Join Jim Rogers for an in-depth discussion in this video Changes in thinking, part of Construction Management Foundations.
- Over the years, there have been plenty of changes in the way we think about things in construction. These changes in thinking have been a long time in the making, and they have not happened quickly. One of the first real major efforts at effecting change in the industry came in the late 1990s when a division of the United States Department of Commerce, called NIST or the National Institute of Standards and Technology, issued a series of reports called the National Construction Goals in an attempt to establish a sense of direction for the betterment of the industry.
Now these goals were developed with the cooperation of industry, and they're significant. And even though they're 20 years old, they're worth discussing here because of their scope and their impact on the industry. One of the things that was so significant is the level of improvement that they identified as being needed. For example, they identified the need for a 50% reduction in construction work injuries and illnesses, and a 50% reduction in project delivery time, as well as things like a 30-50% improvement in occupant comfort and reduction in pollution.
These are huge percentages here. We're not talking about let's just get a few percentage points better, we're talking about major industry stakeholders committing to writing that our industry needed significant improvements, and that they believed they had the room to achieve these improvements. So fast forward 20 years since these goals were established, and I believe we are seeing significant changes. We approach the management of the safety and health of our workers on construction projects much differently now than we have in the past and we're starting to approach the scheduling and management of our activities differently to facilitate safety.
Let's look at some examples from our industry experts. - I can't think of many more industries or professions where safety has such a huge emphasis. Manufacturing is probably the only other industry I can think of where you have so many moving parts, you've got equipment, you've got a lot of humans packed into a very small space, and they all have tools in their hands generally, right? So there's a lot of opportunity for human error and for injury on any job site.
And as an employer and as a project team leader, I take that very seriously. My number one job is to make sure everybody goes home safe, and that is above and beyond meeting the schedule, meeting the cost requirements, that's number one, and we have to find a way to do all those things in tandem. So safety and schedule and cost all have to play together, because sending somebody home with an injury just because we had to make them rush to get the work done is not acceptable.
When you talk about how safety planning and safety processes play into the way we do construction, a lot of it has to do with the pre-planning that goes into the job. On a concrete job, for example, we look at casting in attachment points for the safety rails. We look at casting in attachment points for the lanyards that people use when they tie off. We look at how we scaffold buildings and how far up we're putting people, how long that scaffold's up, how long are the people on the scaffold.
We look at all of those activities and not just from a what's the fastest way to get it built standpoint, but what's the safest way to get it built? A lot of times, and this is where you can start to see the evolution of safety and construction and what people have begun to realize is that the safest way to get it built is also often the most productive because people work more productively when they know they're in a safe, secure environment. They have less re-work. Their efficiency, their units that they put in place over a course of time improves because that whole mentality of worrying about their own physical safety is off the table at that point, and that's what we try to drill into our supervisors and our foremen that this is actually going to make them perform better in the end, we just need to get used to that idea and wrap our heads around it a little differently.
- As a project manager, another one of my responsibilities is safety plan implementation. Making sure that we are building the job as safe as possible. Safety includes wearing your PPE, your Personal Protective Equipment from everybody on the crew including the labor that has a shovel in his hand to myself and anybody that steps foot on the job site.
- Yeah, so safety has evolved quite a bit. I think I was lucky enough that I think I made it in when the evolution had already kicked in quite a bit, but I can go back and remember talking to the old guys 25 years ago and they would tell me how it used to be done and there's a huge shift from then. But even in the last 25 years I've seen a huge emphasis on making sure everybody goes home at the end of the day in at least as good of shape as they started that morning. I think one of the biggest evolutions is the fact that it's harder and harder to say that the large contractors of today are that much different from everybody else.
I really think the idea of a safe work place has now gotten into almost every nook and cranny. I did do some consulting a few years ago for a TI on a restaurant, and I walked in and I couldn't believe it. I mean, everybody was in there working in shorts, no hard hats, they had a mezzanine with no guard rail anywhere on it with a guy working a foot from the edge with his back turned to it. So it is still ongoing.
