Mitigate Constraints; Plan for Change

April 13, 2018

To ensure the on-schedule progress of a project it is vital that constraints are identified and mitigated to the greatest extent possible. All contractors carefully consider these constraints in the pre-construction stage. This is an integral part of planning. However, as we all are aware, things always change once the project transitions onto site. Ensuring site teams can react to this change, plan effectively whilst onsite and are aware of all factors which may affect delivery will help achieve the aim to complete works safely, on time and on budget. In this blog we consider the main constraints on construction projects and how effective short-term planning will help identify and manage these issues.

SAFETY

Safety is always the most important consideration for any site and contractors have a clear responsibility to ensure the safety of all workers and the public on site. Slips, trips and falls account for 24% of all non-fatal RIDDOR incidents according to the HSE. Many of these injuries could be prevented with better planning to avoid congestion in working areas. As sites get busier and there is increasing pressure to deliver on time workgroups may be operating in the same or very close proximity. Planning working areas carefully in the first place will reduce the likelihood of slips, trips and falls.

Another cause of safety issues on site is last minute changes. This could be due to incorrect planning. If two work gangs both make plans to work in the same area at the same time because they didn’t plan collaboratively then it’s likely one of the gangs will have to quickly make a new plan of works. This plan will likely be less well thought through, possibly without the correct regard for safety. If the short-term plan is collaboratively formed with all workgroups, this reduces the likelihood of these clashes occurring.

ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABILITY

Wastage on a construction site can be a big problem. If the delivery of resources, such as concrete, is incorrectly planned and can’t be used in the required time frame the batch could have to be tipped. This is something which is very avoidable and has both an environmental impact as well as a financial one. This comes down to an onsite planning issue which could be managed with better collaborative planning. Any issues with a delivery can be easier identified if the whole team is aware.

QUALITY

If an NCR is raised, then the contractor is likely to have to take remedial action to have the work completed. This is a major source of delay and compensation events on construction sites. Non-conformance can be because of many issues but time pressures towards the end of a job are a key reason. Have you ever noticed that NCRs are greater towards the end of the project? The pressures which exist to make up time on an already struggling project can lead to non-conformities. Better planning of these activities and recognising issues which will prevent them from taking place will allow better consideration of quality.

AVOIDING CLASHES

As highlighted above clashes are a big safety issue but they are clearly a financial problem and a major constraint. The complex environment of a construction site means that there is a wide range of trades all competing to get their work done safely, on time and to budget. Collaborative planning needs to be embraced much more readily than it currently is. During the 4 week look ahead program all parties must be involved as the plan is made. To a large extent this is dealt with in large weekly planning meetings but by digitising this process collaboration is increased. Information can be more easily distributed around the site so clashes are easily identified early and this constraint can be mitigated.

RESOURCES

The lack of available labour resource is very common on a site. Good subcontractors are in high demand in the current market. This really highlights the first-time right approach. Resources are much easily available if the work can be undertaken when it was planned to. It’s when work has to be rescheduled possibly, because of clashes, that there could be a problem with the availability of this resource. If a subcontractor is planned to undertake some work but can’t because of a constraint they may be asked to come back in a week, but this may not be possible due to the high work-load in the market. Removing these constraints so that work is undertaken when planned will increase the availability of this resource.

Similarly, with materials there can be high competition for items such as concrete and the closest batching plant may be serving several construction sites. It’s vital therefore that the orders and volumes are planned early and to the greatest extent possible this plan is stuck to. This requires the most workable plan being made in the first place, but then having the information to be reactive to change. So, if a new plan has to be made then the team have the information to know that this will be workable.

Change happens on a site all the time, but change usually results in a detrimental effect for the project. Sometimes it’s unavoidable and a consequence of the industry we work in. However, sometimes it is avoidable and due to poor site planning. Collaborative planning must be embraced more on sites, and digitising this process offers a range of benefits including improved collaboration. The site needs to strive to achieve two things to ensure the best chance of delivering on time and to budget:

  • Have made the most workable short term plan possible on site so that constraints are identified and mitigated.

  • Have the information available to be able to react to changes safely and effectively.

With your current short term planning methods are you confident that you are achieving these?

James Wilson
Business Development
Aphex

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