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The Smartest Tool in the Shed
By Duane Craig
June 4, 2018
For many construction firms, there's simply no way to avoid rework. Projects are immense, with scores of workers involved, specification books as thick as bricks, and aspects of the job that can take months to complete.
Maintaining a streamlined and efficient workflow is one of the primary goals of any construction firm. However, whether due to a lack of skilled labor, miscommunication, or poor project management, countless jobs are extended beyond their scheduled deadline due to a significant amount of rework required to fulfill contractually obligated specifications.
According to "Learning Practices as a Tool for Quality Costs Reductions in Construction Projects" published in the journal "Quality - Access to Success," rework can often be as high as 5% of the contract value of a given project. This means it costs $250,000 worth of rework for every $5 million spent on a job. That's a considerable amount of money, and enough to really put a dent in any construction firm's profit.
Furthermore, a different study conducted by Navigant Construction Forum suggested that this 5% average cost of rework was merely the price associated with the direct cost of reported rework, and that the actual total is higher. The study's authors placed the total cost of rework––including both the direct and indirect factors combined––at more like 9% of the total project cost.
Other studies, such as "Cost Management in Construction Projects: Rework and Its Effects," published in the Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, found that around 30% of the work performed by construction companies is actually rework. Despite the differences in the amount of estimated rework, the simple fact remains that most construction firms are losing too much money and allocating too many resources to complete work that should have been done right the first time around.
There are a host of problems that can ultimately create rework for any construction project, and each individual working on the job can contribute to the increase of rework. Every sector, from human resources to engineering, has the potential to bog down a job and create additional tasks that need to be completed––often at the last possible moment.
Human resource departments can provide unclear instructions for workers, hire people with insufficient skill levels, or schedule individuals for excessive overtime. Engineering and reviews can have late design or scope changes, poor document control, or errors and omissions. Materials and equipment supply may have late designer input, unrealistic schedules, insufficient turnover, or constructability problems. Leadership problems include ineffective management of the project team, poor communications, lack of safety, and lack of quality assurance or controls.
Even construction planning and scheduling can cause problems due to non-compliance with specifications, untimely deliveries or lack of materials at the job site. Each one of these issues can potentially create a mountain of rework.
Not only is rework expensive and time consuming, but there's simply no way to accurately estimate how much extra work you'll end up performing on a given project. Instead of trying to gauge how much the additional work will cost the company in the long run, your best bet is to simply eliminate any need to redo a job that's already been completed.
Despite the varieties of causes that lead to rework, the majority of it arises due to a lack of communication and supervision. Whether it's a change order that doesn't make the rounds to everyone or a manager failing to understand the specifics of a project, the overwhelming majority of these errors can be remedied with better communication and more data sharing.
According to the Independent Project Analysis Group, more than 35% of construction projects on average will require a major change that significantly impacts the direction, scope, or final outcome of the job. However, unless these changes are effectively communicated with every relevant individual, there's a good chance something will be missed and lead to a considerable amount of rework.
Mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, allow all members of a project to coordinate more efficiently than ever before. But, even having texting and email services won't suffice to convey the minute details and measurements needed for every change order.
Thankfully, by implementing a cloud-based construction management platform, general contractors and project managers can upload and store all the specifications, RFIs, change orders, and punch items in a single cloud-based repository. With real time access to all of this information, every team member can remain fully informed on all changes––greatly reducing the amount of rework associated with each job.
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