Posts Tagged ‘construction quality’

Risk Management Means Innovating Beyond Checklists

December 21, 2011

A recent report from McGraw-Hill (also discussed here) outlined the results of a survey of owners, architects and general contractors examines the ways in which project teams on $100 million projects handle risk management. The report suggests that formal risk control processes “beyond simple checklists”  are necessary for these projects to sufficiently mitigate their overall project risk.

The costs of risk in these projects are staggering. For example the average size of a post-construction disputes is $3 million dollars. But what’s striking to me is how common it is for these projects to be dealt a blow from risk related issues. Consider these statistics:

  • Almost a quarter of projects are hit with schedule delays.
  • Close to 20% of projects are over budget.
  • About 10% of projects experience disputes.

And these are the big boys. The best-in-class, technology savvy, resource-rich organizations that one would expect to have their act together. But even the best and brightest are subject to the ill effects of overruns, scope creep and safety and site conditions.  As a matter of fact, “unforeseen site conditions” was listed as one of the most difficult risks to quantify. It’s nice of the MH folks to formally recognize something we all know to be true; once you break ground, you never know what can happen next.

Site conditions change, often unpredictably so. However, as I’ve discussed before, unforeseen conditions present a challenge in dealing with the risk of the past where costs pile up as those charged with investigating, analyzing and negotiating a resolution struggle to recreate the conditions on the site at the time in question.  Capturing this critical information doesn’t happen by accident. If the principles of major projects are going to take a dent out of risk-related costs, it’s going to take organization-wide efforts to make recording site conditions a mandatory (and routine) practice.  Current methods rely on individual project managers to establish their own systems for recording information, leading to a different system for every project and predictably inconsistent results.

Like Aspirin for a Hangover

November 26, 2011

I get the same kinds of questions over and over. Does Geedra prevent construction defects? Does Geedra make litigation go away? Will Geedra keep a project on schedule? And my answers are always the same; Construction risk will never go away, though Geedra can often help mitigate that risk.

There is no single solution that can prevent many of the most vexing problems in construction. However, by enabling project teams to readily research construction conditions at any time, Geedra reduces the time and effort necessary to resolve such problems.  After all, it’s often not the single issue itself, but the countless hours of investigation, forensics, depositions and expert testimony that drive the cost of resolution.

As anyone that has had a hangover will tell you, a couple of aspirin in the morning doesn’t make the hard drinking of the night before go away. It just makes it less painful.

Top 10 Tasks for Construction Superintendents

September 8, 2010
Stumbled upon this on the state of Washington Workforce Explorer site.  In reviewing this list, it occurred to me that jobsite photos and video should play a critical role in supporting most of these tasks. I have added comments next to each task (where appropriate) to specify the role that visual media can(should) play in performing the task.

If you’re not using photos in this manner, you should ask yourself why not.

Top 10 Tasks

  • Examine and inspect work progress, equipment, and construction sites to verify safety and to ensure that specifications are met. – Photos used to record progress and report conditions.
  • Read specifications such as blueprints to determine construction requirements and to plan procedures.
  • Estimate material and worker requirements to complete jobs. – Photo archives can provide visual references for similar jobs from the past.
  • Supervise, coordinate, and schedule the activities of construction or extractive workers. – Photos serve as a reference to confirm access, availability of materials and equipment.
  • Confer with managerial and technical personnel, other departments, and contractors in order to resolve problems and to coordinate activities. – Photos augment written and verbal communication and provide confirmation of resolution.
  • Coordinate work activities with other construction project activities. – As mentioned above, photos provide information on current site conditions.
  • Order or requisition materials and supplies. – Webcams and photos confirm receipt of materials, preventing over-ordering.
  • Locate, measure, and mark site locations and placement of structures and equipment, using measuring and marking equipment. – Photos used to augment measurements and markings.
  • Record information such as personnel, production, and operational data on specified forms and reports. – Photos augment written records and allow for forensic research of conditions not properly recorded.
  • Assign work to employees, based on material and worker requirements of specific jobs.

The Photo-Data Transformation

July 22, 2010

In my previous post I identified the cost associated with extracting information from the photos and video used to capture ground level information from construction project sites. Information extraction costs are a function of time once the project ends and eventually reach impractical levels as the project team disbands and their tribal knowledge of the project evaporates forever.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. What if the project team could encapsulate their tribal knowledge into an archive that remained accessible to the project team and the owner of the finished building for the duration of the building’s life? – Time out. You may be thinking, um, OK Geedra blog dude. Are we talking about some kind of Vulcan Mind Meld?

By packaging the visual media (photos and/or video) with the project team’s intimate knowledge of the images in the media into photo-data, we can make that information accessible without incurring the extraction costs associated with current forensic research efforts using construction photos and video. The components of photo-data include data tags (for indexing and research), annotations (tells the story of the image), contextual references (other photos, floor plans, reports) and any other supporting information.

(c) 2010 Geedra, LLC

Once converted, photo-data information will be resistant to degradation over time, making it as accessible 10 years after completion as it was 10 minutes after the photos were taken. Facility managers and building owners can not only benefit from knowing the history of their building’s past, but can continue to build upon their photo-database by adding new photos to capture conditions during building improvements and major maintenance overhauls. In doing so, they are making a major improvement to the value of the physical asset in a move that will lower operating costs and reduce operation risk for the life of the building.

Filtering Jobsite Information

December 1, 2009

In telecommunications the “Last Mile” problem refers to the difficulty service providers have in connecting thousands of houses in a neighborhood to a main high-speed data line. Put another way, the Last Mile problem is a distribution problem, distributing a pipe full of data through many many smaller pipes.

