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Overcoming setbacks on a construction site


May 18, 2017

Construction projects are incredible feats of teamwork and collaboration, but their complex nature and the vast range of day-to-day variables make setbacks almost an inevitability. Common problems such as poor scheduling, communication and resource management can threaten to derail a project, but with a vigilant approach to risks and a comprehensive and detailed strategy from the offset, it is entirely feasible to overcome these setbacks and prosper.

The importance of effective project management cannot be understated. It will improve risk assessment, increase flexibility and scalability, improve accountability, drive productivity, reduce delays and give you the best chance of finishing a project on time and within budget. Here are six common problems and how to overcome them.

Scope of project is not understood

While teams are generally on board with the broad strokes of a construction project, other aspects that are not clearly defined can result in parties underestimating how much time and resources it will take to finish it. An incomplete understanding of the scope of the work involved is one of the most common initial problems, but it can be solved by those involved conducting due diligence before signing a contract. Wolfe Law Firm states that it is vital to “outline your scope of work deliberately and specifically, because it will be a determining factor in one’s liability to another party.” Everyone involved should be aware of their legal obligations, and the terms of any contract should be clear and well defined before it is signed.

Poor communication

The problems outlined in the previous section will be exacerbated if there are communication failures between the parties involved. The consequences of miscommunication can be far-reaching, as a failure to understand lead times or schedule deadlines, for example, will mean that teams won’t be in sync and their capacity for reaching maximum production will be constrained. To combat this problem, try to implement a standard communication and feedback system in writing so that assignments are clearly understood prior to the start of a project. You should always use feedback to ensure that a message is understood, reinforce any verbal agreement in writing, and use direct language that is easily understood and not ambiguous.

Unexpected changes

Construction projects don’t always go to plan, and there will be times when an owner or other third party wants something that wasn’t originally outlined. Discussing and approving these changes will take time and push a schedule back, but it is possible to manage them to maintain project continuity. Efficient decision-making should always be a priority, so always try to sort problems quickly. If an owner wants changes, let them know the repercussions immediately, and try to identify potential changes during the early phases of a project. You should also establish a cut-off time, after which the project owner is unable to make intentional changes.

Weather and other neutral causes

Adverse weather is among the neutral events that can cause delays but are not the fault of any party involved. Heavy rain and snow can delay construction for weeks depending on the severity of the weather conditions, but equipment such as Sykes submersible pumps can eliminate downtime by getting rid of excess water. These pumps can also be used for general ground dewatering and bypass pumping. Hardware and tech can reduce the impact of adverse weather, but you should track the potential for bad weather before a project and share the information with customers to prepare for and prevent delays.

Resource management and billing

Computer software should now be central to construction project management as it will make the whole process more intuitive, faster, safer and more profitable. Common problems with billings and payments and resource allocation and management can be eliminated entirely with online tools and cloud software. To ensure that everyone gets paid on time, source a contractor or have a designated team member to ensure that receivable and payable accounts are in order. Project managers can also use software for a complete granular view of resource usage and requirements and to track employees and contractors so that there are always the necessary materials and workers to complete the job.

General contractor problems

The general contractor oversees the minutiae of a construction project, so it can hold everyone back if they fall behind. However, the cardinal sin is if they don’t update the project plan after doing so. There will always be peaks and troughs during a project, but it is vital that transparency is prioritised so that everyone knows where they are. A failure by the general contractor to update the overarching plan results in a lack of coordination and unexpected delays. Software is again a useful tool for collaborating, exchanging information and managing day-to-day tasks, but merely using a tool such as Microsoft Projects isn’t enough. Your team and everyone involved in the project should update the plan at regular intervals every week. This will also increase accountability, improve productivity and increase the likelihood of important tasks being completed on time. Automated reporting systems are also incredibly useful.

Establishing a culture of transparency, collaboration and communication is essential for effective project management, and the digital age offers up new and exciting ways for construction teams to manage, optimise and streamline every aspect to ensure that it goes smoothly.


By Emily