So, you’re having problems with gaining efficiencies in your construction projects?
Few things can turn a routine construction project into a drawn-out ordeal quicker than a loss of efficiency. Just take a peek at one of the biggest construction overruns in history. Everyone in the industry knows about the unqualified disaster that was Boston’s Big Dig. The city launched the project in 1991 to deal with the wretched traffic conditions in central Boston. It involved replacing a six-lane highway with an underground road of eight to 10 lanes. It was scheduled for completion in 1998 and was supposed to cost $2.6 billion. It was finished in 2007 and ended up costing $14.8 billion although the interest accrued over that period means it probably cost more like $22 billion!!
Doesn’t it appear at times that no matter how many people are working at a construction site or what kinds of equipment are being employed, things seem to happen that grind the project to a halt? The most frustrating part is that much of it can be avoided. There are plenty of ways to improve the efficiency of a construction site and help ensure that projects are completed well and on time.
No need to worry. This blog outlines the strategies that can be used in jobsites that boost productivity and create a better, more efficient system.
Make Communication Better than Ever
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
— George Bernard Shaw
You’ve heard this on our blog numerous times – well-established communication is fundamental for the progress of your construction job. In any business, communication is important but within construction, where you are likely to have multiple teams working in different locations, it’s vital. Communication is absolutely essential to the successful completion of any construction project. If the project manager, back office and field teams are not all on the same page, project direction can careen off course and precious time is wasted.
Put simply, if you aren’t communicating with your team (and vice-versa), that’s a recipe for big losses in efficiency,
Have You Gone Mobile?
“Cell phones have actually been one of the primary drivers in productivity improvements.” – Fabrice Grinda, French entrepreneur
Waiting to get back to the office to check email and reply to customers is so 2010. Today’s more successful managers are plugged in and mobile. You’ll no longer be chained to your desk dealing with paperwork when you’d rather be visiting job sites to check progress for yourself.
Need to approve a report? You can do it on your smartphone or tablet.
Wireless communications also allow employees to work without interruption, resulting in fewer unproductive hours. No one has time to waste chasing down a colleague on the job site. Equipment operators can clearly hear and execute instructions in real time without shutting down the equipment. Supervisors are able to alter plans on the go.
You can also review blueprints and important documents on mobile devices outfitted with rugged cases to stand up to the rigors of construction. Would you rather have notes scribbled hastily on the back of a filthy packing slip or would you prefer having professionally formatted, smartly typed notes you can access anytime, anywhere?
Instant messaging apps and various other tools can be quite beneficial for construction companies, saving time and eliminating the need for face-to-face interaction which is often time-consuming.
These communications tools will also allow construction professionals to access productivity metrics, material costs and, more importantly, keep clients well informed.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Personal at Times – You’ll find that projects go even smoother if, as a manager, your communications with your team extend beyond the nuts and bolts of the job itself and enter into the realm of human relations on occasion. Ask a subcontractor about their weekend, or maybe follow up with the front desk receptionist about his or her vacation. These friendly endeavors pay dividends down the road in terms of respect, motivation and, importantly, retention.
“Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” — Winston Churchill
As with all types of projects, planning is an essential element to success. And there is certainly no exception when it comes to construction projects. In fact, most issues that arise on a construction site come as a result of poor or insufficient planning.
Things may happen that you can’t predict or plan for, but most of your project should be planned out long before anyone sets foot on the construction site. Planning includes crafting the budget, setting a schedule, setting deadlines, allocating resources and determining communication expectancies. Having a plan not only forces you to think through a project before starting but also creates an action plan for every team member to reference.
The lack of a plan from initial inception can result in insurmountable chaos, wasted materials and too much rework, leading to negative profits at the end of the day.
Although “better planning” may sound rather simple, it needs to be approached with the intent to arrive at authentic, measurable improvements. That’s why you need to develop metrics for determining how accurate the current planning process is and pinpoint realistic goals for planning improvement in those areas that require it most. It also means you need to look at past project planning and making sure you’re learning from any previous mistakes.
It also means involving your staff. Your workers are your eyes and ears in the field. If something is going wrong or perhaps could be going better, they’ll know long before you. Get staff involved early in the planning process to help spot potential problems and stay in contact with them on a daily basis.
