Identifying Construction Bugs 3

Subcontractor Extras                                    

Subcontractor extras tell the builder where money was spent to solve problems that fell outside the scope of work sections in the contracts.

Extras tell the builder where design plans are incomplete or incorrect…and where contract language is loose.  Extras are a source of information for tightening the budget on future phases of an existing project and formulating more accurate budgets.

Advice from Subcontractors                         

            Advice from subcontractors is another valuable source of information for figuring out how to improve the construction.

Subcontractors have a unique viewpoint close to the construction.  Because many subcontracts are awarded through negotiation involving the same subcontractors, design and construction improvements can be solicited from a builder’s regular group of subcontractors…in technical jargon called value engineering.

Debriefing Meetings                                      

Debriefing meetings with field personnel…after the completion of each project…can be one of the best sources of debugging information.  Field people are in the best position on a daily basis to observe and record…and then pass along…their hard-earned knowledge of what problems and mistakes to avoid on future projects.

For the builder to be in a positive position to receive this information from the field…assembly-line type bugs must be recognized for what they are…unforeseeable problems and not the result of human error.

A debriefing meeting at the close-out of every project should have some financial bonus or salary raise attached to the information given from the field to the builder…and not an occasion to point fingers and place blame.

Otherwise the field superintendents and project managers will simply keep this information to themselves…improving their own expertise.  This does help the builder…but the goal here is to download the information from the field and then integrate it into the next upcoming projects in order to proactively prevent design and construction mistakes while the projects are still on paper.

The idea for the builder is to transfer valuable information from the field into the overall company at-large…so the company possesses this information as well as their best and brightest field supervisors.

Company-Wide Construction Program                                

After establishing a debugging program, the formation of a comprehensive, standardized, company-wide construction system is the second most important thing that company owners and top managers can do to improve the construction.

A company-wide construction program involves information, policies & procedures, tasks, and standards that uniformly apply to all of a company’s projects.

For example, a mass-production tract housing builder may have 10 projects under construction.  Three of the projects have grade-A quality superintendents, four of the projects have grade-B quality superintendents, two of the projects have grade-C quality superintendents, and the tenth project has a superintendent that is performing at a grade-D quality level.

This is not an unusual scenario…and this arrangement will function and complete tract houses that get sold and turn a profit for the builder.  This scenario is being repeated many times for builders around the world…in variations on the same script…for builders having three projects or twenty.

The problem here goes back to the point made elsewhere in this book…that owners and managers of building construction companies with backgrounds in real estate, finance, accounting, or law…because they lack first-hand field experience in construction assume incorrectly that they cannot beneficially become involved in the nuts-and-bolts operation…and therefore delegate 100% of the field management to experienced superintendents and project managers…producing in the ten-project company example above ten different approaches to running the field construction ranging from grade-A quality down to grade-D quality.

A building construction company that relies upon the superintendents and project managers to bring in their own management and leadership systems…in lieu of the company having its own optimum system in-place and successfully operating…will create problems and conflicts throughout the company…from the human resources department…to the sales team on every project.

            A building construction company that has as many different approaches to field management of the construction…as the number of superintendents running each jobsite…due to company owners and managers relinquishing and abrogating their rightful place of leadership…opens up an environment that produces a variety of problems and mistakes that can plague the entire company…even with three to seven competent superintendents out of ten in the example above.

The same general business customer service formula of spending 80% of the time on 20% of the customers translates into a constant “putting out fires” on the 20% (or much less) of what is not going well on some projects.  So much time can be spent fixing problems on the “problem projects” that there is not enough time leftover to spend on the very few issues and problems on the well-running projects…bringing down the entire company.

The solution to this very common reality in housing construction is for the company to have a uniformly comprehensive construction program that creates the context and the environment for all ten projects in the example above…to be running smoothly at closely the same high-quality level…even with grade-C and grade-D field superintendents.

If every field superintendent is operating at grade-B or above because the system that is in place within the company does not allow for and open itself up to the admittance of numerous design and construction mistakes…already identified as constructability analysis items debugged out of the plans…and included as pre-construction tasks and construction quality-control checklist items scheduled to occur at the correct times throughout the project…the building construction company increasingly begins to control its own destiny…in an ever improving and self-correcting process.

A company-wide construction system attempts to get everyone on the same page…going in the same direction…with the same philosophy.

It takes the best methods and procedures within the company and tries to standardize these methods to bring everyone up to the same high standard.

One of the best arguments for starting a company-wide construction system is that the system stays with the company and is not dependent upon key field personnel or the varying experience and performance level of field people.

No project should waste time learning from a mistake already experienced on another project within the company.

The means for accomplishing this goal is a company-wide, comprehensive system of information, and polices & procedures that give the building construction company a uniform direction in its construction practices.

Author: Barton Jahn

I worked in building construction as a field superintendent and project manager. I have four books published by McGraw-Hill on housing construction (1995-98) under Bart Jahn, and have eight Christian books self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I have a bachelor of science degree in construction management from California State University Long Beach. I grew up in Southern California, was an avid surfer, and am fortunate enough to have always lived within one mile of the ocean. I discovered writing at the age of 30, and it is now one of my favorite activities. I am currently working on more books on building construction.

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