Schedule, scope and cost are the essential bottom-line issues every project faces regardless of size. These factors are always competing. For example, adding more scope typically creates more costs and time to complete, while a client putting pressure on a contractor to finish the project early may result in deficient quality and more costs for overtime work. Typically, everyone looks very carefully at cost, but schedule very much affects cost and is often the hardest element to manage. General conditions and management labor by your general contractor is a large part of the overall expense, which runs from a low of 7% of the construction cost to as high as 15% or more. These costs are based primarily on the duration of the project. Time extensions add duration for time sensitive soft costs necessary to manage the construction process such as architecture and engineering, inspections and other fees. However, there are construction management strategies to manage the bottlenecks that threaten to bog down a project. For greatest effect, pay attention to the key points below early in the two out of four construction project phases, planning and preconstruction.
A contractor’s construction schedule will reveal a lot about their capabilities and experience in managing approval cycles and milestones.
A very important key in planning in the construction industry is a schedule. When interviewing contractors, ask how they prepare their construction schedules—this will reveal a lot about their capabilities and experience in managing approval cycles and milestones. Ask for a sample schedule of a recent project of similar size and scale. Do they use the critical path method and can they show you a report that highlights these essential linked tasks? An experienced construction professional should be able to review a set of drawings and reasonably estimate the construction duration. Examine contractors’ schedule assumptions to discern if they are realistic or overly optimistic and whether they believe they can deliver the project in the time frame that matches the owner’s expectations.
Schedule very much affects cost and is often the hardest element to manage.
General Contractors typically require contractors to prepare detailed critical path schedules that show all factors that affect time, such as shop drawings and submittals review cycles, architect and owners’ review and approval cycles, manufacture/fabrication lead times for materials, installation, and interrelationships between trades. They tend to look at more than just their initial preparation of the schedule, it is essential to update the schedule regularly as things change. A good contractor will double-check for errors, missing elements (such as time for the owner to select finishes and long lead items), inadequate or excessive float time and faulty logic between elements. A vital construction management technique is to check and update the schedule regularly, often every 4 weeks. Require the contractor to provide a 2-week look-ahead report at every weekly meeting and see how their work compares to the previous look-ahead over the past two weeks. It is important to ascertain or even anticipate when the contractor is about to fall behind and to make positive suggestions to keep them on track, such as adding crews, adjusting the work flow or reordering non-critical path tasks.