Every awe-inspiring building you see today went through a grueling construction project planning. It isn’t as simple as drawing the building, and the construction team already knows the step-by-step procedure. Project planning involves a lot of thinking and brainstorming, meetings, completing the design and specs, drafting of the plan, writing the crew schedule, and testing on BIM. Project managers are faced with numerous challenges, which we are going to list down in this article and some practical solutions on how to overcome these construction project planning problems.
Planning a Construction Project
As you already know, planning is one of the most important phases in construction. Without a well-written plan, the construction process will be disorganized, and the team will never achieve a successful result. Delays in the builders schedule, going over the budget, accidents, and poor building quality are the most likely consequences of having an unplanned construction. But in the first place, no project is given the go signal without writing a perfect plan.
That said, project managers should carefully plan construction to have a smooth operation at the site and so that the project stays within the schedule and budget. Doing so will, of course, bring about high levels of satisfaction for your client.
But it’s not simple.
In our previous blog where we discussed the construction phases, we’ve seen how project planning can be so arduous. It involves inspection, drafting the initial plan, defining the specs, writing the crew schedule, and testing the plan and discussing it with the client and stakeholders before coming up with the final plan.
The process is indeed long, and it becomes even harder with all the challenges faced by the project manager while writing the plan. But to deliver a project efficiently and with the highest quality and safety, he should be able to recognize the challenges and deal with them. Remember that the success of a project is much dependent on the project manager’s skill, knowledge, and ability to overcome the challenges in planning so he can write a good plan that will direct the project to its great result.
Challenges Faced By Project Planners
Project managers have complex roles and responsibilities to fulfill, and one of them is project planning. However, the challenges that come with the process can affect the efficiency of the plan and ramifications will be seen during the construction. The worst part is when the effects of a poorly planned project can lead to over budget, delays, and accidents.
So what are the real problems in construction project planning?
1. Data Flow and Communication Between Stakeholders
Miscommunication is the biggest hindrance to writing a good project plan. Project managers need to be in touch with the client, designer, subcontractors, suppliers, and engineers to develop the right plan. But without a clear communication channel, this is impossible.
Project managers need to work with different types of data from design and specs, material prices, safety regulations, crew schedules, environmental concerns, city and state standards, client requirements, and so much more. With so much data that needs to be communicated, sharing them through pen and paper will be very inefficient. If one team member doesn’t get the right plan or schedule, then the entire project can go wrong.
So once the project planning phase starts, project managers should work closely with all other stakeholders and the crew to ensure that he is on top of the progress. It is greatly helpful too to have a construction management software for communicating data. In fact, as early as the planning stage, project managers should already be recording plans and crew schedules as well as budget, drawings, estimates, specs, standards, and other important data in construction management software. This is so that once the construction is already underway, the flow of data and communication will already be automatic. As a result, no one in the team gets left behind, and the construction will run smoothly. Success is then closer at hand.
2. External Factors
There are external forces that make a great impact on the efficiency of the plan. Unfortunately, most of them are unavoidable. They may not happen during the planning phase, but they can change the construction’s course of the plan when there are no contingency and mitigation prepared during this stage. Some of them include:
· Acts of nature like earthquakes and hurricanes that can disrupt construction
· Pandemic that can put the crew members down
· Lightning that can cause accidents at the site
· The national government’s power to cancel a project
· Client’s decision to cut down expenses or crew members that result to lower resources
All of these should be anticipated during the planning phase so that the team can prepare for Plan B when they already happen.
3. Working Factors
The working factors that may affect the original plan written may include the availability of materials, budget, and other resources like manpower, tools, and equipment. Without these elements, a construction project cannot run as planned.
Manpower is especially important as it serves as the greatest resource to complete a construction project. While the operation depends on project managers, the execution of the plan on the other hand is dependent on the skill and knowledge of the crew members and subcontractors who do the manual work.
That said, another major issue that may affect the plan involves the crew members’ ability to work. Safety then plays an important part in the construction. However, the construction site is hazardous by nature. The OSHA records accidents and fatalities every year from construction sites. Statistics show that:
· Construction workers experience over 2.3 million health cases and 1 million injuries every year
· These incidents lead to the loss of around 40 million working days
· Over 25,000 workers are forced to resign because of their injuries and ill health acquired from the site
So to prevent losing another member when there is already a labor shortage in the industry and minimize delays, safety guidelines should be a vital part of any construction project planning.
Better Planning Techniques
Construction planning has been greatly revolutionized, thanks to technology. BIM makes it possible for project managers and stakeholders to identify future problems so they can work on coming up with remedies even before the project starts. Construction scheduling software makes it easier to record data agreed upon during the planning phase and makes data sharing more accurate and up-to-date.
Generally, the technologies mentioned above greatly improved the following components in construction planning:
· Construction Activities: these include every movement done at the site. With so many activities needed to complete a project, planning tasks can be confusing but with a construction scheduling software, listing down these tasks has become easier and more organized without missing a detail.
· Construction Crew Schedule: Estimating timelines for each activity has been more accurate because of analytics and machine learning and big data.
· Project Time-Scale: the dissemination of the activities and their due dates has become faster as they can be sent by the office through the construction scheduling software, eliminating the need to print and travel to the site to post schedules on bulletin boards.
· Events at the Site: all occurrences at the site can now be reported back to project managers in real-time so that when issues arise or when a superior consent is needed, they can act on them immediately.
· Work Method: With BIM, project managers are able to analyze the best possible procedure to follow in constructing the project.
· Resources: The four Ms in construction namely men, materials, machine, and money are better managed thanks to construction project management software that makes it possible to schedule and track activities in real-time
· Project Value: Another way to measure project progress is by defining the value-to-date of the project. This can be calculated from the budget already consumed.
With these aspects improved, construction project managers are able to come up with more efficient plans that can ensure the success of their projects.
The Use of Construction Scheduling Software in Planning
While construction scheduling software seems to be more useful during the construction phase than the planning stage, this technology, as we just pointed out above, has been changing the way project managers write plans. Schedules and activities are more intelligently written. Procedures are now more organized and the workflow is now smoother. All these result to better execution of the plan that minimizes issues such as confusion and workers slacking off.
As early as the 1980s, construction experts have already written reports ascertaining the need for construction software that will assist project managers in writing plans and schedules. Those reports concluded that software makes it less confusing for all stakeholders to follow a plan as they are more logically written on computers.
These days, construction management software can now run on any device, including smartphones and tablets, making it more convenient for the whole team to refer to plans and share data.
There are numerous types of project management software in the market today. But none can be as effective as construction-dedicated planning software like Pro Crew Schedule. They are equipped with features specially designed for the industry so they are sure to fulfill all the needs of project managers while writing the plan.