The Construction Schedule, Part 2

Charles Mahaffey

February 2006

Continuing from last month, let’s assume you now have the "hand basket from hell” schedule firmly in your grasp. What now? First and foremost your survival depends on minimizing your costs associated with a poorly thought out or broken schedule. Additionally you must minimize the potential costs other subs may incur due to your failures. And lastly, your reputation is on the line.

If the failure was caused by your lack of performance, you are responsible for any additional costs and formulating a plan to either catch up or, at the least, minimize future problems. On the other hand, you should not be held responsible for delays created by others.

First we will assume the problem is your responsibility. Rather than making excuses, a better tactic may be to request a meeting with the general contractor as well as trades that will be impacted by delays in your work. Getting all minds on the same page almost always saves money and results in solutions that benefit all parties. By initiating the meeting and showing that you are concerned, you will take the fire out of most GCs.

Prepare yourself, prior to the meeting, by checking your labor cost to date, production rates, crew sizes and supervision. Recap material deliveries as well as shop drawing submittals and turnaround time. Remember: You are not looking for an excuse but rather for a solution. Verification of your costs to date will enable you to identify the most workable solutions. Have a plan that will minimize your costs and still allow you to become the solution rather than the problem. Be honest in your assessment and ask for feedback from all parties involved. Be prepared to work within the guidelines offered by the GC. If the solution offered is too costly or seemingly impossible, don’t be afraid to speak up. The last thing you want is to agree to something you can’t do. With proper preparation you will frequently have a workable solution formulated prior to walking in the door. Humility and honesty will smooth ruffled feathers and pave the way for future work.

The second scenario has you faced with mounting labor overruns through no fault of your own. This second scenario is frequently the result of another trade using time assigned to your task. Again a meeting is in order. Follow the same steps and prepare yourself well in advance of the meeting. You stand a far better chance of recouping out-of-control costs or minimizing future problems if you can demonstrate your past efforts and costs.

Proper documentation of job progress is an essential tool for presenting your case. Always request a copy of the original schedule as well as weekly or monthly updates. Visit the job site well in advance of your start date to verify progress and document any slips in the schedule. Take pictures with date tags and create a written report for your records. As soon as you sense a problem, contact the GC and request a meeting. At this time you should have the original schedule as well as your manpower data.

With proper documentation you can place the burden back on the GC. The GC. will most likely try force the schedule back on track by placing impossible demands on you and later trades rather than admit a problem. This is a critical time, and you must stand firm. If you had allocated 1,920 standard rate man hours to complete the project and the GC now is saying that you simply need more men or overtime, show him your manpower allocation data. Use this information to negotiate relief from additional labor costs, or force him to re-evaluate the schedule. Be willing to show flexibility and a keen desire to help solve the problem without dismissing additional costs.

Broken schedules are a reality but need not be the road to ruin. Preparation and thinking outside of the box are your best tools for recovering from a broken schedule. Honest, accurate input into the original schedule is the best tool to avoid being the problem.

About the Author
Charles Mahaffey is president of Accuest, LLC, Marietta, Ga. Accuest provides estimating and consulting services for commercial drywall subcontractors.