Hint: Expect the unexpected. Construction by its very nature is erratic and unpredictable and not under your control. It’s subject to weather, natural disasters, delivery delays and human error. That’s why you need to plan for this is your budget and schedule. By preparing for these costs and delays, there will be less stress and more satisfaction from all stakeholders.
Hint too: It’s important that you are involved in all the different stages of planning from the outset. If you are involved in the beginning, you’ll likely be able to avoid certain issues and come up with cost-effective strategies. Being present also ensures that you are in the loop and informed of the details going into the project.
“Have a place for everything and keep the thing somewhere else; this is not a piece of advice, it is merely a custom.” — Mark Twain
Housekeeping is an obvious, yet often overlooked when it comes to construction projects. Let’s face it, we’ve all seen materials misplaced and strewn about, especially at the end of a long, strenuous day on the job, making the jobsite a complete disaster when everyone arrives to work the next morning.
Ensuring everything is stored properly at the end of each day helps keep the site clean and orderly. Importantly, not only does decreasing clutter increase productivity, it also helps promote on-site safety. It’s no secret construction sites can be hazardous. Taking measures upfront to reduce those risks goes a long way to encouraging safety.
“Wisdom…. comes not from age, but from education and learning.” — Anton Chekhov, Russian playwright
Providing good training is one of the more important things you can do to increase efficiency on the job. The skill level of the crew can have a massive influence on how well a project is executed and how long it takes. When you have a rock-solid training program, you’ll know that everyone who works on your jobsite has been properly instructed into the way things work.
Put simply, if a crew member is trained to a level where they feel completely comfortable and competent, their job performance in a particular job or with a given piece of equipment will naturally increase their output.
Additionally, training is also a serious investment in your workers’ safety. The more they know about the equipment, they not only work more effectively, but can better protect themselves and their colleagues from severe or even fatal accidents.
It’s highly suggested that you train not only your crew but also your supervisors to help assure they enforce the applicable training measures. This way, everyone is pulling in the same direction with a clear focus on improving the speed and effectiveness of certain work procedures, thus improving overall efficiency.
And don’t forget, training is a smart and easy way to detect and retain talent. During training, you can observe progress and focus on those who seem to have the better potential.
INVEST IN EXPERIENCE
“Never hire someone who knows less than you do about what he’s hired to do.” – Malcolm Forbes
No doubt, training is important! However, experience is probably a bit more decisive. By employing experienced workers, you know the job will be done right and on time. As a good example, there is no need for excessive guidance. But finding such workers can be tough. That’s why you need to perform careful research before you hire a particular applicant. Word of mouth is probably your biggest ally here.
Be cautious, however, that when working with experienced people that they are not treating their job with complacency.
USE AVAILABLE TECHNOLOGY
Once new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.” – Stewart Brand, editor Whole Earth catalog
Despite the increasing complexity of construction projects, the spread of technology for the construction industry has also grown exponentially and, we might add, just in time!
There will always be people who are apprehensive about employing new technology, but they don’t need to be. By the time the newest construction technology makes it to the actual construction sites, it most likely has already been proven to work. New construction technology and equipment exists to make jobs easier and more efficient, not more difficult, so no one should be afraid to welcome it.
Let’s face it. Construction software is no longer considered a luxury, but a necessity. A variety of cloud or mobile construction software provides a myriad of functionalities that can boost efficiency. For example, it can help you put the different tasks in order and tirelessly keep track of everything that takes place on the construction site.
Technology that allows for increased efficiency is everywhere if contractors will just take the time to unearth them. More often than not, it only takes a conversation with your current staff to find out new ways of doing things.
HOW ABOUT A BIT OF COMPETITION?
“With competition everyone has to try harder.” –Harold H. Greene, American Judge
It’s sometimes called Gamification. By introducing a bit of competition in the daily life on the job site, you can offer an extra incentive to workers to perform well and more efficiently. Establish goals, offer prizes and even create an unofficial scoring system in order to make work on site more fun. Such games can help individuals to come closer and it can boost the feeling that this is a team environment.
Using certain apps can be a great way to keep track and make sure that every employee is included.
The role of the construction project manager is anything but simple, but by following the best practices and employing the right technological tools, it’s possible for project managers to complete projects successfully, every time!
Contact PDDM Solutions at (724) 788-4048 or www.pddmsolutions.com.