The COVID-19 crisis has caused significant delays in many construction projects. Factors such as nervous investors, supply chain disruptions, and strains on the workforce have many contractors facing uphill battles to complete projects on budget and on time. New worksite safety measures also need to be considered in order to keep projects running efficiently.
In times of crisis, it’s important for contractors to identify what is in their control. While it may be impossible to avoid slowdowns or workforce shortages due to health concerns, you can still plan to move your project faster, help your teams communicate better, and allow your company to leverage existing supply chains in more efficient ways.
Here are some tips for keeping your projects on track, even in the midst of a crisis.
Have a Detailed Project Plan
Smart planning that takes slack time into consideration, minimizes roadblocks, and shuts down last-minute changes is one of the most important arrows in your quiver when project timelines are threatened. ‘Critical path’ scheduling is a proven method to split large activities into more manageable segments and account for delays and errors (e.g., contractors not showing up on time or delayed materials). Critical path planning encompasses all activities that must take place before the main activity (including start and end dates/times) and everything that happens afterwards.
A detailed critical path plan will avoid time delays that might occur, and also helps identify blockers – tasks that will hold up other tasks if not completed. For example, if your project requires certain permits before work on a particular section can begin, your critical path will help identify those tasks well before it becomes an obstacle to progress. Incorporating resource-oriented scheduling into your planning will ensure that the critical work of the project revolves around the available resources of the project. This is crucial when supply chains are threatened due to unforeseen circumstances.
Leverage Communication Tools
During a crisis, good team communication is even more vital. Your crew members on the ground are your best eyes and ears to catch potential errors or scheduling problems – empower them to be problem solvers. This starts by adopting a collaborative approach that encourages idea sharing and proactivity, rather than top-down management. If everyone is waiting for the site manager to make the first move, project delays are more likely to occur. General contractors can set the tone by having an open-door policy.
Another way to empower your crews is to invest in good project management software, which can help manage important documents, accurately track use of materials, and quickly share status updates about projects. There are many different types of project management software on the market, and some building product manufacturers may offer access to or discounts on certain software programs to customers as an added bonus.
The most important aspect of program management software is that it gives crew members a direct line to their project leads, and vice versa. If problems need to be tackled, teams can quickly collaborate in a digital space and reference important documents from a single, central interface.
Use Prefabricated Materials Whenever Possible
Prefabricated construction is the practice of assembling a variety of components of a structure at a manufacturing site, and then transporting those sub-assemblies to the jobsite for final installation. This can include items such as pre-welded beams, prefabricated structural steel, and pre-built floor trusses. With recent advances in construction methods, prefabrication produces high-quality engineered building products that save time and reduce errors.
In many instances, prefabrication takes significantly less time compared to traditional construction. Since many components are built in climate-controlled factories, there is more product consistency and significantly less truck traffic, materials staging, and site disruption. Indoor construction of major building components also reduces the risk of on-site injury, so it is often a safer, faster, and less expensive way to work.
COVID-19 may be with us longer than we ever imagined, but the show must go on. It is more important than ever for contractors to carefully plan their projects and use all tools at their disposal to ensure a timely build.