The most irritating word in a project manager’s lexicon might be “delay.” In the construction industry, staying on schedule is paramount — particularly when any number of issues, from obtaining permits to contaminant assessment results, not to mention inclement weather, can create unexpected delays.
Here are seven smart strategies that project and environmental managers can implement to avoid some of the most common scheduling pitfalls.
Map out a master plan
This first step seems obvious, yet construction industry professionals have all heard horror stories of projects that got underway with only a cursory overview. Be sure to:
- Review all project documents
- Coordinate with manufacturers and materials suppliers to ensure availability and timely delivery
- Meet with subcontractors to review relevant plans and drawings and ensure they’re trained and certified as necessary
- Break the project into phases, with tasks, trades, and estimated start and completion dates for each segment
Document your master plan
No matter how detailed or well organized you might be, few people can keep countless complex construction details in their heads. With a written document, everyone is literally on the same page. And it’s easy to make adjustments as the need arises, which it inevitably will.
Pro tip: Store your master plan and supporting documents in the cloud so that everyone has access to the most current version. Tools like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive are just a few of the many options you can explore for team collaboration.
Prepare for contingencies
Unanticipated environmental factors can wreak havoc on a construction schedule.
For example, if the area where you plan to build happens to include a wetland, or if you are unsure of the location’s wetland status, you may need to arrange wetland delineation in order to receive a permit to proceed.
Wetland delineation is a comprehensive process that must be done during certain times of the year, and involves both remote and onsite inspection. Failure to identify wetlands, or modifying them without permission, can result in a hefty fine and a restoration order, derailing your construction project indefinitely. Therefore, it’s essential to address any potential environmental permitting requirements long before you plan to break ground.
The same holds true for other environmental factors that, if unaccounted for, can throw your construction project off schedule. For instance, if there’s a chance that environmental contaminants may be present on site or the weather forecaster will predict a snowstorm, include these possibilities in your master plan.
A construction project, by definition, is a team effort, and that means building strong relationships with everyone involved. Good communication, cooperation, and coordination between stakeholders, managers, subcontractors, and workers are key to bringing the project in on schedule and problem solving along the way.
Use software and scheduling tools
In the digital age, having a written document isn’t the only way to communicate, collaborate, and keep your construction project on schedule. Project management software is another effective, efficient method of information sharing that also enables you to make changes on the fly.
Scheduling techniques to consider:
- Gantt Charts: horizontal bar charts that track a project over time.
- CPM, or Critical Path Method: a detailed scheduling algorithm that also shows the fastest possible time to complete a specific activity.
- Line of Balance (LOB): a scheduling technique most often used for repetitive work. LOB allots resources by steps to prevent delays.
- Resource-oriented Scheduling: an approach that identifies resourcing needs and gaps and supports agility. Useful when limited resources are available, or when the kind of resources required for the project are unique.
Monitor and adjust
Even when you’re employing the most robust scheduling tools, techniques, and software, construction projects require careful daily oversight in order to avoid potential blunders. If you fall behind in one phase or spot a red flag, immediately identify and examine the root cause. Compare how your actual timeline shapes up against your master plan and adjust accordingly.
Expect the best, prepare for the worst
This adage applies to just about every aspect of life. When you’re prepared with a written master plan that includes contingencies, scheduling tools, team communication channels, and daily progress monitoring, you’re on track for success. Yet there’s no way to anticipate every possible outcome. By being as strategic as possible, the odds are good you’ll deliver a completed project on schedule — and your clients will be satisfied.
- Due diligence
- Environmental impact studies and remediation
- Environmental permitting
- …and much more