It's still out there, but it's becoming less and less. A lot of this was dictated through OSHA and some things like that, but a lot of it was just common sense. It didn't make sense. It didn't make cost sense even, if you want to put it in dollars and cents kind of stuff to not work safe. It's just, there's too much liability now. Somebody does get hurt, it could cost you much, a thousand times more than it would have cost to prevent that, and I think people have realized that.
I'd like to think a lot of the safety is done for the right reasons, too, because we truly care about the people out there. And believe it or not, I see the newer ways of contracting kind of also being a small part of why that happens. As we have CM at risk, as we have integrated project delivery, as we use a lot of the new technologies and such, everybody's a lot friendlier, everybody's a lot more team oriented, and I think that that has gone down to the labor level.
It's a different world now out there as far as everybody generally respects and likes each other now. When that happens, and you get there by not having all of these fights over my thing goes there, no my thing goes there cause BIM took care of that, or this is going to cost way more than we ever thought, you take all that out, and when people are actually starting to care about each other on a personal level, safety just has to get better. Because now it's not just you out there, it's you and everybody else around you looking out for everybody.
And I think that's, hadn't really thought of that before, but I think a lot of that might be because of some of the new contracting methods. - Now scheduling has also always been a challenge in construction and this relates back to those differences that we've discussed between construction and manufacturing. We just have not been able to apply successes in manufacturing productivity processes to construction. Now I will say that I think this is beginning to change with the advent of what is known as lean productivity.
Lean is a process for continual improvement that's been tried and tested in manufacturing, but it's also a process that appears to lend itself to construction. Now some companies are starting to do just that and we had the opportunity to hear about some of these experiences and their results. - Yeah, so you want to know my thoughts on lean construction. I do think lean has changed, one of the other things that has helped change the industry as far as how we do it and how we interact with each other, and lean construction, one of the main points of that is that the planning is not done from the top down, but is actually done by the people doing the work.
And so they're responsible every week to figure out what it is they're going to get done that week. They commit to it. They say if I get this done then the next guy can do his thing. And the top, the general contractor guy, is really more just there to make sure that they follow up on the commitments, rather than dictating to them. And so I think there's been a huge change in how people interact with each other out in the field because of that. When they're not being commanded, when they're the ones actually making the choices and being able to drive the job, they're happier about it.
They're more bought into what it is they're promising. And then, on the flip side, when they don't make a commitment, they have peer pressure from the other sub contractors, and the other people that were waiting on them, to not do that again. It still sticks in my mind, we had a plumber on a job I did a number of years ago, the first time myself and my superintendent have ever implemented lean. And we saw right off the bat that it seemed to be working really well.
This guy just would not play. Just would not play. And every week, in the meetings, how come you didn't get your stuff done? Well, I just didn't get it done. We said, okay, just try this, please. And it took him just about two weeks and he actually became our biggest proponent on the job site for lean construction. He really saw the benefit that it provided to him to be able to control his own life and his direction on the job.
So that really got me excited. I said okay, you can see a sea change in how people do their work. And there's a huge benefit to that. - Now, our industry is not one that's quick to embrace change, and in many cases, we have continued to do the same things the same ways that we've done them for years. But I do think that we're at a point as an industry where things like technology, new materials, and an emphasis on worker safety are having a very real and very positive impact on construction.
This is certainly one area where continued education for construction managers can really help improve construction, and I think it'll continue to change the way we think.
Whether you're a construction industry veteran looking to switch roles or a brand new construction manager trying to get your bearings, this course provides you with meaningful insights into this vital, evolving industry and your role in it. Instructor Jim Rogers explains how integrated project delivery methods work, how technology is shaking up old processes, and how lean productivity methods are being used at construction sites. Throughout the course, you'll get industry knowledge from Jim, as well as other experienced construction professionals.
- Modern construction industry overview
- The construction team
- Reviewing the many roles of the construction manager
- A day in the life of a construction manager
- Understanding how the industry is organized
- Working with alternative project delivery methods
- Understanding the role of technology in construction