The Construction Scheduling Rodeo: Keeping Project Deadlines—How do we do it?

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Conor Evans, Project Manager at March Construction, writes an opinion piece about his perspective on tackling construction scheduling.

Conor is currently overseeing three of March Construction’s commercial projects throughout the NYC metro area. He has 15 years of experience in national and international commercial construction to include having built projects in Montana and Uganda.  

He’s competed in rodeos, roping and wrestling cattle and once rode a bull on the Idaho/Montana border!

The Construction Scheduling Rodeo: Keeping Project Deadlines—How do we do it?

Construction scheduling is perhaps one of the largest inherent conflicts in building construction:

How do you get a scheduling plan to smoothly unfold in reality, meeting all of the project deadlines, despite all of the changes and unknown factors that may come into play?

I love communicating with visual imagery, especially when it regards subjects I am passionate about—my profession as a project manager. In this essay, I’ve combined that passion with knowledge and inspiration from my experience competing in rodeos, roping and wrestling with cattle, to create a metaphor that explains how I view the construction scheduling process.

The Construction Scheduling Conflict

Time is of the essence when submitting bids to prospective clients. Initially, there is rarely enough time to narrow down and choose each subcontractor, collaboratively outlining their subpart of the project and its impact on the overall schedule.

Instead, the general contractor needs to rely on their experience and historical project data to create these schedules, providing a project completion time frame to the clients to help win the contract. This kind of scheduling is based on theory. If handled improperly, it is financially risky for everyone involved: the general contractor, subcontractors, and building owner.

The Solution

March Construction attacks this conflict by tenaciously building and maintaining momentum throughout each project we are entrusted to build.

To illustrate construction scheduling as I see it, imagine cowboys, cattle and stockyards that lay on the other side of a thousand miles of open plains – unforeseen storms, mountains to cross, crisis and all.  Those cowboys need to get the cattle to market at the condition they promised to the traders. It’s what they promised! And cowboys don’t break promises. 

The Cowboys: The project superintendents supervising and managing the project, or “riding herd” and “corralling the strays”. The project manager sets the pace and supports the superintendent.

The Cattle: The subcontractors and vendors who need to be managed and overseen (Sorry, guys! No offense intended—It’s just to support the metaphor. Think, “Strong like a bull!”)

The Stockyards: The finished building

The Traders: Our client

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To get cattle to the stockyards, the cowboys have to provide the trader a timeline, a schedule, based on theory. This comes with the inherent conflict we discussed earlier—there’s no way the cowboys can know what perils lay ahead in the time they have to respond to the trader’s request (RFP).  

My role as the cowboy/project manager is simple – find the strongest cattle (the best critical path subcontractor) and ride point with him (The point man, also called the point rider or lead rider, is the cowboy who rides near the front of the herd—determining the direction, controlling the speed, and giving the cattle something to follow.); pushing him to find and extend his limit – he sets the pace on when we get to the stockyards. When faltering, he is given steroids (incentives akin providing bonuses if “stretch” milestone goals are met) to help him keep going a little further. Throughout our journey, we communicate with the trader on our progress and rest the cattle with the time margin we’ve gained (or not resting when we’ve lost it).

The cowboy/superintendent’s role is riding herd (supervising); pushing the herd from behind to keep pace and rounding the strays. He makes sure the herd is arriving at the market healthy and in the condition the trader is expecting (a loose metaphor for good quality control) and communicating with the cowboy/project manager on what is needed to support the herd. 

Every now and then, cattle can’t keep pace and need to be cut loose (i.e. a contract default). Contract defaults?  Well, while I’m mixing metaphors here – every herd has a “slow zebra.”  Slow zebras get eaten when they can’t keep pace over the long haul.

March’s Approach

We are a New Jersey-based construction management firm operating in the northeast region and, while we don’t ride horses to the office, wear straw hats, boots or pearl snap shirts, we live by a cowboy creed of delivering what we promise:

1.       The building is completed on or ahead of schedule, at a fair price, and in great condition.

2.       To “take care of the herd.”

3.       To find a way to cross the great expansedespite the unforeseenthat bridges theory and reality.

March is always on time, usually early, and never late.

