Avoiding costly delays is one of the most important aspects of project management in the construction industry. In a best-case scenario, construction delays reduce your annual revenue figures and demonstrate to your clients that you’re disorganized or incapable of delivering. In worst case scenarios, your firm could be ruined by liquidated damages, a special type of contractual penalty that you could face if a work delay costs your customer money.
Avoiding construction delays starts with recognizing their most common causes and working to mitigate those factors before they take effect. Planning is crucial, but you’ll also need to depend on analytics and close oversight to determine when things are falling behind and make the right decisions to keep your project on track. Here are the five most common causes of construction delays and what you can do about them.
If you’re doing an indoor renovation or refurbishment project, you probably won’t get away with using the weather as the reason you’re behind schedule. For outdoor projects, however, poor weather like rain or snow can leave you way behind schedule, threatening your already-slim profit margins with each passing day.
If you’re on an excavation project, there’s nothing like a bit of rain to turn that freshly dug hole into a mud pit that’s ready to swallow an excavator or any other machine you drive into it. High winds can often put a stop to high rise construction or a roofing job, and there’s no end to the delays that can result from flooding, or worse, a Tornado or Hurricane.
You’ll have to build allowances for natural disasters into your contracts to ensure that you don’t end up paying liquidated damages because of a storm. Rescheduling activities like concrete pours in accordance with the weather schedule is also a good idea, and you should always keep water pumps at a job site so you can dispose of any water that accumulates and gets in the way.
Budget and Resource Shortages
Running out of money is a very bad scenario for a construction firm that’s in the middle of a project, especially when the client has already paid and you’re digging into your own pockets to get the job done.
It is vital that construction project managers have access to accurate and complete job costing utilities, as well as real-time updates on the firm’s financial health in order to ensure that projects don’t eat up the budget. A well-maintained job costing software is your firm’s best tool for accurately estimating costs and ensuring that each job can bring higher profits.
Banks can also be flexible with providing loans, especially if you’re an established firm with collateral to offer. This last resort works well if you need your hands on some cash to purchase the last materials for a project, pay workers, and avoid a costly delay.
Many construction firms take on too many projects, overbook their crews, and end up falling behind on one or more jobs as their exhausted employees drive around from job to job each day trying to get everything done.
It’s great to be ambitious about your goals, but everyone has limits, and you may find that hiring more crews lightens the load for everyone, avoids delays, and keeps morale higher throughout your firm.
Construction project management software can be used to track the assess the productivity of your crews and determine whether more labor is required to keep your projects on track, or if your existing teams can handle the load.
Crews that waste time on the job site are a plague in the construction business. On the one hand, they may lack the tools, training, experience, or methodology that’s needed to get the job done efficiently, but on the other, they may spend too much time chatting or on coffee breaks and lose focus on the importance of timeliness on the job.
It’s important to invest in full-time employees – make sure they know the processes and what’s expected of them, and hold them accountable for producing results on a daily basis. If you set high standards and don’t allow excuses, you’ll see how quickly production increases, and that means you can dole out rewards for success – free coffee and donuts for the fastest crew, perhaps?
Unexpected changes are always going to be a part of the construction business. Sometimes a requirement for the project emerges that was different from what was expected, and sometimes the customer asks for something extra and it isn’t possible to say no.
Managing expectations is the crucial skill when it comes to building unexpected changes into your schedule. Let the client know about the change, why it’s needed, and what kind of delay it will cause. If the client requested the change, let them know that a deadline extension will be required in order to make it happen, or suggest a bonus for incorporating the change into the existing work schedule.
Either way, track changes using a change order form and make sure the customer signs it as evidence of why the project took longer than initially planned. Electronic change forms are the best means of tracking change requests throughout projects – they never get lost and are easy to find and refer to if needed.
Although there are many causes of delays in construction projects, they can all be addressed with similar tools and processes. Always manage expectations with the client through clear and open communication about how things are progressing. Ensure that your working crews are well-trained, focused, and efficient, and use a construction project management software to keep track of the important metrics that help you make the right adjustments when you fall behind schedule.