Construction projects that go over budget and off schedule are a nightmare.
Just look at one of the biggest construction overrun disasters in history. Everyone in the industry knows about the absolute mess that was Boston’s Big Dig. The city launched the effort in 1991 to deal with the miserable traffic situation in central Boston. The project involved replacing a six-lane highway with an underground road of eight to 10 lanes, some of it running under the Boston Harbor.
It was scheduled for completion in 1998 and was supposed to cost $2.6 billion. It 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—10 times its budgeted cost.
See? Your 10% overrun isn’t that bad in comparison.
That said, unlike the city of Boston, you can’t make up your losses through the taxpayers. Cost overruns and schedule delays affect your bottom line, and leave you mulling the eternal question of construction managers: How do I run my operation more efficiently?
We’ve compiled a few easy ways you can start whipping your business into shape right now. Let’s go.
1. Improve your planning
(via Dan Foy)
Many construction efficiency errors are made in the planning stage.
If you didn’t do your homework on exactly how many cubic yards of concrete you need for a project, and then halfway through you realize you need twice as much by tomorrow if you’re going to stay on schedule, guess who’s going to have a big headache? That’s right: It’s you.
You absolutely must devote time before the project begins to figure out the people, processes, information, equipment, and materials you’ll need before you start work. It’s the best way to avoid delays and cost increases.
2. Find good construction management software
It’s the 21st century, which means there are so many tools out there to help you do your job that you didn’t have access to not so long ago.
Good construction management software can keep you organized and free from the clutter of paperwork on your desk, allowing you to focus on actually building stuff.
Construction management software can handle bid management, billing and invoicing, contractors, document management, incident reporting, leads, time sheets, job scheduling, and so much more.
There’s also a host of mobile apps that can handle all the tasks you’ve been trying to manage with paperwork. The emergence of the cloud as a place to store everything also makes it easier than ever.
3. Start using Building Information Modeling (BIM)
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is sweeping the construction industry. It refers to the process of creating digital representations of buildings you haven’t even started pouring cement for yet. These creations allow you to visualize a building before you start spending money and commit to a schedule that may end up proving unrealistic.
For example, BIM can determine how many occupants might go in and out of a building each day, and therefore allow you to calculate the most efficient setup of pump sizes, water heater sizes, and other considerations.
And if you’re on a budget, there’s lots of free and open source BIM software tools you can play around with before you commit to a more expensive BIM software.
4. Listen to your staff
(via Sean Hagen)
Your workers are your eyes and ears in the field. If something is going wrong or could be going better, they’ll know before you do.
Experienced workers can help you spot holes in your plan before you even get started. Get them involved early in the planning process to spot potential problems, and then stay in contact on a daily basis throughout the project.
5. Invest in training
Training is critical to efficiency, especially for construction supervisors who need sound management principles and techniques to keep projects running smoothly.
By helping your employees master critical skills, you’ll immediately see benefits in terms of efficiency in your project.
For example, a supervisor could use his new skills to guide workers in a more efficient way of installing steel beams, enabling you to get the work done sooner and move on to the next phase.
6. Improve your communication
(via Todd Van Hoosear)
If you aren’t communicating with your team, that’s a recipe for big losses in efficiency.
You should make yourself available to your crew so they know they can come to you with any problems that arise. They also need to hear what your expectations are as far as what you want to get accomplished next week or next month.
Make it a daily habit to meet with your project supervisors to go over your expectations for the day, and get their feedback on what they think they can accomplish and what potential pitfalls there are.
7. Establish performance measurements, and hold your crew accountable
Performance measurements are a great motivation tool for your workers, especially when rewards are attached to them.
Set clear performance measurements and consider attaching a small financial bonus for each one they achieve.
It will also help with your communication with your team, making it that much more effective in terms of improving efficiency.
There are a variety of performance metrics you can set, including: being on time at the job site, helpfulness toward colleagues and customers, completing work on time, taking initiative to solve problems, and the overall quality of work.
8. Implement prefabrication and modular construction into your projects
Modular construction has become a big trend in construction. The technology has come a long way, to the point that you’ve probably passed by many of them and haven’t noticed any difference from traditionally built buildings.
You can cut down on costs by using modular, prefabricated buildings, which additionally can be installed much more quickly than a traditional structure. You lose some customization ability, of course, but for some straightforward building types, that’s not really a concern.
How have you improved your construction efficiency?
Many of you have probably experimented with efficiency improvement in your construction projects. What kind of measures did you implement? Did they work? Do you have any advice for other construction managers? Please, let us know in the comments below.
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