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How Do You Like Your Project Schedule, Smooth or Crunchy?

Construction schedules are a lot like peanut butter – smooth and creamy or crunchy. That might seem like a bit of a stretch but check this out.

Anyone who has been around the design and construction world for even a short time knows that the project schedule makes or breaks a build’s safety, profitability, and even its ultimate marketability. Some projects go as smoothly as creamy peanut butter from beginning to end with everyone making their start dates to be on the job and then finishing on schedule in a way that can be amazing even to a seasoned professional.

Many projects though can be like crunchy peanut butter, sticky and crunchy from the very beginning. Nothing goes right and schedule dates are seldom made with the subs being forced to go into “crunch time” in order to finish. That means overtime over staffing, “stacking subs’ on a job, none of which are easy or safe for the jobsite or the other workers. Things like not getting the building “dried in” so that finish subs can start their work, responding to red flags by inspectors that can shut down projects for days or weeks at a time, rejected shop drawings, “re-dos,” change orders, weather delays, labor shortages, and building commissioning delays all contribute to making a project “crunchy.” Sometimes it even seems that some contractors want it that way as a challenge so that they can prove their worth as “problem solvers.”

Experienced subs learn early which contractors know how to create a viable project schedule and then can execute to meet the “build.” That is why they are experienced. Those who don’t learn their lessons are not in business for very long.

It all starts early in the process with the drawings from the architects and engineers. “Bid only” incomplete drawings are many times not even biddable without the subs making giant assumptions on their staffing, materials, timing and costs. Some “eager for work subs” have to budget or bid their work multiple times and then might not be awarded the project.

The size and complexity of today’s major projects create tons (no pun intended) of long lead items like steel, rebar, special mechanical equipment, marble from Italian quarries and untested glass designs manufactured in China and not shipped on time can knock you off the planned project schedule. Later in the design cycle even color, finish and fabric selections can delay a project and make the project “crunchy.”

We reported on a recent McKinsey study found that 98% of global projects have construction delays and cost overruns. Sounds like “crunchy” to me.

With today’s complex projects, tight sites, no worker parking, limited lay down space, and labor shortages, the construction schedule can become a logistical nightmare where one item throws off the entire project. And then there is the dreaded situation when a GC or sub is not performing and the entire project has to be rebid or there is an extended transition time that throws the project schedule out the window.

Sure, every good schedule planner adds in contingency days for those unknowns. So do the subs. But most of those days get “engineered” out as the cost rises and the owner pressures for lower prices or substitute materials. Every GC wants their project to go “smooth and creamy” not “crunchy.” Professional project scheduling and constant communication can make the difference in the ultimate success of the “build.”

Whether you are using the latest technologies or still using the “back of the envelope” scheduling process, you can order your schedule either smooth and creamy or really “crunchy.” I prefer mine smooth and creamy. What about you?