Help Me, Help you
Hello once again. In late 2010, while the entire construction industry was depressed, we engaged FMI Consulting to work with us on improving our internal processes with the intent to elevate our company to “best of class”. We had some existing procedures in place that were good, but in order to survive the downturn, we felt the best way to ensure our survival was to elevate these processes to “best in class”. After our business evaluation, we received FMI’s recommendations on our existing processes. Our pre-job planning process needed improvement, we needed to implement a process to meet in the middle of the project to review status, and we needed to consistently perform post-job reviews among other things.
One Sunday while watching football, the commentators were discussing the coaching staff’s week of meetings preparing for the game, and it hit me how inefficient the construction industry is. In the NFL, Mondays are usually off days for the players, but are film watch sessions for the coaching staff. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are practice days, and either Friday or Saturday are walk through days. In most cases, the coaches work 50 to 60 hours Monday through Saturday in preparation for a 3 hour game on Sunday. Compare that to the construction industry, where in the past we might spend an hour or two preparing (our practice) for a 6 month project (our game).
Being the sports fan that I am, and seeing this obvious parallel, we embarked upon revising and initiating our processes with football terminology. We have detailed Pre-game Planning sessions, as well as Half-time Meetings to evaluate progress, regroup, and revise the game plan as necessary. We have Fourth Quarter Meetings to develop our exit strategy, and Two Minute Warning Meetings to schedule punch-lists and demobilization. Lastly, during the Post-Game Film Watch sessions we evaluate all aspects of the project and document lessons learned.
On a $100K project, our foreman will spend a day in the office to review the plans, take offs, scope of work, and production goals. He then visits the jobsite to get familiarized, and introduce himself to the customer. The next day we have our Pre-game Planning meeting with the foreman, estimator, project manager, field superintendent, and equipment manager. This meeting could last several hours. On large projects ($1M - $20M) this process is considerably longer. At times the foreman is in our office for a month preparing for the Pre-game Planning meeting. These meetings could last several days. All of this preparation is done to make us more knowledgeable and efficient once we are on the jobsite. In turn this brings value to our customer.
Now that the construction industry is heating up, we are seeing a disturbing trend develop. The time between the GC awarding us the project and needing us to be onsite is dramatically changing, for the worse. We have been awarded large projects one week and needed to be on-site, as well as productive, a week later. This circumvents our internal processes and causes needless “fire-drills”, eliminating any chance for us to be proactive and efficient on the project. This is further exacerbated when the MEP trades are involved in BIM modeling and pre-fabrication of components without input or involvement with the wall and ceiling contractor. In several instances, the MEP trades were fabricating components before we were even awarded the project. By the wall and ceiling contractor not being involved early on in the project, a lot of the efficiencies of pre-fabrication are lost. The project ends up taking two steps forward and one backward. Early involvement of the wall and ceiling contractor results in taking three steps forward.
Please don’t get me wrong, WE DO APPRECIATE being awarded projects at any time. THANK YOU to all of our customers for all of the opportunities you do give us. But, if you can give us time to utilize our Pre-game Planning processes, or better yet, get us involved early in the modeling stage, we can provide increased value. In the immortal words of Jerry Maguire – “Help me…help you!”
Until next time, work safe, work hard,
and have fun!