Construction projects might vary, depending on their size or scope, but what really matters at the end of the day is how we record and communicate critical issues. As a site foreman, you are always the major line of defense. Here is a guide on how you can see everything on site without getting buried in admin.
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Being a site foreman in a construction project is like being an orchestra conductor. Almost everything that happens on the field goes through your hands and you have to be the glue between the office and the site.
That being said, it’s a job that comes with a lot of responsibility and can be extremely difficult and stressful if you are not using the right strategy and tools. You need to always be one step ahead of your project manager and communicate critical issues to them before they turn into threats to the project.
You have at all times to be alert when it comes to safety, material deliveries, and site preparation for the upcoming tasks. That’s the only way to ensure that there will be no obstacles in the development of both your short-term lookaheads and your master schedule.
In any other case, claims will always wait for you just around the corner, putting extra pressure on the project’s budget and generating a multitude of administrative tasks. But how can you feel confident that you see everything on site and that the communication between the teams is always based on the latest information?
Good as they are, tools like WhatsApp, Excel, Messenger, and email aren’t enough for your mission. All of them might be extremely useful in their niche but they are not made for construction. The reason? They can’t maintain a seamless real-time connection between the updates from the site and the different schedules (master schedule, short-term schedule, procurement schedule, etc) you are working on.
As a result, you can quickly find yourself overwhelmed by a mountain of fragmented data that give you no clear visibility as to where your project currently stands. This administrative nightmare is the first step towards slower decision making, misunderstandings, and all in all costly and time-consuming claims.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be like that anymore. But you need to turn your attention towards construction-specific digital tools. Coupled with the right working approach, such tools will eventually allow you to gain back control over the site you manage and will take a lot of the burden off your shoulders.
So that, for instance, you no longer have to conduct your site tours feeling stressed that you won’t be able to remember all the issues you found in order to report them when you are back to the office. Instead, you should be able to connect with your project managers and your team straight from the field just by using your mobile device.
How to effectively run a construction site as a foreman
By now you should already have an idea of how you could start working more effectively leaving all this admin burden and disconnected data behind. But it’s time to dig a little deeper. Without any further delay, here are the five things a site foreman needs to always keep in mind:
1. Use tools that are construction-specific
Let’s start with the golden advice that we already mentioned above. You have to invest in digital tools that are tailored to the needs of the construction industry. This is the only way you can make sure that your field reporting remains at all times linked to the master schedule and every other schedule you are managing.
Gaining a live, shareable view of your programme will increase accountability and leave less room for miscommunication. Everyone will have access to the same information just by using their mobile device.
On top of that, for every update that arrives either from the site or the boardroom, they will instantly be in a position to see its true impact on the development of the project. At the end of the day, this allows for timely and well-informed decisions.
2. Trust a single source of truth
As a site foreman or even a project manager, you know well how much admin work comes with every task that has to be performed on site. And we can only imagine how many hours you have to spend on a weekly basis calling people around, writing reports, and attending meetings just to ensure that you haven’t missed anything.
The thing is that you didn’t join construction to deal with so many administrative tasks day after day. You joined because you wanted to make a difference and be a part of projects that can change the world.
For that to happen, though, you need to start working a bit smarter. In other words, you need to implement industry-specific tools (e.g. LetsBuild) that will help you move all your data safely into the cloud and introduce a single data source for your entire project. All stakeholders will have access to the same information so that everyone is facing the same direction without you or your project manager having to request updates all the time.
This approach can also help a lot with effectively raising or responding to claims, as we will see later on in the article.
3. Connect your schedules
Once you connect your teams in a single source of truth, it’s also time to start connecting your schedules. That’s the last step towards keeping your data connected at all times. Typically, on a construction project, you will have to juggle different schedules, such as your master schedule, your 3-6 week lookaheads, your procurement schedule, and your document approval schedule.
With so much information coming in on a continuous basis, you can easily lose sight of what’s coming next and get stuck in a vicious circle of fragmented communication and mistakes.
However, if you decide to rely on a digital solution that has been built for construction you will have the opportunity to keep all these crucial updates integrated and have a unique on-site insight using one app.
Simply put, accessing your master schedule, and from there with a few clicks monitoring where all your other schedules stand. And not only that, imagine being able to move from one schedule to another at the push of a button and have them being modified in real time based on the latest feedback from the site.
4. Stay aligned with your project manager at all times
You already know that one well, but some repetition never hurts. A project manager is one of your closest allies and you should always remain on the same page. To achieve that, you need to create a well-functioning communication channel which, again, goes through the use of tools that are tailored to construction.
No matter how useful WhatsApp, email, and Excel are, at the end of the day they may create more problems than the ones they solve because they are not designed to support such delicate and time-sensitive construction processes.
As a result, miscommunication, loss of crucial information and delayed responses will always be around the corner unless you transform the way you communicate and report progress.
5. Keep claims away from your project at all costs
Last but certainly not least, you have to document everything no matter what. This is the safest way to keep your project and yourself protected from commercial claims. We know well how tough it can be to keep an eye on every single detail on site. It is no coincidence, after all, that site tours are in most cases a stressful task.
If you are not equipped with the right tools, you have to walk around the field, detect a problem and then make sure to document it in detail once you are back at your desk. But sometimes, there are simply too many issues you need to report on. Or for one or the other reason your site tour might be interrupted leaving you there wondering whether you have actually seen and remembered to record everything.
Needless to say that this can subsequently make your communication with the project manager confusing and frustrating. This is one more reason why mobile field reporting is so important. It enables you to submit updates or critical questions as soon as you stumble upon them just by using your smartphone. Like that, you can eliminate a great deal of your admin and mental burden.
At the same time, by documenting everything on a single source of truth you ensure that your project manager can raise or respond to claims very quickly. You will no longer have to spend weeks or even months to find that one email or photo that proves you are not the one to blame for a schedule delay. Everything will be accessible to the cloud and you will be in a position to access it with a quick search.
Start seeing everything on site!
Construction projects might vary, depending on their size or scope, but what really matters at the end of the day is how we record and communicate critical issues. As a site foreman, you are always the major line of defense when it comes to progress reporting.