Jobsites have a “First Mile” problem, that is there are thousands of simultaneous  operations on any sophisticated site, each of which is generating its own critical “data”, with no centralized means of collecting the data and then delivering it to back office operations.  Pick any of your existing operations software solutions; accounting; scheduling; project management; every one of these requires human intervention in order to “extract” new data from the jobsite.

However, there’s a problem with the current method for extracting data from a jobsite. It’s the human problem. Whenever we rely on a human to transfer information by observation, there’s a natural filtering process that takes place. Especially when that human is a stakeholder in the process. Schedule updates are the most common casualty of this type of stakeholder filtering. Ever hear a superintendent utter this most damning phrase, “Oh, we can make up that time. No Problem”?

Rob’s Interview with Blogger Mikhail Surkan

November 25, 2009

I sat down for a chat with Mikhail Surkan to discuss the challenges and opportunities for a starting a company in the middle of The Great Recession.  Speaking of challenges, we also discuss the prospects for Geedra in gaining traction in the construction industry.

Finding That Critical Project Photo

July 13, 2009

Imagine what it’s like to dig a hole in the sand at the beach. Hand over hand, you dig away and watch as the hole changes constantly with each shift in the sand. Whenever you see anything interesting in the hole (a sea shell, piece of sea glass, etc.) it’s covered over almost as quickly it’s uncovered.

kids-in-the-hole1-600x413

Essentially, this experience provides a summertime analogy for tracking the work on a construction site. No matter what your role on a jobsite, you depend on knowing the condition of your area of interest continuously over the course of the project. The advent of digital photography has made it possible to inexpensively record the physical condition of the project in extreme detail. Unfortunately, recording the digital images are the easy part. After shooting hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of jobsite photos, finding that critical construction image after the fact becomes the ultimate challenge. (Raise your hand if you have a hard drive choked with project photos that are organized by project and date.)

I would like to know what you, as a construction-related professional, do to extract meaningful data from your jobsite photos. Feel free to leave your comments  and exchange ideas with your fellow readers.

You’ve Landed a Stimulus Project, Now What?

May 11, 2009

You and your team sharpened your pencils and beat back the most ravenous pack of competitors that you’ve ever seen in your career to win a coveted stimulus project. Congratulations.

Now it’s the morning after and you realize that things will be different with this project. Scrutiny from the government, the media and even the general public will be higher than you’ve ever experienced. Also, the razor thin margins that you have left for yourself mean that you have less wiggle room than ever to get this one right.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What changes did you make in your approach to bidding that led to your winning the contract?
  • Have you made appropriate accommodations to your operations practices in anticipation of the increased scrutiny? Timely, complete reports help a lot. Get out there and snap plenty of pictures.
  • Have you worked with your suppliers (and your subs with theirs) to improve the accuracy of their delivery schedules? Successful Just-In-Time deliveries can add precious days of cash flow while minimizing costly idle time.
  • Pre-Construction Quality meetings with your trades are helpful. In-project Quality meetings are even better. Track exceptions from inception to closure and don’t let schedule pressure affect your expectations for closure. Shortcuts only cost more in the end.

Times have changed. Have you?

4 Steps To Maximize Insurance Coverage for Construction Defects

April 15, 2009

From this month’s Construction Executive Magazine (Sorry, no online copy for this article, authored by Chris Mosley at Sherman & Howard LLC)

  1. Purchase the Right insurance – Review your policy limits to confirm the existence of completed operations coverage. Typical general liability policies limit coverage to $1 million, which is wholly inadequate for construction companies.   Also, liability policies limit their coverage for defects claimed during a single policy year ( i.e. you can’t file a claim for work that was done several years ago.)  Consider excess insurance including completed operations coverage.
  2. Procure the appropriate additional insured endorsements from subcontractors – GC’s should required Subcontractors to maintain their own completed operations coverage. Also, GC’s should review each Sub’s  additional insured endorsements.  If the Sub has not obtained  a completed operations additional insured endorsement, the GC is liable for that Sub’s defects.
  3. Hire a Qualified Insurance Broker – Make sure the broker as claims experience. Also, you should have confidence in your broker’s ability to review your risk exposure and the additional insured endorsements of your subcontractors.
  4. Engage a Personal Counsel Experienced in Insurance Issues – Doing so increases the probability that insurers will pay claims in full. It’s also best to find your attorney at the same time you are shopping for coverage, rather than doing so after a claim arises when you’re likely to have a few more things on your mind.

Social Media for Recognition and Retention – Part 1

March 27, 2009

One of the attendees at my social media presentation to the local Associated Builders and Contractors board mentioned that he felt that there were many wasted opportunities to share stories about the great work his crew did.  He went on to say that his superintendents problem solving abilities were a real competitive advantage, but he found it difficult to convey that to current and potential customers.

I thought social media would be a great mechanism for sharing such stories.  The company benefits in a couple of ways. First, as the gentleman above suspected, these stories make great marketing copy. They create an opportunity for current customers to emotionally invest in the work of their contractor and paint an enticing picture for prospective clients.

However, I think efforts to recognize your crews’ success on the web will pay bigger dividends for the morale of the crews themselves. Think about it. If you see yourself mentioned in the company’s print newsletter, you might take it home to share with your spouse. However, if your mentioned in a blog post, with a link to the recognition page on the company website, then you’re likely to share that with all of your friends and family by email. Chances are that more than a few of those folks are in construction too, which means that your recognition effort can have recruiting benefits too.

See part 2 of this post for a 7-step approach for promoting the work of your crews.