5 steps to prevent common construction schedule delays

Technology in Construction
Project and site management

Construction schedule delays are one of the most common topics of discussion within the industry. As reported by McKinsey and Company, an average project in construction is expected to experience a minimum 20-month delay and 80% budget overrun.

It quickly becomes clear that there is plenty of room for improvement in the way the sector designs, communicates and eventually builds. According to the International Journal of Project Management, there are 28 different causes for construction delays, proving that there are a plethora of parameters that need to be taken into consideration when a construction project is under development.

To make matters worse, every type of delay comes with a number of serious ramifications for the progress of a project. More analytically, here are a few examples with some of the most notable problems that might follow a project delay in construction:

  • Additional labour wages
  • Extra cost for materials and storage
  • Legal disputes
  • Cash flow problems
  • Reputation damage for the parties involved

Preventing construction schedule delays can be a tough mission, but it can happen if the people in charge of the project bridge successfully the gap between the site and the boardroom. To achieve that, there are a number of steps that need to be followed such as investing in digital tools and taking good care of the project’s data.

In a nutshell, here are the five vital steps toward an efficient construction process, from start to completion, with as few construction schedule delays as possible:

1. Standardise from the beginning

Standardisation is one of the biggest buzzwords for construction at the moment and there is a very good reason for that. Adding consistency to every phase of a project can increase predictability and enable data-driven decision making.

‘There is one thing that construction companies absolutely need to do. They have to start standardising even before using technology. Otherwise, they just throw whatever technology they have out the window!’, explains Thomas Goubau, CRO at LetsBuild.

In that sense, standardising your systems and processes is a key component of the industry’s digital transformation. Furthermore, it can play a decisive role in identifying the true needs and pain points of a project before it even begins. Like that, the project team can always stay ahead, mitigate risk and avoid costly and time-consuming reworks.

Of course, the standardisation of an entire sector won’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of work and many bold initiatives before you can reach your goal and build a solid framework of communication and collaboration around your project.

A common mistake that many agents in construction make is that they treat standardisation as a one-time project. Standardising your systems is a continuous process that requires many reiteration circles and cannot be CEO-imposed.
Data collection and analysis are integral parts of this journey and that’s why standardisation is inextricably connected with the digital maturity of an organisation.

2. Work on your digital maturity

Convincing people to switch from pen and paper to mobile is also of paramount importance. It’s true that the construction industry has already opened up to digital technologies but it is still far from where it should be.
The lack of trust across the supply chain and the power of habit are two of the tallest obstacles construction has to overcome in order to embrace a more digital way of working.

Nevertheless, as soon as people both on the ground and the office see the true value of going digital, they will be open to changing their working routine and adopting a more digital approach.
Such a shift will eventually reflect on how people share their latest updates and how fast they address any issues that might emerge. We are on the verge of a digital revolution in construction and sooner or later those who will fail to follow a fact-based way of work will fall behind.

3. Connect the field to the office

Most of the problems in the construction industry start from the connection between the construction site and the office. In many cases, field teams are working on outdated versions of the schedule while people in the boardroom have limited visibility of what truly goes on the ground.

This continuous miscommunication leads to costly reworks, subcontractors wandering on the site waiting for their turn to work on their tasks and a serious waste of materials. It doesn’t take much to understand that all these factors have a serious impact on the cost and the time-schedule of your project.

Having the right tools to report progress from the site in real-time is fundamental for connecting the two sides but it’s not enough. Digital tools aren’t a cure on their own. To work well, they need the right context and culture.

Only then, people on the ground will be willing to take their phone and submit their updates as soon as their done with their tasks, while people in the office will keep a close eye on the data and will detect any problems before they explode out of proportion. This is where the issue of digital adoption comes back into the picture.

4. Prioritise BIM adoption

BIM is one of the hottest topics in construction and for a very good reason. The rise of an open data ecosystem, where the different project parties can effortlessly submit their data, unlocks so many possibilities for the construction industry when it comes to onsite follow up.

Nonetheless, there are still some critical issues that need to be addressed in order for the sector to unravel the full potential of Building Information Modeling. More specifically, the creation of a standardised follow-up Protocol consisted of a certain set of internal classifications should be seen as a priority.

These classifications can later be linked to the ERP system of the organisation and have a great influence on the organisations’ QHSE processes.

Read also: 5 initiatives companies can take to improve construction efficiency

At this point, it is indispensable to understand, as an industry, that data should come before the 3D representation. That is simply because there are different levels of transparency between the people on the ground and the BIM manager(s) in the office.

Field teams need a simple-to-use tool where they can submit their data directly from the site. In that sense, they don’t need 3D visual representations of the entire built structure which may add confusion to their work and discourage them from using the digital solution that they have in their hands.

To the contrary, the 3D BIM model can be extremely helpful for the people in the office. Thanks to it, BIM managers can monitor the progress of the project and ensure that everything progresses as it should. At the end of the day, though, a BIM model is only as useful as the data added to it so it becomes clear why BIM adoption matters so much.

5. Replicate

Last but certainly not least, keep the good aspects of your earlier and current projects and replicate them in your future endeavours. This can give your organisation a great advantage against competition and help you control better every area of your new project.

Of course, an impeccable data collection and analysis process is required in order to achieve that. By collecting these valuable project insights, you can reach some vital conclusions for your project and continue streamlining your systems and processes.

This is one of the most decisive steps towards a standardised construction industry with lower costs and fewer delays. Considering also that some global market giants, such as Amazon, are already looking into different expressions of standardisation (i.e. prefabrication), it becomes clear that being able to replicate your projects can be a great competitive advantage for your organisation.

On top of that, by investing in replicability you can shorten the training cycle for your field teams as everybody will have to follow a well-structured and predefined framework of action and use the same tools and equipment as always.

“Digitising the site allows everyone to know where that project is”

Jason Ruddle, the managing director of LetsBuild UK, was recently invited to The Property Regeneration Show, where he discussed with Rachel Gros about the importance of digitalisation for the future of the construction industry and the role that LetsBuild is expected to play in this paradigm shift.

“Digitising the site allows for everyone to know where that project is”, highlights Jason Ruddle.

And he adds:

“LetsBuild’s focus is very much “on site”, and particularly on reducing or in some cases eliminating the large paper trail there. LetsBuild is committed to digitising the site itself.”

It becomes clear that the digital transformation of construction goes through user adoption. Delivering a simple-to-use tool which allows the connection of the project schedule with the quality check can be a game-changing force for the entire sector.

It goes without saying that eliminating the large paper trail in construction can’t happen overnight. Especially if we take into account that construction is the least digitised sector in Europe.

At LetsBuild, we have taken on the mission of bringing transparency to your projects and paving the way for enhanced communication between project teams. In that way, we can help you tackle some of the most common construction schedule setbacks and make your projects profitable again.

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