignment. This can serve as a reference point throughout the project. Assessing the time-cost-quality trade-off early on in project management can also support successful project scope management.

Cost Overruns

Cost overruns, which occur when the project's cost exceeds its original budget, represent another significant obstacle EPC projects face. Various factors, including unexpected increases in material costs, changes in the project scope, or poor project management, can cause this. To minimize the risk of cost overruns, it's essential to have a detailed budget and regularly monitor costs to ensure they are within budget. 

Additionally, by implementing a Project Controls system, you can to track project expenses and compare them to the original budget. This can help project managers identify areas where costs exceed budget and take corrective action before overruns become too large.

Schedule Delays

Delays in EPC projects can significantly impact the project's overall success. Design changes, procurement delays, regulatory issues, and weather problems represent some common scheduling challenges EPC projects may encounter. By following a detailed schedule, regularly monitoring progress, updating project status, and identifying changes, managers can help ensure the project stays on track. 

A Critical Path Method (CPM) schedule can effectively track progress and identify potential delays early on. This can help you perform corrective action before the delays impact the project. Additionally, the CPM schedule enables project managers to locate activities that can be optimized to further reduce the risk of delays.

Quality Control

High quality in EPC projects is critical for their success; however, attaining the necessary level of quality can be challenging when projects are complex and involve multiple stakeholders. To ensure the highest quality possible, it's essential to have a detailed Total Quality Management (TQM) plan and regularly monitor quality throughout the project. A good TQM plan should include:

A system for dealing with non-conforming work and promptly addresses quality issues is also critical. 

Risk Management

Risks are inherent in any EPC project and can range from technical risks, such as equipment failure, to project management risks, such as project scope changes. To effectively manage risks, you’ll need a detailed risk management plan. 

A good risk management plan should include a process for identifying, assessing, and prioritizing risks and a strategy for mitigating and monitoring risks. It's also important to have a system in place for addressing risks that materialize that includes a plan for contingency management.

Stakeholder Management

EPC projects often involve many stakeholders, including clients, contractors, suppliers, and regulatory bodies. While effectively managing these stakeholders is essential for project success, it's also a common EPC project challenge. 

To manage stakeholders effectively, a clear communication plan should be in place. Also, be sure to regularly engage with stakeholders to ensure their needs are met.

H+M Industrial EPC:  Overcoming EPC Project Challenges

Navigating common EPC project challenges requires a comprehensive approach that addresses safety, planning, communication, risk management, cost management, and quality control. Project teams must work closely with stakeholders and maintain open lines of communication to ensure that the project stays on track. With careful planning, effective communication, and a focus on safety, quality, and risk management, EPC projects can be completed successfully—on time and within budget.

About the Author

Want to Learn More About Project Management?

At H+M Industrial EPC, we design and implement comprehensive strategies to overcome these common EPC project challenges. For over 35 years, H+M has been providing capital project management services to the energy, chemical, and terminal and logistics industries. If you are looking to start a new project, contact us today.

To find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of turnkey projects and how H+M Industrial EPC can meet your capital project needs, contact us through our website today.

Contact Us
The H+M Industrial Team

For over three decades, we have provided best-in-class capital project management services to Energy and Chemical industries through our proven EPC approach. We are dedicated to providing trust, experience, and efficiency through all stages of engineering, procurement, and construction--on budget and on time.

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