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By Duane Craig
November 14, 2016
When you don't harness the knowledge gained from construction projects, you miss out on important insights related to project success. But perhaps more damaging, you miss out on insights that you can use to drastically improve your processes on future projects. Compiling the lessons you’ve learned has never been easier because of the tools that are available today. The days of hand scribbled notes waiting to be typed and put into a report have given way to on-the-fly reporting.
These advancements are helping people make smarter decisions as the project is underway, and are greatly improving future projects.
If you want to ensure that you compile the best information from the lessons you’ve learned, make sure to capture information throughout the life of the project. As time passes, people forget details. The longer someone waits to record information on a particular topic, the less reliable that information is.
Therefore, having integrated software solutions that allow teams to capture or record information in real time is important.
With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets on construction job sites these days, this is easier to do than ever. All of these devices usually have audio recording, video recording, and photographing capabilities. By using a mix of these different recording features, it is possible for everyone in the field to gather accurate and timely information.
There are also some project participants who have ready access to laptop computers and tablets, so their reporting or capturing of information can easily be text and form-based. Having a way for people to easily capture information on the fly is essential to being able to collect important information and data throughout the duration of the project.
The next thing is to identify what information and data provide important lessons to learn from. A general guideline is to focus on five primary categories.
Think about all the processes involved in handling materials and services for a project. Identify specific activities where the data and information could shed light on how effectively people handle materials and services.
Is there a vendor that consistently delivers ahead of schedule?
Is there one crew that is having high rates of material waste?
Is there a certain phase of the project when you experience a high rate of tool damage or loss? The answers to these questions, and more, will offer valuable insights.
This is where you would record data and information about the workforce in general. You might want to track:
The time people spend observing work underway
The reasons people are recognized for their work
The number of times you field questions related to benefits
You might also collect data and information related to teams. This datum can provide insights on how well the team worked together, and how things might improve with changes. People are the lifeblood of a construction business, but the valuable insights about their well-being and competencies are rarely known.
There are many factors to managing the scope of the project that can yield powerful and valuable information for future projects, as well as for the current one.
For example, you might decide to collect information on the quality aspects of change orders at different intervals. Then, at the end of the project you can identify activities where changes had negative effects on quality. Another idea is to capture information that tells how changes relate to the contract. If a series of changes arose because of incomplete contract documents, you’ll want to know that so you can see how often it happens. Later, when you’ve analyzed the information you will have an idea of what to look out for in future contract documents coming from that client.
From RFIs and specifications to change orders and punch lists, the quality of work-in-place activities has major implications for project success. You no doubt already have processes in place to manage quality, and to track it. However, those processes can suffer from their own quality issues and that's where capturing information and data on the effectiveness of your quality processes can lead to important insights you can apply to future projects. You can answer questions like:
Do your quality inspections collect the right data?
Are there some teams that don’t know how to properly assess quality?
Are there flaws in how you process punch lists?
This is an area ripe for collecting data and information that can improve processes on the current project as well as those in the future. Safety is one focus that can always use more information for fine-tuning and improving the effectiveness of your safety program.
While you are no doubt already recording lots of information about safety by using formal processes, what kind of data, or information are you collecting about those formal processes? Having a process is only the beginning. Once you have a process in place, you also need to regularly confirm that it is working as planned. By capturing data and information on those processes, you can build up a volume of information that can help confirm processes are working efficiently and effectively.
The final steps in your lessons learned effort is to analyze and report. If you skip these steps, or, you just don’t ever get around to it, all the work collecting information and data won’t do you any good. This is another place where the right technology can make a big difference. Technology that allows you to analyze and report easily and in real time can help you get the job done, on time and hopefully, under budget.
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