Procurement and Supply Chain Risks in EPC Projects

Procurement and Supply Chain Risks in EPC Projects

Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) projects are becoming one of the most common methods to implement, large, complex projects. Undertaking EPC projects involves a meticulous approach towards planning, sourcing, and managing materials, equipment, and services essential for major construction and industrial endeavours. These projects, spanning diverse sectors such as oil and gas, energy/power, and infrastructure development, entail a multitude of challenges and risks within their entire lifecycle.

Project teams must ensure that their engineering and construction projects are well planned, have clear objectives with critical success factors defined and ensure they can manage risk at an acceptable level. Unexpected events can happen in complex projects and where possible assurance that a contingency plan is established.

Risks in projects can have adverse consequences for a project execution often with common objectives such as on-time delivery, quality and cost. Potential risks are usually associated with supply chain, logistics, supplier risk / relationships and others, all of which can impact the success.

As the cornerstone of EPC endeavours, procurement encompasses the sourcing and management of materials, equipment, and services essential for project execution. Yet, this seemingly straightforward process is fraught with complexities that demand careful navigation.

Key Takeaways
  • Plan ahead: Most EPC projects are complex with timelines of months, even years and involve sourcing specialist goods, raw materials and engineering services. Meticulous and solid planning is key to guaranteeing success.
  • Early involvement of procurement: Procurement will play a key part in the success of EPC projects and it is imperative to involve them early to support planning, identify and mitigate risk early and ensure close management of key suppliers.
  • Collaboration is key: Effective communication and collaboration among stakeholders, including project managers, engineers, suppliers and logistics providers, are crucial for project success in EPC procurement.
  • Comprehensive risk management: Developing and implementing comprehensive risk management plans tailored to the complexities of EPC projects is essential. This includes identifying, assessing and mitigating risks across procurement, logistics, and supplier relationships.
  • Due diligence matters: Rigorous due diligence on suppliers and partners is vital to ensure their capability and suitability to deliver as per project requirements and ensure compliance, thereby mitigating risks associated with supplier reliability.
  • Technology as an enabler: Leveraging technology such as data analytics, artificial intelligence and blockchain can enhance visibility across the supply chain, enabling proactive risk identification and mitigation.

The Challenges and Risks in EPC Procurement

The Challenges and risks in procuring for EPC projects comes with inherent complexities, primarily due to the intricate nature of engineering and construction project endeavours. A prominent challenge arises from the extended lead times associated with acquiring specialised equipment and materials essential for such projects. Often materials and goods will be procured under complex technical specifications, which can take longer to source and longer to agree purchase contracts for. In addition, longer lead times are often associated with the risk of supply chain disruptions. Longer lead times, global supply chains and often complex specifications necessitate close collaboration between supply chain entities and different tier suppliers to ensure timely delivery.

Construction projects are often delivered within highly regulated industries (both in the public and private sector) such as complex infrastructure projects. Thus, requirements must be clear, well communicated and understood by all parties. Procurement plays a key role in ensuring that requirements, regulations and considerations are flowed down to the supply chain.

The globalised nature of supply chains adds another layer of complexity to EPC procurement. Sourcing materials and equipment from global supply chains brings forth a spectrum of regulatory, legal, and cultural considerations that demand careful navigation to ensure compliance and operational effectiveness.

Supplier risks need to be carefully managed throughout the lifecycle of an EPC project. Supply chain risk can materialise as quality issues, compliance requirements, financial and contractual obligations. Procurement and supply chain teams need to ensure that there is a robust supplier risk management process (ideally materialised as an integrated risk management framework) which is considered at the planning phase and to be managed throughout the project lifecycle.

Financial risks constitute yet another substantial facet of EPC procurement. Given the substantial capital investments involved, project budgets need to be carefully planned and closely managed by project management. Any deviations such as delays or cost overruns can severely impact project profitability, underlining the criticality of robust risk mitigation strategies.

To mitigate project risk, a well-developed risk management framework is key, and this must be developed at the early stages of planning. Procurement play a key factor in managing key supplier relationships, monitoring, and mitigating risk continually where possible throughout the lifecycle.

Contracting Considerations

There is no standard or typical EPC contract. Contract structures can vary depending on several factors such as geographical location, industry, scope of work and the contractor’s specific expertise.

Legal teams should anticipate potential third-party risks such as data breaches and ensure that contracts are drafted in such a way as to address and manage if the situation arises during execution.

Crafting contracts that align with project objectives while safeguarding the interests of all parties involved requires a delicate balance. Ambiguities or discrepancies in contract terms can lead to disputes and legal entanglements, potentially derailing project progress and causing irreparable damage to relationships between stakeholders.

