Front-end loading (FEL), also referred to as pre-project planning (PPP), front-end engineering design (FEED), feasibility analysis, conceptual planning, programming/schematic design and early project planning, is the process for conceptual development of projects in processing industries such as upstream, petrochemical, refining and pharmaceutical. This involves developing sufficient strategic information with which owners can address risk and make decisions to commit resources in order to maximize the potential for success.
Front-end loading includes robust planning and design early in a project's lifecycle (i.e., the front end of a project), at a time when the ability to influence changes in design is relatively high and the cost to make those changes is relatively low. It typically applies to industries with highly capital intensive, long lifecycle projects (i.e., hundreds of millions or billions of dollars over several years before any revenue is produced). Though it often adds a small amount of time and cost to the early portion of a project, these costs are minor compared to the alternative of the costs and effort required to make changes at a later stage in the project.
It also typically uses a stage-gate process, whereby a project must pass through formal gates at well defined milestones within the project's lifecycle before receiving funding to proceed to the next stage of work.
It is common industry practice to divide front-end-loading activities into three stages: FEL-1, FEL-2, and FEL-3. For each stage, typical deliverables are listed given below :
- Construction Industry Institute (2012). "Improving Project Performance". CII Best Practices Guide. ver. 4: page 17.