For any construction project, the schedule is crucial for ensuring work is delivered on time, within budget and to a high standard. However, there are some fundamental mistakes that can derail even the best-laid plans and cost you time and money. Can they be fixed? Absolutely!
Director of project consultancy Mosaic Services Patrick Weaver said many builders base the forward schedule for new projects on previous projects, with established estimates of timeframes for specific tasks that call forward the next package of works.
For example, the completion of the slab calls forward the delivery and erection of the frame. However, these standard systems are unlikely to offer required flexibility should labour or material supply shortages occur or bad weather hold up prior works, such as civil works.
Becoming more flexible and understanding potential alternative pathways is key. It also helps to identify which activities are “ladders,” which are links, and which are “lags” as Weaver outlines in one of his best practice guides.
1. One Size Does Not Fit All
Research by AHURI found that volume builders who schedule every project as if they are simply building the same house over and over again can have real issues with the schedule.
Researchers interviewed two leading volume builders. One of them opted for a fixed scheduling approach that specified the same time requirement for each key parcel of the build for every project. Meanwhile, the other adapted a more flexible scheduling approach.
The first builder often had issues where the schedule called forward the next trade in the process as the necessary prior works may not have been completed due to design variation. Or in other cases, there could be empty time because the first package was completed earlier than predicted.
The second builder was able to vary the timeframes. They also varied the calling forward of following trades based on the individual home design—giving them much more fine-grain control and accuracy when scheduling trades and workflows.
2. Not Looking at What Can Go Wrong
“Optimism bias” is a pitfall when it comes to scheduling, said Weaver. We have the innate urge to expect everything to go according to plan. AHURI notes, for example, that projects often lock in their orders for materials and trades well ahead—but shortages or difficulties can frequently result in added costs of delays.
All bids or quotes should include a sensible contingency—up to 20 per cent for costs and time.
The way to manage this is to take a good look at potential resource constraints before work commences and the final schedule is locked in.
According to Weaver, all bids or quotes should include a sensible contingency—up to 20 per cent for costs and time.
‘Things will go wrong,” Weaver said. “If you put in some sensible contingencies, then there is a better chance of managing the outcome. Saying ‘what if?’ and looking at the project strategy can save a fortune.”
3. Forgetting the Learning Curve
Keeping people is important for any builder, whether retaining their own staff or working with familiar subcontractors and suppliers.Whenever people “walk out the door,” they also take knowledge with them, Weaver added.
Therefore, where new staff or subcontractors are involved, factor in time for them to learn your systems for safety, quality and compliance. The same is true where you are planning a project in a new sector or an unfamiliar region.
“People don’t think about the learning curve,” Weaver said.
4. Not Using Technology
Many projects start planning by switching on the computer and stepping through a process just like the one used on the last project. According to Weaver, this means conversation that should be happening about how to innovate and improve are not occurring, even though it
“can save on gross cost.”
One of the tools builders can use to encourage innovation and improve scheduling is Building Information Modelling (BIM). Weaver, who believes “not using BIM is the mistake,” points out its multiple benefits across cost-saving, time-saving, quality and safety.
5. Ignoring Your Data
Moving on to the next thing is standard practice for many building firms. However, Weaver said, it is also crucial to spend some time reviewing projects through time. That enables you to “lock in the wins and see what you can do to mitigate losses.”
Asking “why?” is also important because those answers can help fine-tune planning and scheduling for future projects.
“Because of safety, there is an enormous amount of data floating around on construction sites, but you need to sit down and look at it,” Weaver said.
This kind of analysis gives you insights into where you consistently run over on costs or time and where you consistently do better. Asking “why?” is also important because those answers can help fine-tune planning and scheduling for future projects.
“Make use of information sensibly,” Weaver said.