When working on a construction project, scheduling labor, equipment, materials, documentation, and subcontractors for every task often devolves into an exercise in futility. Resource availability and phantom needs conspire to gradually build delays into the schedule. Before you know it, tasks start piling up as little resource shortages multiply.
When you face complex projects with demanding resource constraints, it might be high time to assign a 'fixer.' Known as an integrated production scheduler, these fixers have three goals:
- Improve the reliability of the schedule,
- Improve resource use and output,
- Reduce supply chain and information deficiencies.
The fixer delivers on these goals by finding and managing resource constraints. These mistakes, incorrect assessments, and fountains of wishful thinking are unavoidable. By themselves, they are not a big threat to project deliverables. However, when you add them all up, they will turn any critical path into a highway of heartbreak. When you meet the culprits, you'll recognize them right away.
All schedules have tasks that require more resources and time to transition to the next task. Let’s consider framing. Whether it's lumber or metal, you've got a whole list of tasks and resources that don't show up on the schedule. These are the things needed to finish one task and move on to the next.
Resource constraints are all phantom resources because they often aren't factored in when preparing a schedule.
When it's time for the wall framers to start framing the roof, there is a set of new materials, tools, fasteners, and information that must support that change. Does the schedule allow 20 minutes for the crew to acquire the tico nails needed for nailing truss connector plates? How about sorting the trusses according to their planned positions or locating the bracing instructions? Without them they won’t know how many 2x4s they need to fasten to the bottom chords of the trusses. How about getting and cutting those 2x4s? And, when it comes to lifting the trusses into place, will the telescoping material handler miraculously show up when needed?
These resource constraints are all phantom resources because they often aren't factored in when preparing a schedule. The same can be said for the time needed to get set up with the right tools. Pneumatic nails guns need air and, therefore, compressors. What could possibly go wrong? These phantoms become phantom constraints until they manifest. Then, they're problems unless your fixer finds them first.
Your estimate probably included the interior doors, locksets and specified the stain. But, did it also include the time needed to apply the stain twice as it’s necessary to get the desired finish? What about chips and dings in the doors from being handled multiple times? Did someone include filler, sandpaper and drying time in their estimate for finishing the doors? Did they order filler that takes stain?
Your fixer asks the really probing questions about each activity, trying to find instances where materials aren't thought out as completely as they could be. These constraints become a focal point for your fixer as they fix the potential problems or build in schedule buffers or contingencies.
People have assumed a lot. For one, they've assumed what's been specified is not only available but available when needed. They've assumed the plumbing crew will have the updated plumbing plan before starting work. They've also assumed the crew knows the correct safety practices because they've done this type of work before.
In all of those cases and more, assumptions conspire to derail your schedule.
In all of those cases and more, assumptions conspire to derail your schedule. Assumptions are easy. Rather than doing the hard work by proving assumptions to be true, people tend to allow assumptions to prevail because it takes less effort. Moreover, technology speeds up the ease of relying on assumptions. As construction businesses transition from paper processes to digital processes, the assumptions multiply simply because of copy and paste. They also multiply since many construction businesses still have hybrid systems relying on both paper and digital processes.
If you use digital processes for specifications, but paper processes for change orders, people naturally assume that somebody is manually updating the specifications for the change orders. This is a glaring gap in information consistency, and it guarantees somebody won't get the right information when they need it. And, it will happen because everybody assumed that somebody else was checking the specifications for change orders.
Transitioning your project processes to digital by adopting a cloud-based project management solution goes a long way in harmonizing your project information.
Transitioning your project processes to digital by adopting a cloud-based project management solution goes a long way in harmonizing your project information. Then, your fixer focuses on information anomalies as they crop up. They can also build in buffers and an early warning system that alerts them to impending information deficits.
When an activity starts to look like it's losing momentum, your fixer locates the critical information for the associated tasks and checks for information deficiencies. If an approval is missing, the fixer takes action to move the approval along. If crews don't have the latest drawings, your fixer finds out and fixes it.
There are many ways of dealing with resource constraints, but it's always better to see and respond to them before they become problems. When a schedule becomes unreliable because of resource constraints, a dedicated back up like a fixer can make all the difference.