Potential risks or non-compliance associated with EPC contractors or suppliers need to be considered upfront, prior to contract negotiation. In addition to having robust risk management processes, mitigation plans and good planning; procurement and project teams must ensure that contracts are drafted appropriately. Whilst legal disputes between the client and contractor are never welcomed, things can and have gone wrong and organisations must ensure they safeguard in so far as possible, whilst ensuring fair consideration to the contractor.

Scale Your Manufacturing from Prototyping to Series
  • Personal account manager
  • Quality assurance
  • Payment terms for companies
  • On-time delivery by Fractory
Get a quote

Understanding EPC Contractors

An EPC contractor manages all aspects of facility design and construction for a client, guaranteeing timely completion within budget and meeting predefined specifications. EPC contracts often culminate in a “turnkey” handover, facilitating seamless project management. Project teams must ensure proper sourcing and due diligence processes are followed when selecting potential suppliers.

Criteria for selecting the best EPC contractor – EPC projects entail high stakes, demanding thorough planning for successful execution. To enhance the likelihood of project success, look for the following attributes in potential EPC contractors:

  1. Accurate project bids: Carefully defined project scopes ensure accurate cost estimations. Assess if the contractor manages all project phases internally or outsources, as external collaborations may introduce delays and quality concerns.

  2. Financial risks and stability: The risk of supplier bankruptcy or insolvency should be considered, and their financial stability should be assessed prior to selection. Selecting a larger, well-established organisation with a parent company can help mitigate this risk with the assurance of cash flow. Parent company guarantees should be considered in this case.

  3. Relevant experience: Verify if the contractor possesses the requisite expertise for your project’s unique demands. Prior experience in similar projects, for example, familiarity with required systems are crucial indicators of competency.

  4. Consistent project management: Seamless coordination across project phases is imperative to avoid delays and budget overruns. Ensuring the integration of key and expert team members (such as project manager, risk manager and procurement) from the outset, minimises obstacles during execution.

  5. Sustainability: Prioritise contractors committed to sustainable practices, reflecting environmental consciousness throughout project execution. Look for tangible evidence of sustainability initiatives in past projects and a clear plan for integrating sustainability into your project.

  6. Health and safety: Safety should be paramount in project execution. Inquire about the contractor’s safety protocols, training programs, injury history and contingency measures to mitigate risks effectively.

  7. Environmental and corporate social responsibility Increasingly, environmental controls are becoming more important and contractors should be selected on their ability to demonstrate policies, experience and compliance in these areas.

By evaluating these criteria, organisations can mitigate risks and enhance the likelihood of project success when selecting an EPC contractor for their project.

Technical Complexities

Technical complexities are also a key consideration in the lifecycle of an EPC project. Uncertainties such as design changes, unforeseen site conditions, and regulatory compliance issues can disrupt project workflows and escalate costs. Typically complex construction projects demand seamless orchestration of various disciplines, from engineering design to procurement logistics and on-site construction.

One of the primary technical hurdles relates to design intricacies. Engineers must meticulously translate conceptual designs into comprehensive blueprints that not only meet regulatory standards but also optimise functionality and efficiency. From structural integrity to electrical systems.

Moreover, the construction phase itself presents a myriad of technical challenges. Coordinating diverse teams, adhering to safety protocols, and managing on-site logistics demand precision and foresight. All of these steps need to be incorporated into early planning, contracting and supplier selection.

In addition to the complexities of technical requirements, technology emerges as a powerful ally in navigating the complexities of EPC procurement and contracting. Leveraging advanced tools and systems such as data analytics, artificial intelligence, and blockchain enhances visibility, transparency, and efficiency across the supply chain. Real-time insights into procurement and project processes enable proactive risk identification and mitigation, empowering stakeholders to make informed decisions and safeguard project success.


In summary, navigating the complexities of Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) procurement and contracting demands a strategic approach grounded in collaboration, transparency and technological innovation. The challenges and risks inherent in EPC projects, from extended lead times and globalised supply chains to financial uncertainties and technical complexities, require meticulous planning and proactive risk management.

Effective communication and collaboration among project stakeholders, coupled with the development of comprehensive risk management, are essential for project success. By involving procurement early in the project lifecycle, organisations can identify and mitigate risks, ensuring timely delivery and adherence to specifications. Furthermore, leveraging procurement technology can improve visibility and efficiency throughout the project and the supply chain.

In conclusion, procurement and contracting present formidable challenges and risks, they also offer opportunities for innovation and collaboration. By adopting a strategic approach grounded in transparency, diligence and technological innovation, project stakeholders can navigate the complexities of EPC procurement and contracting with confidence, ensuring the successful execution of projects that shape the world we live in.

Let us ease your workload! Order metal fabrication from Fractory and experience the benefits yourself: 1-1 engineering support, payment terms for companies, a single point of contact, competitive pricing, on-time deliveries and quality control.
Get a Quote