Posts Tagged ‘workmanship’

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.
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Flat Fee Construction: An Opportunity for Innovation

March 3, 2010

When you hear construction and The Great Recession in the same sentence, you wouldn’t expect it to be good news. But I read an article today in the Wall Street Journal that has me brimming with excitement over what the future holds for our industry.

Given a choice between going out of business or keeping their construction businesses alive, contractors are striking flat fee deals with banks to build/finish the houses of failed development projects.  Sure, the contractors quoted in the article mention that such contracts “help stop the bleeding” but how long would you expect any business to continue to work just for the sake of keeping the lights on? The strongest contractors will innovate in order to improve (create) their profits.

Where will the innovation come from? Well, I hope jobsite technology gets a good, hard look (OK, I’m biased). But you can’t predict these things. Maybe it’s more efficient use of materials or labor, new contract structures or creative insurance policies. Who knows? Every penny gained through innovation goes directly to the bottom line. Now’s the time to try things!

Given the large inventory of unfinished work in the now infamous markets of Florida, Arizona, California and Nevada, flat fee contracts with banks offer contractors a solid alternative to the bare-knuckled bidding wars that are taking place for government projects. Contractors in these markets can work in familiar territory to improve themselves.

What about you? What are your recession-inspired innovations?

Miscommunication Between Owner and Contractor Can be Dangerous

June 5, 2009
The Croc Slot

The "Croc Slot"

Social Media for Recognition and Retention – Part 2

March 27, 2009

In part 1 of this topic I discussed the benefits of sharing your crews’ success stories with the world through social media. Below is a brief outline of the sequence of social media events that a project manager/principle can use to highlight the work of his or her crew:

  1. On a site walk you learn of your superintendent’s amazing effort to rally together with the rebar sub in order to satisfy a city inspector and keep the project moving forward.
  2. Shake the super’s hand and get a photo of him and anyone else involved in the game-saving event.
  3. You immediately grab your blackberry and post a 140-character message to Twitter praising the super by name for a job well done.
  4. Upon returning to the office you write a short description (1-2 paragraphs) of the story (scrubbed of any proprietary information of course) and post it to your blog along with the photo.
  5. Post another announcement on Twitter including a link to the blog post and kudos to the super for job well done.
  6. Write a more lengthy description (2 -4 paragraphs) of the accomplishment including quotes from the super and possibly the client to reinforce the impact on the project.
  7. Send an email to the whole company with a link to the recognition web page and the blog post, where peers can add their own notes of congratulations.

Yeah, Right.

February 24, 2009

Imagine that you are an assembly line worker in the days of Henry Ford. You work in an environment where throughput is king. In other words, keep the production line moving at any cost. If you cause the line to stop for any reason, you get fired.

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Fast forward to 1995. Ford, having learned a thing or two from Toyota, which ironically, had previously gotten their start by copying from Henry Ford, institutes Lean Manufacturing in order to instill a culture of continuous improvement through employee empowerment. For the first time ANYONE is empowered to stop the production line if they see something wrong.

Imagine for a moment what that was like for the newly empowered workers. Not having been there personally, I can only assume that the collective response to this new initiative can be summed up in two words “Yeah, right.”  One day, you can lose your job for gumming up the works. The next day, you’ve got full braking rights.

Construction personnel have the same quality rights as the Henry Ford-era workers.  In construction, the schedule has the same “Golden Calf” status as Ford’s assembly line. Impede it at your own peril.

One day, the age of enlightenment will reach construction. Hopefully, I’ll get a front row seat to hear the very first empowered construction workers say those historic words: “Yeah, right.”

Billy’s Journey

February 16, 2009

A recent conversation with a quality manager from a major general contractor brought this cartoon immediately to mind.  You see, this poor chap was under the delusion that he could simply walk from his desk to a condo unit to check the fit of the refrigerator and then walk back.  The time required to complete his journey: 2 hours!

family-circus-billy-pathAt every turn, the quality manager was beckoned by a information-starved  sub contractor with a question.  Each question began innocently enough.  “Got a minute?” they would ask.  But after a dozen or so of these, his 10 minute walk turned into a 2 hour journey.

My take on Billy’s journey:

  1. Ground-level direction leaves a lot to be desired.
  2. Tradespeople want to do a good job for their clients, but don’t always have sufficient information to do so.
  3. If chance encounters with roaming managers are how trade questions get answered, then I bet a fair number of trade questions go un-answered.

Project quality suffers in all cases.