Skill Level Intermediate
- [Jim] Hi, Jim Rogers here. Back again to bring you another segment in my weekly series on issues facing the construction industry. And in this episode, we'll pick up where we left off discussing productivity issues. Last week, we explored approaches to improve overall project productivity up in the design phase. And I talked about how effective some of those strategies can be, not only at reducing the time from concept to procurement. But in reducing the issues that can occur once construction begins. In this episode, I want to explore some of those problems that plague us on the project and affect that overall time from beginning of construction to handoff to the project owner.
Actually, I listed many of those issues in a previous episode already. And those included things like delays caused by requests for information, delays caused by changes, and delays caused by the time we add into the schedule, either directly or indirectly as a buffer in between the individual trades or tasks. But in addition to this list, we can also add things like poor planning and scheduling, poor subcontractor management, ineffective supply chain management, and a communications process that hinders progress instead of helping it.
Okay, that's a big list, and it's a lot of criticism but I really do think that when you look at the numbers I presented a couple of episodes ago, it really should tell us that we have to start being upfront about the things that we may not do so well. Now I want to focus this episode on that last group of problems, planning and scheduling, subcontractor and supply chain management and job site communications. I'm grouping all these together for now because they tend to have one thing in common. They're all affected either positively or negatively by the construction manager.
And I'm using that term generically here, so maybe a better statement would be that all of these things are directly impacted by the construction management professional. All of us that play some role in the management of a construction project once it starts. Whether that's working for the general contractor or one of the trade or subcontractors. One of the troubling things that I see in construction is that when we get busy, training falls behind. I'm not talking about training craft workers here, that's a different issue for another time. I am talking about training of management personnel.
The people responsible for overseeing the work. I don't think we do a really good job of training and continuing education for the management side of our workforce in construction. I can't tell you how many times I hear the excuse that we just can't afford to take someone out of the field for a day for training. Well, I would pose this question, with overall construction productivity figures reported throughout the world by so many different authorities and the fact that they're so bad, do you really think we can do any worse by taking the time to provide some continuing education every now and then? I don't think so.
I mean, look at the things I presented in the first episodes of this weekly series. Digital drawings and digital workflow processes, new methods of communication and sharing of data on a construction project. All of this is new. How is anyone going to truly adopt these things if we don't start taking the time to train our construction management professionals? But let's back up a little. Because my position is that we actually need more than just training in the so called, new stuff. We need training in education in what I would call, the basics too.
I think one of our big problems in construction is the fact that the way many of us, myself included, get into management positions in this industry, is through on the job experience and promotion. Now that's great and I don't think there's anything wrong with that concept. But if that's the only way we learn or it's the primary way we learn in this industry, then it's no wonder we've not seen any gains in productivity. Improvement takes new ideas. And new ideas are generated through learning. It's great that we tend to find managers by promoting from the field, but we need to start adding management training.
Now, some of us take the initiative and find outlets for training and education, and we do that on our own and that's great too. It's why some people excel and move their own careers forward. But if we are to improve as an industry, there needs to be more company driven training that encompasses more people. Now what kind of training is needed? Well, maybe start by focusing in those areas that I mentioned at the beginning of this episode. Planning and scheduling, subcontractor management, supply chain management, and communications.
I would also look for some basic training and education related to contracts and contract management. Now that last one can be a little difficult because it involves understanding legal concepts and that can be regional. In other words, it may not do much good for me to talk about the legal implications of certain language in a contract here in the U.S. if you're in another country. But that kind of knowledge is really important in this industry. It's just one of the facts of the construction industry. Much of what we do centers around one or more contracts.
The contract between the owner and the general contractor, all of the subcontracts between the general contractor and the trade contractors. And then all of the chain orders and added documentation that affects those contracts. Contract management is one of the basic skills that any construction management professional needs. You all need to read your contracts and you need to understand what they say and what they mean. So go find that training. Sticking with the basics here, also find training related to basic management skills. Communication, dealing with people and basic supervision.
These topics are also great candidates for continuing education topics in our industry. No matter how long you've been doing this. Now we tend to focus our continuing education for construction managers on things like regulatory topics. But don't forget that when we talk about being a manager in the construction industry, we're talking about dealing with lots of moving parts, lots of people, lots of personalities. Lots of equipment materials and so on. We need to start teaching the best practices for these basic management skills. Because there are things that are working in other industries that we're not applying here.
There are many places that an individual or a company can find this training. We have many great business management courses here in the online library on topics like managing people and supply chain management. They are good course taught by experts in their field and we can learn a lot from these general business and management courses. Now also, don't forget planning and scheduling. Nothing ensures poor project productivity more than a bad plan. And I really think we suffer from bad planning and scheduling more than we care to admit in the construction industry.
We tend to let the field supervisors drive the scheduling because they have the most knowledge and experience when it comes to dealing with the trades in the field. The problem is that planning and scheduling a construction project is really complex. We do not tend to give these field supervisors the training that they need to generate a complex schedule with activities that overlap and run concurrently without having a negative impact on the different trades. This is one of the big reasons we see those long protracted schedules on some projects.
And all of this trade stacking where everyone is in each other's way on other projects. Again, a construction project is a huge number of activities. Performed by many different trades often employed by many different companies all acting as subcontractors. You really have to know what you're doing in order to create an effective schedule. And I will tell you that except for the most basic of construction projects, you cannot do this by hand. It takes a dedicated scheduling program software. Now there are many out there but P6 and Microsoft Project tend to be the ones I see used the most and I can't tell you how many times I see these programs being used improperly.
Or not being used effectively. In my construction planning and scheduling course, I start by discussing the fact that the very first use of computers in a business environment were to solve scheduling problems. I mentioned this because I think we need to acknowledge that this is a difficult process. And we need to give it more attention. One of the keys to making projects more productive is to start with a productive plan. One that takes resources into account. One that recognizes access in the proper flow of materials and equipment.
And that identifies those long lead time components. It's really important that we start teaching proper planning and scheduling techniques and concepts to our field supervisors. So that concurrent activities can be identified and scheduled appropriately to avoid wasted time on our construction projects. Having a better knowledge and understanding of these concepts and of the software the company uses to track and update this information would really go a long way towards helping our field supervisors understand the importance and the usefulness of these tools.
And how they promote better communication and improve the flow of useful information when they're used properly and updated regularly. I really think that gaining better management skills and gaining a better knowledge of proper planning and scheduling methods is a big key to improving project productivity and this is not going to come from on the job training alone. We need to start doing a better job training our managers in construction and providing that continuing education. And with that, I'll say that if you're watching this, you're probably on the right track.
Make sure you keep learning and join me in the next episodes so you can continue on your path to become a better construction management professional.