Communication, or rather, miscommunication, has been one of the biggest problems of project managers and project engineers in tracking project progress and ensuring that construction projects are completed in time. According to a survey of construction project managers, communicating with subcontractors was one of the major challenges of their job, particularly during the punch list process. In addition, other challenges related to communication include proper and thorough documentation, lack of clarity on completion of tasks, time spent going back and forth between the jobsite and the trailer and lack of clear and transparent communication between the jobsite and the trailer.
Once issues arise because of miscommunication, it usually takes days or even weeks to resolve, something that can become very expensive in terms of time and money especially in the construction industry. During the closeout process in one multi-family construction project, it was found that there were no kitchen islands in all of the units because of a miscommunication. In order to fix this problem, they had to rip out the floor costing 6 weeks of delays and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Another project had a parking lot design change which was not properly and effectively communicated. This resulted in re-doing the entire parking lot, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and additional weeks of delay.
There is nothing worse (and more common) for a construction project manager than to get to the site and find that the work was either not done or done incorrectly.
There are some strategies that effective and efficient construction project managers have adopted in order to improve communication and therefore keep their construction projects on time:
- Documentation, documentation, documentation. The more you can document with photo evidence and paper trail, the better off you are when you deliver to management. Typically, in large-scale construction projects, 30% of the data gets lost by the time units are turned over to management. There is a lot of back and forth on “he said, she said” and without documentation, this is a project manager’s nightmare. The better you can document EVERYTHING and each and every issue, when issues were opened and closed, allows you to prepare yourself for situations where there is potential conflict on what needs to be done and what has been done. Documentation allows you to resolve issues without straining the relationship with your developer.
- Manage the workflow. There are typically hundreds of issues to send to each trade, and it is often unclear which of the issues should be prioritized. Furthermore, additional steps, such as making a phone call and explaining what needs to be done is often required. It is critical to communicate the priorities and focus subcontractors and GCs’ time on the most important tasks. For example, if there are 50 tasks to be done, an effective project manager would prioritize the 20 most important tasks today and focus on the other 30 tomorrow. There are tools that help prioritize these issues and communicate with your subs and other project team members.
- Track and measure issues and activities of your construction project. This goes hand in hand with documentation. When there is documentation, you can look back, track and measure. You can see average close time, which issues caused the biggest delays, which subs were efficient, where can you improve. Again, having a reliable and easy to use system that enables you to log and document everything will empower you to also track and measure everything.
- Find ways to automate reporting. Instead of spending hours each day trying to put together reports for your weekly meetings such as subcontractor meetings and the like, effective project managers find ways or systems that can help automate reporting issues. If you can send automated reports to your subs before the meetings, it helps everyone prioritize the most important tasks to focus on for the next week.
One of the project managers of an Avalon Bay 600-unit multifamily project in Chino Hills recently adopted these four strategies. Previously, they were using pen and paper, text messages, emails and other manual means. They were spending 4-8 hours a week on phone calls and emails, going back and forth with subs and tracking issues. They transitioned to using a jobsite collaboration platform, Buildup, which allowed them to automate a lot of tasks, manage their workflow and prioritize, document practically most everything and track and measure all issues and activities, especially with regard to their punch list and close out process. Because of ease of use, they were able to get up to 50% of their subcontractors on Buildup, which made managing the punch list process all the more easier. They opened more than 1,000 issues during the closeout process and found issue resolution significantly faster, so much so that they were able to release the project 2 months earlier than expected! In addition to using a mobile platform for issue resolution, another key takeaway was that the more you are able to get your subcontractors on board, it helps drive the process and improve the rate at which you close issues and move the project forward.
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