How you can manage construction projects effectively from start to finish

When a project is tendered out to a construction company, contractors will provide a price breakdown and an indication of how quickly they’ll be able to get the job done. Once contracts are signed and works start, they often face obstacles resulting in delays.

Nine out of ten contractors say they see frequent construction delays, according to Nplan research reports. 72% of projects wind up running late, and affected projects see their total duration overrun by an average of 38%, driving up costs by an average of 24%. Some delays are inevitable but there’s a risk of construction professionals becoming complacent about delays, and failing to take action to ensure productivity on their worksites.

What tips can project managers adopt to meet deadlines?

The problem can become self-fulfilling if we accept delays, as we stop trying to prevent them. The reality is that construction delays aren’t a law of nature, and we aren’t powerless to prevent (or at least minimise) their impact on our clients. Digital construction management tool, PlanRadar Australia, has listed five ways to keep your projects running on time.

Set Realistic Expectations

Supply chain disruptions have made it more difficult to complete projects as quickly as planned. Make sure everyone on your team has visibility into these kinds of bottlenecks so you can give quotes that reflect the reality of the environment, and you can quickly update your clients if matters beyond your control look set to cause delays. Everyone knows some delays can’t be avoided, so be proactive about letting everyone know if problems arise.

Embrace Digital Checklists

Checklists might not sound like a transformative technology — but for many construction companies, they’re a real game changer. The key is to look beyond clipboards and crumpled bits of paper, and embrace digital tech that lets stakeholders from across the entire project ecosystem access and update checklists from tablets or smartphones.

Digital lists are less likely to be overlooked by frontline workers, and make it possible for supervisors to have full visibility into what’s getting done. With the right checklists, you can empower workers to manage their time, while still making sure everyone stays on track.

Use Your Team Effectively

Almost 14 hours a week are wasted on sites according to PlanGrid and consultancy FMI Corp on tasks like hunting down information, resolving conflicts, and dealing with mistakes — and even if some delays are unavoidable, that kind of non-productivity is preventable.

Construction companies need clear systems in place to ensure workers aren’t sitting idle: if a team can’t complete one task due to labor or material shortages, site managers should be able to flexibly reassign them to other work, or even other job sites.

Keep on Communicating

Often, delays and requests for rework happen because key stakeholders don’t communicate properly. Project managers and site staff should hold regular meetings to track progress and preempt potential problems. Messaging tools may also encourage teams to seek help or advice without disrupting their work, use photos and videos to highlight specific queries or examples, or access blueprints and other information in the moment that it’s needed.

If you’re working across multiple job sites, digital tech can also help managers and teams stay connected, boosting productivity and ensuring quality control processes are adhered to.

Don’t Forget About Data

Modern worksites are increasingly driven by data, so it’s vital to ensure you’re putting systems in place to keep track of the information flowing through your work processes. Data needs to be a force multiplier, not a source of confusion and potential delays.

Make sure your teams have the data they need at their fingertips, using mobile devices or tablets to access plans and information on an as-needed basis. Ideally, use a single connected back-end platform to manage data across your head office and all worksites, keeping managers and jobsite teams on the same page at all times.

Don’t Settle for Second-rate

The bottom line is that yes, construction is a complex business, and yes, delays are sometimes inevitable. But in an industry where so many operators are growing complacent, and treating lengthy delays as simply the way things are done, there’s a real opportunity for contractors that prioritise organisational efficiency to stand out from the pack.

Rapidly increasingly new digital innovations are making it possible to drive efficiencies across the value chain for construction projects of all kinds and sizes — and that, in turn, is making the construction industry a better organised and more professional place for everyone.

In a world full of disruptions including global labor shortages, and supply chain issues, you can’t ideally control everything. However, that’s even more reason to take control of the things you do have the power to influence, and to ensure that you aren’t exacerbating inevitable hiccups by allowing preventable missteps to derail your projects.

So don’t resign yourself to long, revenue-sapping delays. With the right technologies, smart processes, and motivated workers and managers, it’s possible to keep your projects running on schedule — and to delight your customers and boost your revenues in the process.

Bart Crowther is the Regional Lead, Australia for the global SaaS Construction Tech platform PlanRadar. With more than 10 years’ experience in the construction industry, Crowther has worked in a number of high-profile and senior leadership roles for companies such as Aconex, Avoka Technologies, Fujitsu, Kronos and Data#3.