Managing Construction Schedules Through Project Slowdowns

On December 3, 2020 by Mark Jenkins, Oracle Construction & Engineering

Amid the ongoing global health crisis, construction contractors and project owners face unprecedented challenges as they work to protect their teams, operations, relationships, and project outcomes. In many cases, adjusting to this new reality can mean changing traditional project delivery means and methods midstream, potentially impacting both productivity and, ultimately, delivery of projects.

So how do you respond to best preserve the desired outcomes while minimizing the impact to the project, organization, and most importantly, the people who make up your project teams?

To help organizations navigate this challenging time, we have gathered insights from the many industry professionals on the Oracle Construction and Engineering team, as well as from our valued customers. We hope you gain some useful perspective into ways you could mitigate the impact of current challenges.

What can be done now to mitigate or minimize the impact of a project slowdown on the schedule?

Schedule management

  • Update all project schedules with actual progress recorded through the date the project slowdown began. The update should be comprehensive, documenting completed and in-progress status for all design, permitting, bidding, procurement, submittal, fabrication, delivery, and construction activities.

    Here’s some advice from Fred Plotnick, chief executive officer of EnProMac, in his most recent Construction CPM Conference newsletter: “If you represent an owner, you should demand a CPM update NOW. You will need to know what was in place as of an entire or partial shutdown.”
  • Retain both electronic and hardcopy versions of this schedule update, and submit it to the project record per the terms of the contract. Electronic copies of this updated schedule can be used for multiple purposes, including acting on any “measured mile” analysis. This analysis compares the productivity of impacted work (after changed circumstances) with the productivity the same, or similar, to unaffected work (before the changes). The results of such analysis can proactively justify schedule activity duration increases and/or additional staffing/overtime needs.

  • Establish a revised baseline.

  • Create various schedule scenarios based on the updated schedule, incorporating the measured mile productivity impacts. One method to accomplish this is using probabilistic and deterministic risk analysis.

  • Get buy-in from all suppliers and subcontractors on the optimal schedule scenario. We suggest this scenario become the revised baseline schedule and incorporated by change order to the prime contract and subcontracts.

  • In order to keep the project moving forward while the above schedule modifications are taking place, we recommend using Lean scheduling techniques in developing six-week work plans with input from the people closest to the work.

Contracts

  • Manufacturing and fabrication operations could be more adversely affected by COVID-19 than actual construction due to employee proximity. We suggest touching base with all your suppliers to understand if there will be an impact to material delivery.

  • Plan for the receipt, storage, and protection of all materials currently in transit.

  • Now more than ever, keep abreast of the financial stability of all existing suppliers and subcontractors.  Don’t get caught by surprise if you need to change vendors to complete existing scopes of work. Account for re-bidding, re-contracting, and re-onboarding if necessary.

All of this represents a huge communications effort across owners, general contractors, suppliers, and subcontractors. It’s critical to make sure the re-baselined schedule and its impact are communicated with and agreed to by everyone.

Given the degree of uncertainty in this situation, as well as the many variables affected, it is hard to know exactly what to expect. But, the more thoughtful we are, and the more we consider all aspects of what it takes to effectively adjust our processes, the more successful they will be.

Frank Malangone and Janet Poses of Oracle Construction and Engineering contributed to this post.

Oracle Construction and Engineering, the global leader in construction management software  and project portfolio management solutions, helps you connect your teams, processes, and data across the project and asset lifecycle. Drive efficiency and control in project delivery  with proven solutions for project controlsconstruction schedulingportfolio managementBIM/CDEconstruction payment management, and more.

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