Every construction professional knows the downside to missing project deadlines. Not only does it frustrate stakeholders, but it keeps the team from getting started on the next revenue-generating project. With that said, few construction teams actually succeed in finishing their jobs on time. The following breakdown looks at 5 common challenges in meeting construction deadlines and provides some simple solutions to help mitigate them.
There is no shortage of moving parts on a construction site. Each project will consist of an intricate network of contractors and subcontractors that must be on the same page in order for important construction goals and milestones to be reached. However, many construction projects stall as workers wait around for important documents and approvals giving them the go-ahead to do their jobs.
Among the pitfalls of poor communication include:
- Rework – not only is obliterating freshly finished work expensive, but it is extremely time consuming. Studies reveal that an average construction worker will spend 4 hours each week correcting mistakes and undoing tasks that were not necessary. When multiplied to consider each worker on a project over the life of the project, this will result in hundreds, if not thousands, of lost man hours that will undermine a team’s ability to meet deadlines.
- Poor deployment of resources – when communication is poor, scheduling and staffing becomes inefficient. For example, workers may not know when and where important tools and machinery are available, and areas of the project that are ahead of schedule will not know to send workers to tasks that are falling behind.
- Limited owner insights – the stakeholders in most construction projects are surprisingly left in the dark on the progress of many projects, waiting around for periodic updates from construction managers to keep them apprised of the job status. This can lead to frustrations when projects start to fall behind schedule, with owners setting unrealistic expectations to try and get the project up-to-speed.
Solution: Invest in innovative construction software to serve as a repository for important project documents and unified medium of communication from the top down.
Material and Supply Issues
Getting the correct materials in the correct quantity to the construction site is an essential component in meeting deadlines. However, this is easier said than done in an era in which supply chains are becoming increasingly complex in the face of heightened demand for delivery services. Studies show that up to 25% of all non-complete construction tasks are caused by material delivery deviations. A delivery deviation may include late deliveries, incorrect products or quantities, deliveries that arrive at the wrong location of a construction site, or deliveries that do not arrive at all.
While material and supply delivery delays can cause projects to miss deadlines in and of themselves, they have the potential to create catastrophic construction blockers, which can throw the construction schedule completely out of whack. A blocker occurs when one team is ready to begin work but cannot start until a previous team’s work is complete. For example, the foundation is one of the first items that must be completed on any construction site prior to other projects beginning. A delay in finishing the foundation blocks other tasks from being performed. As each subsequent step in the construction project is delayed, logistics become increasingly complex. Delays of even a few hours early in the build begin to compound, with weeks added to the project in some cases as contractors are forced to reschedule.
The frustrating part about delivery delays is that the hang-up is likely to occur when the materials are just minutes from the construction site. It is exceedingly difficult for most delivery services to get materials from the final checkpoint to the end user. In fact, the last leg of a product’s journey is estimated to account for 53% of the total delivery cost. In addition to the hefty cost, other common last mile problems include:
- Addresses that are not yet defined in GPS apps
- Finding carriers willing to service unique quantities and remote locations
- Heavy delivery traffic in exploding subdivisions and crowded downtown districts
- A nationwide shortage of qualified drivers
Solution: Partner with a company that specializes in last mile delivery to ensure that the project has the technological infrastructure in place for on demand delivery with up-to-the-minute in-app tracking.
Waiting for Payment
A lien waiver is a fancy word used in the construction industry for receipt of payment. When a contractor, subcontractor, material supplier, etc. issues a lien waiver to another party, they are acknowledging that payment has been received for their goods or services, thereby waiving their rights to place a mechanics lien against the property in the said amount. As lien waivers for major construction projects can run well into the six or seven figures, it is apparent why all parties want to have them in place prior to beginning work.
The problem is that, given the complex web of contractors and subcontractors that characterize most construction projects, it can be difficult to obtain payment, issue lien waivers, and confirm that work is cleared to commence in a timely fashion. In fact, some 80% of companies admit that a significant portion of their work week is spent tracking down payment from contractors.
Solution: Integrate powerful construction payment software with current accounting tools to serve as a central repository for all lien waivers and allow for automatic disbursement of approved payments.
Inadequate Risk Management
Too many project managers fail to plan adequately for the myriad risks that could delay a construction project. In fact, a shocking global construction study revealed that 75% of construction projects fail to meet deadlines, largely due to poor risk management. Some common examples of construction risks include:
- Inclement weather
- Scope creep (the phenomenon in which construction projects start small but proliferate as they unfold)
- Construction error
- Changing expectations, demands, and requirements of stakeholders
Solution: Plan, plan, plan. Build a buffer period into the schedule to account for unexpected events. Again, construction software and good communication can help mitigate risk factors.
While the COVID-19 pandemic upended the jobs and career paths of millions of Americans, people have been surprisingly slow to return to work as restrictions subside in various parts of the country. Nowhere is this felt more acutely than in the trades, as Business Wire notes that the number of skilled labor job openings is increasing faster than companies can find workers to fill them. Specifically, there are glaring needs for plumbers, electricians, roofers, carpenters, and construction generalists.
It does not take much imagination to see how labor shortages can cause construction projects to miss deadlines. Jobs will take longer than expected with fewer workers; workers may be required to work outside of their area of expertise, resulting in delay-causing errors; or the job remains unfinished altogether, creating devastating blockers.
Solution: Offer more competitive compensation packages. If money is tight, look into providing free training, lifestyle benefits, and flexible work hours to entice workers.
How to Solve 5 Common Challenges to Meet Construction Deadlines
Despite the importance of punctuality in completing tasks on a construction site, less than a quarter of all projects ever meet their scheduled deadlines. Some common challenges that can throw a wrench in the schedule are communication breakdowns, material and supply issues, waiting for payment, inadequate risk management, and labor shortages. By having a full understanding of these issues and how to solve them, project managers can feel confident that impending deadlines will not pass them by.