I sat down to interview an estimator who was previously a site superintendent for many years, interested to hear his take on some of the areas most pressing from an on-site perspective. He clued me in on some of the biggest mistakes he thinks can be improved in the new year to create a considerable impact.
First on his list was the concept of ‘over scheduling’ – the idea of starting too many jobs and not having enough people to supervise activity. This is a big issue straining firms in the US.
When you see people scrambling to make everything work, completion ends up in bits and pieces—costing everyone more in the long run. The skilled labor shortage contributes to this problem in a big way, but several people I spoke with mentioned that they don’t believe there’s any company that has mastered overcoming the over scheduling challenge.
Another area creating disconnects that came up in our conversation was the rotation of foremen from one job to another. Nine times out of ten, communication doesn’t get transferred over and this can often lead to errors. When the field labor doesn’t have the correct information, sizable mistakes occur.
As we enter 2019 with a forward-looking perspective, what are some goals to help prevent these short fallings from occurring? Strategic labor planning is a good start.
This entails identifying a few key areas in project planning stages:
• How is labor availability looking? If a new project is awarded, is the manpower present within your own team to take on supervision requirements?
• What will be the expected productivity of craftsmen considering the project timeline? Is this feasible within the owner’s projections?
Since construction is a people-centric business, person to person conversation is best. Although it would be nice for every client to have the same desired project outcome, solutions should be customized uniquely for each individual project owner’s goals.
A project management piece by Carnegie Mellon University highlights ways to prioritize pursuits in labor utilization. “Since labor constitutes a large part of the construction cost and the quantity of labor hours in performing a task in construction is more susceptible to the influence of management than are materials or capital, this productivity measure is often referred to as labor productivity. However, it is important to note that labor productivity is a measure of the overall effectiveness of an operating system in utilizing labor, equipment and capital to convert labor efforts into useful output, and is not a measure of the capabilities of labor alone. For example, by investing in a piece of new equipment to perform certain tasks in construction, output may be increased for the same number of labor hours, thus resulting in higher labor productivity.”
A take away worth remembering is that it’s not the quantity of labor that dictates productivity—it is often the quality and effectiveness of management. As 2019 unfolds, the best construction teams will approach resource bottlenecks with advances in technology to drive some efficiency.