There are a wide array of factors on how a construction project can be considered ‘successful.’
Keeping the project within budget is important, but another consideration is on-schedule completion, undoubtedly one of the most critical attributes of managing construction projects. The end quality of the build and compliance to pre-set safety and health protocols may also be vital factors in determining the success of a construction project.
However, few projects are as inherently varied and complex as a construction site. One thing is for sure: no two construction projects are the same. Hence, it’s not surprising that bottlenecks are often an issue construction industry. These bottlenecks can result in delays or stoppages that can be pricey and even threaten the value of a construction project, regardless of scale or scale.
Every effort should be made early on to stop ‘unavoidable’ delays in construction operations – which is very much doable. Let’s explore the most common bottlenecks experienced in construction and how to troubleshoot them for more efficient workflows and successful construction projects.
Why Do Bottlenecks Happen in Construction Sites?
Today’s volume of information exchanged between construction teams is increasing as we become more “connected.” While innovative, this trend puts a lot of stress on centralized organizations, especially in the construction industry, where miscommunication can snowball into worse dilemmas on site.
The symptoms of issues on-site are pretty straightforward. After a busy week on a construction site, part of the project team comes back on the weekend to catch up on backlog emails, un-processed change orders, and RFIs. If this is considered normalized in your team, it means that you and the rest of your staff cannot process the information generated fast enough.
Because requests aren’t processed until the weekend, the communication cycle turnarounds increase by extended days, slowing down the construction teams on site. When one of those unprocessed items happens to be on the critical path, you can end up delaying the entire project.
Fortunately, bottlenecks are easy to recognize as they occur. Below are the most prevalent bottlenecks in project management for construction and the strategies to solve them:
This one is obvious and will quickly eat up all your project teams’ trust. Make it easy on yourself and accessible for everyone in your team to share the ownership of quality and quality, including the subcontractors. The key to a successful project is to create an absolute path for subcontractors to build trust after joining the project and then manage them accordingly, depending on how reliable they have proven to be for the team. You are trading control for visibility on-site, so be metrics-driven and ready to jump in if those numbers ever go off the chart.
2. Lack of Extensive Risk Management
Lack of proper risk management can have severe consequences for a construction project, resulting in an increased risk profile and, in turn, a greater risk of incidents that may cause bottlenecks in the operations.
To solve this, you must set up a robust risk management program that is risk-appropriate to a given construction project and its workflow.
A Taiwanese construction industry study discovered that potential risk factors affect the achievement rates of three main performance objectives such as cost or budget, schedule or time, and quality. The study also found that an extensive risk management program should always be required in order to mitigate risks in managing construction. Failure to do this can heighten the risk of delays and other aspects that adversely impact a project.
An established risk program should go through these three key stages: risk confirmation, risk analysis, and the appropriate treatment of the risks based on its assessed profile; a thorough risk analysis should be included in the core stage. Risk management is central to good construction planning and project management for construction. The pros are that a project has 2.5 times more chance to succeed if there is a risk-based construction project management system.
3. Manpower or Labor Shortage
Labor shortages continue to be a significant issue for construction worldwide, especially in the United States.
Knowing this, it is crucial to be acutely aware of the skills shortage in construction and prioritize workers’ upskilling and training. Wherever possible, skilled individuals need to be hired in order to ensure guarantee a project’s success.
Training is becoming the main goal in the US construction industry. The Associated Builders and Contractors assessed that construction firms spent an average of 8.4% of payroll on staff training, totaling more than $1.3 billion on its member companies during 2020 alone. It also discovered that 13% of member companies had a continuous apprenticeship program at the state level or the federal Department of Labor.
Fresh apprenticeship programs effectively attract Gen Z and Millennials candidates into an industry like construction that is not attracting younger generations.
4. Unfit-For-Purpose or Improper Tools and Equipment
Potential bottleneck: Improper tools, machinery, and equipment can negatively affect any construction project. Most often than not, this is due to cost-cutting or other budgetary constraints.
Most contractors don’t understand that safe and risk-based investment in essential assets must be made for a given construction project. Sustainable and comprehensive management of existing inventory must continuously be tracked, and inventory management software, such as Pro Crew Schedule, can make this easier for your business.
Every financially reasonable effort should be made to guarantee investments in equipment made of high-quality materials. These assets will wear better with time, especially in harsh weather or rugged environments. High-quality equipment will also save on repair and maintenance costs. This is true to heavy-lifting equipment and mobile machinery but is also applicable to all equipment on a site, including hand tools and smaller electrical machinery.
This mindset of investing in quality should also be applied to all personal protective equipment (PPE) needed for a site, particularly harnesses and other fall protection gears. According to OSHA, the latter is a critical consideration, given that falling from high floors continues to be the top cause of major injuries and fatalities on construction sites.
Aligned to this is proper inventory management, including maintenance and repairs, of existing assets. Construction inventory management, paired with online inventory software, should be integrated into all operational project lifecycles – the operation, upgrading, renewal, and disposal of construction assets.
5. Poorly Utilized Construction Space
Space utilization in construction sites is often mismanaged and inefficient, creating safety risks and logistical issues. Poorly-managed construction spaces can result in a worksite that restricts productivity and generate safety issues. These can include access restrictions, site congestion, undue obstructions, and other elements that can impede workflows.
New technologies and innovative methods, such as lean management and building information modeling (BIM), have been influential in raising the relevance of spatial management in construction management. This has evidently benefited workflows, knowing that space optimization is directly proportional to improved productivity.
Another methodology that can be useful is called takt production; an approach is based on Lean philosophy. Derived from the German translation of rhythm, “Takt” is an approach that breaks up any construction project into a series of work sequences, resulting in a better focus on the flow of construction instead of merely using resources. Space management is a key component of the takt approach.
How To Prevent Construction Bottlenecks Before it Happens
As a construction manager, any setbacks can provoke a project owner and put the blame on you and your team. That is why you must identify the problem to prevent them from happening. Below are some of the tips you can employ:
1. Identify the Problem
Look for aspects within your construction crew and asset management where there is unbalanced workload distribution. These are the areas where you can break down first and stall the overall project.
2. Adjust These Areas
You can adjust these areas either by delegating other tasks to other fast-moving teams or hiring more manpower or workforce. This will guarantee that the project doesn’t come to a stop but continue being productive.
3. Hire Subordinate
You can assign some tasks to other people within the project team to relieve pressure in busy areas. Utilize any valuable resources on hand in the stressed-out areas.
As you have other departments, teams, or equipment chipping in on the stressed areas, find a lasting solution to the current issues by hiring more workers or construction equipment.
5. Create a Workflow
After overcoming a construction bottleneck problem, create a sustainable cycle that will help you prevent future bottlenecks. You can also improve the workflow by managing more projects and gaining experience.
Construction bottlenecks mentioned above are just physical ones. There are other varieties of bottlenecks that can potentially affect your business and projects.
Nevertheless, focusing on the outline factors and tips in this article should help guarantee your construction site is free of unnecessary bottlenecks that obstruct project workflows.