By Todd Ullom
Builder Partnerships Lead Consultant
Reports of trade shortages are widespread and cycle times are increasing by as much as 20 days or more. In a survey of builders, more than 70 percent reported shortages in framers and nearly 50 percent said they had trouble finding dry wallers, followed by painters, foundation crews, and plumbers. As a result, builders are experiencing increased management time, unpredictable cash flow, delayed closings, and decreased customer satisfaction.
Not all builders have these delays, however, because their trades can trust the builders’ schedules. Ask your trades:
How reliable are our construction schedules?
How frequently are my jobs not 100 percent ready for you when you arrive?
How often do the superintendents need to notify you by text or phone call to change the schedule?
How often do you need to make multiple trips to a job to complete work you should have been able to do on your first trip?
What can we do to improve cycle time for you?
Your schedules drive production, cash flow, and customer satisfaction. It serves as a key communication tool and identifies potential bottlenecks. It must be maintained daily! Here are 10 steps you can take to regain control of your production schedule.
1. Break schedules into phases. The schedule must match the way you build. Its detail is driven by the tasks required to build the home; the phases provide interim milestones: foundation, framing, drywall, power, and completion. All jobs must follow the same sequence.
2. Create flexibility in the critical path. Don’t make dependencies linear. Identify the true critical path, which is governed by management and the law of physics. Identify tasks that can be done concurrently. Flexibility gives the construction team a way to overcome field issues.
3. Build in buffers. Buffers are a tool to absorb the impact of delays. They are tasks inserted at key stages of construction and eliminate “fluff” in individual tasks. They enable management to improve control of production and improves schedule reliability.
4. Provide adequate lead time. Trades need advance notice to plan for your work; provide at least 10 days’ lead time. Communicate delays inside the lead time window. Confirm the job is ready for the trades.
5. Collaborate with trades. Involve trades when you’re building schedules. Communicate your production goals, confirm trades have adequate capacity, and include schedule requirements in trade agreements.
6. Improve details and information on plans. Ensure the right information and level of detail on the plans, specifications, selections, and purchase orders; don’t assume the field will figure it out. Be concerned if anyone says, “We should be fine.”
7. Insist on a complete job start package. Ensure the right information gets to the right people at the right time. Set the team up for success.
8. Ensure jobs are ready for trades. Walk jobs daily. Inspect the previous trade’s work to ensure complete or at least won’t adversely impact the next trade. Confirm materials are on site. Confirm purchase orders and selections information is complete. Ensure adequate access to the job and that the jobsite is clean.
9. Drive even flow production. That includes a start hopper, start rate, consistent activities across the company, buffer days, right-sized durations, schedule adherence, and total team alignment.
10. Centralize schedule management. This is key to resource loading. It is necessary for scopes of work to be consistent across all communities. It puts the focus on consistency, then speed. It enables cycle time reduction across the organization, allows the interchanging of resources and maximizes throughput.