It’s surprising how often construction projects don’t go as well as expected. Why is this and what can be done to improve the success of construction projects? I’ve often been asked what contractors should do differently.
Here are some items I believe are critical to the success of all projects. See if you agree. I’m sure you can add a few more to my list. I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.
Most common construction sins
1. Ignoring good safety practices
We have a duty to ensure our employees return home safely at the end of each day. Furthermore, accidents cost money and disrupt projects. Unsafe working conditions can result in a loss of productivity and negatively impact the morale of our employees.
Accidents happen quickly on construction projects – don’t add another injury to the industry’s statistics or another headline to tomorrow’s newspapers. Ensure your team has the knowledge and equipment to carry out their tasks safely. Don’t accept unsafe practices.
2. Producing poor quality work
Poor quality workmanship negatively impacts your reputation. In addition, the cost of rework is enormous and industry sources say it could add over 5% to the cost of every project. It also causes project delays. Of course, poor quality work can endanger lives should the structural integrity of the facility be jeopardized.
Ensure your team has the proper skills and equipment to carry out their tasks and that they clearly understand the specifications and the quality expected from them. There is no excuse for poor quality and we all need to step-up and take pride in our work and our projects.
3. Not training your team
We depend on our team to deliver a quality project safely, efficiently and on time. Do they have the necessary skills to do so? We continually hear moans that we cannot get the skilled people we need. We often have to pay inflated wages and salaries to obtain particular skills that are in demand. Yet, what are we doing to overcome this skills shortage? Are we training the next generation of workers for our company and the industry?
I’ve always found training to be an essential component of my business. Trained, skilled employees are an asset. But more importantly, providing training to employees is good for their morale and helps with employee retention. Train and mentor your team – it will pay dividends.
4. An unplanned project
Planning starts before we set foot on a project. It involves deciding the most suitable construction methodology, how we’ll manage the project, deciding what resources are required and by when and then procuring these resources. Planning our equipment needs, where we’ll place our cranes, sheds, and offices. A project that’s not planned properly will cause problems later.
Planning also means considering all alternatives to ensure we’ve chosen the most suitable methods and materials. But planning is also an ongoing process. I am frequently amazed by how many project managers don’t appear to plan their projects on a daily and weekly basis. Work comes to a halt because materials or equipment haven’t been ordered or because we haven’t got the project ready for the follow-on activities.
Projects seem to drift from one crisis to another. Obvious problems seem to be overlooked until they hit like a runaway express train. Yes, some project managers are good at putting out these fires, but how much better would it have been to avoid the crisis in the first place?
Set time aside each day to plan and consider what has to be done next on your project, then ensure that the processes, materials, people, and equipment are in place so the work will be able to proceed as planned. A little extra time spent on planning will save you money and time later.
5. Not having a good construction schedule which is regularly updated and referenced
I’ve always found a project schedule an essential aid in managing a successful construction project. For smaller projects, it can be a simple hand-drawn bar chart and for more complex projects it could be a detailed resourced and linked activity schedule.
The schedule helps to plan and resource the project. But it’s also an essential part of preparing variation claims when the customer hasn’t provided information or access as required by the schedule. Of course, a schedule is almost useless if it isn’t communicated to the team so they understand what the next targets are on the project.
6. Failing to read and understand the contract document
Many contractors don’t read their contracts until they’re in trouble. Well, by then it’s too late! The project contract spells out the project scope and the contractor’s obligations. It also spells out the customer’s obligations. By understanding the contract you can ensure that both you and your customer meet these obligations.
Ignorance of the contract is no excuse. If necessary ask an expert for advice if you don’t understand a clause or you are unsure how to interpret something in the contract. The cost of this advice is often minor compared to the costs of interpreting the contract incorrectly. It often pays to have a summary of some of the more important clauses so they can readily be referred to. Don’t get into a project where the contract terms are so onerous you can’t meet them.
7. Submitting a price which you know is below cost
Often contractors become so desperate for a project that they submit a price lower than their costs. Almost always this strategy is a disaster. Why pay the customer for the privilege of constructing their project? It saps the morale of employees who have to work on a project that is bound to lose money no matter how hard they work. These projects seldom turn out well.
8. Failing to invoice for work done and not following-up to check that you’ve been paid
This seems obvious but I’m frequently amazed at how lax some contractors are at claiming for the work they’ve completed. Who works for free? If you’ve completed work submit your invoice in accordance with the contract.
Just as important is to follow-up to ensure you’ve been paid. If you aren’t paid on time you probably won’t be able to pay your subcontractors and suppliers on time which will negatively impact your relationship with them and jeopardize progress on your project. Not being paid on time impacts cash flow and poor cash flow destroys companies.
9. Not doing your homework before submitting your price for the project
I’m astounded how many contractors price a project without doing their homework properly. Some contractors work for dubious customers who may not have the finances to pay for the work. Other contractors price projects without visiting the project site and then are surprised when the site conditions aren’t as expected – maybe the access is limited, the ground conditions are difficult to excavate or the terrain is steeply sloping resulting in additional costs.
Project conditions and laws often vary between states and sometimes even between counties. Ensure you have allowed for these differing conditions in your project price, you don’t want to have an unpleasant surprise after starting work on the project.
10. Wasting materials
I’m sure we are all familiar with loads of trash produced on construction projects. This waste is generated from demolishing unacceptable work, over-ordering of materials, off-cuts, packaging, wrongly ordered materials, materials broken during handling and installation, and products that are no longer required.
The cost of this waste isn’t only the original cost of the material but also the cost of disposing of it which can be enormous these days. This waste can often be cut dramatically by reducing the amount of rework, better ordering procedures to ensure off-cuts are minimized, educating employees about the cost of waste, encouraging them to handle materials more carefully and by implementing better material handling and storage systems on the project.
But the waste isn’t just about wasted materials. It also involves improving productivity on the project and the better use of equipment. Let’s get smart and cut wastage.
Do you know any other construction sins?
I’m sure you agree that most of the points above are obvious, yet it’s surprising how often they’re a factor when projects go badly. By concentrating on eliminating these 10 deadly construction sins on your project you will have a more successful and profitable project. Of course, there are other construction sins and I’m sure you can add to the list. We would like to hear your comments below!