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Construction Expert Schedule Acceleration

This is the 4th article in Holloway Consulting’s series on accelerating industrial project schedules:

FIELD CRAFT MANAGEMENT

Tracking Craft Productivity

Whether under lump-sum or T&M contracts, prime contractors should implement labor productivity management systems. In addition, the owner can assist in controlling project schedule risk and uncertainty by playing an active role in tracking contractor performance. For example, every Monday, the owner can review the previous weeks’ productivity ratio (labor-hours earned/actual labor hours), and seek to identify the causes of performance variances – whether good or bad.

Determining Percentage of Completion

Effective project control and accurate forecasting of final costs rely, in part, upon the accurate determination of percentage of completion. Management should take an active role in tracking contractor progress through the determination of percentage of completion, for both individual activities and the entire project. Establish a system for accurate and efficient estimation of percentage of physical completion. For example, for each discipline and work activity, formalize the significant progress milestones, assign meaningful weighting values, and thoroughly train personnel on system procedures.

Start the most difficult and time consuming field activities as early as possible. If possible, work such as equipment module construction and pipe spool fabrication should be started prior to field mobilization to minimize future field congestion.

Craft Labor Overtime

Be judicious in the use of premium-time and overtime labor hours. With full understanding of project schedule economics and the cost effects of overtime and schedule acceleration work, be prepared to authorize overtime only when beneficial. Make sure management capabilities are adequate for keeping the trades motivated and productive.

Multiple Shifts

Pay particular attention to the effectiveness of the daily management transition between shifts. In strong organized labor regions, offer labor productivity incentives as the labor force is downsized. For large projects in strong union areas, for the last 10-15 percent of construction activity, consider establishing a financial incentive program for trades that factors in absenteeism, accident and injury incident rates, unit productivity rates, and milestone achievement. On one utility project, with excellent performance, craftsman earned a productivity/schedule bonus of up to $8,000 upon project completion.

SYSTEMS TURNOVERS

Systems-based Schedules

Convert from an area or discipline-based construction schedule to a systems-based schedule as early as possible to facilitate systems testing and start-up. Design the project work breakdown structure to facilitate or simplify this conversion. Identify components by start-up system with a special designator on all drawings. For example, one of the first systems to be tested is the make-up water system; thus, every wire, cable, pump, pipe, valve, and motor control switch on this system will have a system identification number, facilitating the planning and execution of start-up.

Expedited Start-up Schedule

Power producers usually want to compress and accelerate the start-up schedule as much as possible to minimize the time from construction completion to commercial operation. Benefits from this tactic can be significant, since daily financing costs during this period are typically high. Several clients also emphasize the importance of tight owner control over start-up schedules, often dictating sequences and milestones.

Ensure that during start-up owner field personnel possess both adequate authority and capability. It is paramount that knowledgeable owner field personnel possess adequate authority to effectively direct the work during the start-up phase. The goal should be to avoid contractor delays waiting on owner decisions.

SUMMARY

Although reduced project durations and accelerated project completion are often desirable, virtually every technique addressed in these articles comes with a price – some more expensive than others. Readers and their clients are encouraged to assess these schedule compression techniques within the needs of their respective organizations and projects, because most involve some form of tradeoff or investment in additional effort. A central issue, then, is whether or not the benefits of compressing the schedule exceed the associated cost. Thus, the implementation of schedule acceleration compression techniques should probably involve a corresponding cost/benefit analysis.

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