By Garrett Harley
After a challenging year, many industries are navigating still uncertain waters and adjusting their business models to adapt to whatever the future might hold. The construction industry, in particular, is starting to see a change in the culturally entrenched attitudes towards project management as organizations look for ways to modernize their operations.
One long-entrenched process—the schedule—is one area in need of a process makeover. Previously, it’s been the expertise of the scheduler that dictates the quality of the schedule, but now organizations are focused on uniting all office and field staff to be part of one fully coordinated project delivery team. That means the collective team will be working together to manage the planning and scheduling process.
OFFICE AND FIELD CONNECTED
Today, a schedule should be multi-dimensional. It should consider the summary of activities found in the scope of work of the contract, as well as the field level production details based on the guiderails in these summaries.
Great scheduling combines the needs of the field and the front and back office. And as the complexity and duration of construction projects continue to increase, so do the number of specialized team members involved on a project—and the intricacies of a schedule. The more members that are added to the project team, the more mature the schedule should become, adding depth and creating a more thorough plan for all teams. Incorporating metrics around milestones, deliverables, and productivity can coordinate and optimize labor, equipment, and material resources both within and across all projects of an organization. Given today’s supply shortages and material delays, being able to account for hiccups in the schedule in near real time becomes even more essential.
The construction industry pivoted quickly over the past year to remotely manage many aspects of a job (safety, control, risk, etc.), and as the adoption of mobility solutions has grown, so has the number of project delivery team members that are involved in the execution process.
As organizations in the industry continue to reimagine the workspace and analyze how they can assemble and mobilize staff quickly, they are also considering how they can effectively digitize more of the workforce while adapting to more mobile and remote working approaches. The schedule needs to be able to quickly account for scaling up and down this more diversified team and ensuring everyone is informed and aligned and working towards the common project goal.
TOMORROW’S SCHEDULE TODAY
A more coordinated and collaborative schedule blends the approaches of how work is both planned and managed. It is inclusive of all team members, and unites the critical path (in the CPM schedule) with field task and risk management. It provides a view that businesses need to efficiently plan, schedule, and control programs and individual projects.
One development helping to identify potential risks and inefficiencies early in the project schedule is through the use of AI. Organizations who analyze their companies existing historical project data, and combine it with their internal knowledge base, can generate an improved quality of schedule by using AI to evaluate scenarios in real time. They can determine the best project plans and mitigate risks, as well as optimize resources across project teams and track progress.
As the construction industry continues to look at ways that can improve the quality of the schedule and the project outcome, they will look to incorporate any tools available to them to ensure their organization is as efficient as possible. While the schedule will still remain the blueprint or air traffic controller for successful project delivery, the process needs to evolve and adapt to focused on uniting all office and field staff to be part of one fully coordinated project delivery team.
Construction businesses must overcome complacency in order to continue to modernize. Historically, emerging technologies have made up roughly 1% of E&C firms’ overall IT investment. However, the pandemic spurred many firms to immediately invest and adopt in new technologies, or expand on their existing technology infrastructure. We are now seeing that firms that have been prioritizing incremental moves to digital- and cloud-first solutions have come out on the other side better equipped to adapt to and take advantage of new norms. Technology plays a key role in enabling significant improvements in three key areas for E&C firms: improving operational efficiency, reducing exposure to risks, and increasing financial discipline. Complacency may stall the growth of many firms if they don’t continue to invest and make use of technologies to improve the all aspects of their business.
About the Author:
Garrett Harley is director of product marketing for Oracle Construction and Engineering. He is an industry speaker, thought leader, and project controls professional with more than 20+ years in engineering construction technology. For more, visit www.oracle.com/construction-engineering.
Modern Contractor Solutions, September 2021
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