When managed correctly, despite unforeseen storms and the doubling down during them, the herd arrives ahead of schedule at the stockyards ready for market.

The fun part about construction?—Making a theory become a reality, “come hell or high water!”  That’s the March way.

 

By Conor Evans

Project Manager at March Construction


 Conor Evans, Project Manager at March Construction

Conor Evans, Project Manager at March Construction

Conor is currently overseeing three of March Construction’s commercial projects throughout the NYC metro area. He has 15 years of experience in national and international commercial construction to include having built projects in Montana and Uganda.  

He’s competed in rodeos, roping and wrestling cattle and once rode a bull on the Idaho/Montana border!


Copy Editing & Media Procurement by Briana Samman

6 Ways Technology has Improved the Construction Industry

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Historically, the construction industry has lagged in technological advancements. However, in recent years, it has made tremendous strides in the following areas...

1. GPS

Cutting-edge GPS technology provides efficiencies that would have not been feasible just a few years ago. It is increasingly used for surveying and mapping, locating buried and overhead utilities, facilitating heavy machinery, precision grading and excavation, and enhancing material application. It has become critical to improving productivity, efficiency, and the safety of construction job sites.

2. Digital 3D Modeling

Thanks to 3D modeling, the construction process no longer necessarily requires rolling out blueprints of building designs. This speeds up the design process and enables architects and designers more freedom to explore different ideas and identify potential design problems before they become real issues. It also provides an engaging, realistic rendering for owners and clients to better imagine what the finished project will look like in the real world.  

3. Image Capturing, Drones, Robotics & VR

With high definition time-lapse image-capturing cameras set up throughout the job site, construction companies can create a virtual record of project progress with ease. With some of the most high-tech versions such as OpenSpace, a new Silicon Valley startup, users only need to mount a 360-degree camera on a hardhat, press record, and walk through a construction site. Within a day, OpenSpace AI will stitch the video footage into a 360-degree-panoramic map similar to Google Street View. This cuts hours out of the time it would take to walk through with a standard camera.

In addition, the growing popularity of drones allows for easily capturing aerial footage of buildings. This is excellent for capturing work progress, but also great for creating content that fully captures the building’s beauty from all angles.

Virtual Reality is beginning to play a role in construction, with the world’s first pavilion-scale structure being built with the aid of VR goggles called “HoloLens” which integrates CAD workflow with augmented reality. It displays a generated design model through holographic instruction rather than 2D drawings.

4. Management & Reporting Software

Easy-to-use apps allow workers to access, document, share and edit important project information even while on the job site. Select new devices are built to weather field work and rugged conditions. Barcode scanners and RFID readers help track equipment and materials. The use of mobile devices and apps increases communication, real-time information, and sharing of documents and materials not only with co-workers but with clients as well.

5. 3D Printing

New large-scale 3d printers can precisely pour cement to quickly produce building components, foundations, bridges, and even full small-to-medium size buildings. Only the future will tell how this will transform the construction industry.

6. Social Media

Our industry has embraced the social media boom with marketing techniques that are coming full circle from a virtual idea to approvals, design, groundbreaking and commissioning. LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have become the hub for employees and customers to congregate around photos, videos, news, and construction site updates on a daily basis. Real-time photos can be posted by phone straight from the job site to social media, giving customers and employees instant access to what is happening *now*. Social media has also made remotely posting job listings, connecting with old colleagues, and meeting new clients and customers faster and easier than ever.  


The millennial wave has hit the forefront of the construction industry, encouraging companies to acquire, learn, and implement many of these new and upcoming software & technologies.  It has become the norm for our high-tech society to infiltrate all aspects of construction.

What does this all mean? While it can mean huge changes and advancements in a positive way, it can also mean we are constantly at odds with ourselves in the workforce. As we gain knowledge and speed from all of these technological advancements, they enable us to creatively work ourselves into being more proficient and accountable with fewer people!


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Article By Todd Laubach, Vice President of March Construction

Todd Laubach started with March Construction, in October 2005 as a Project Executive where he was in charge of Whole Foods projects as well as Target and other industrial projects.

< Learn more about Todd

 

 

 

 


Copy Editing & Media Procurement by Briana Samman