5 Tips for Debottlenecking your Projects

With the flurry of activity taking place every day on a construction project, it’s no wonder that things can get bogged down in the jams of inefficient processes and disconnected tools.  As we get settled into 2022, a lot of companies are looking inward to make good on the resolutions and goals to do better and be more efficient, among many other gems from a long list of improvements.  We thought we’d help out by providing a list of our own that will hopefully resonate with most companies whose business it is to deliver successfully on construction projects.  Here we are with five key tips for streamlining and debottlenecking projects to achieve goals of increased efficiency and better profits.

1. Eliminate Duplicate Entry of Data

We’ll start this list off with one of the biggest culprits, which is to fix the inefficient paper and spreadsheet entry of field data.  It’s critical that construction contractors move forward and embrace the major advancements in cost tracking technology that can not only speed up the initial data entry, but also remove the need to re-enter that data.  With today’s highly connected, cloud software, jobsite crews are able to enter their time, progress, equipment, materials and a whole lot more directly into the system.  The system will perform data integrity checks on the spot which reduces errors from the get go, and all the data can be routed for approval which all ensures the data is correct, complete and done in real-time. It can also get approved for payroll so everyone gets paid quickly and accurately.

2. Debottleneck Approval Workflows

Most organizations will require approvals for a variety of things including timesheets, purchase orders, change orders, invoices and more.  Approval workflows can be notoriously inefficient if there aren’t built-in debottlenecking tools provided by the construction software.  Especially if a workflow requires multiple stages and approvers: each approver on the chain can introduce days of delay if it’s not structured to be expedited smoothly through the stages. This can lead to project interruptions, obstructions in billing, and late payroll, just to name a few.  Debottlenecking tools include escalations, reminders, assigning delegates, out-of-office settings, notifications and reporting. Utilizing the right construction software will provide users with all the built-in tools to configure these criteria so that the debottlenecking becomes automated and the project can flow unimpeded.

3. Keep Project Procurement with the Project

Project procurement is one of those critical functions of a construction project that often gets outsourced to the finance or procurement department to manage.  This introduces a disconnect and a silo effect that can bottleneck the smooth flow of the project.  Many traditional CFOs and Controllers will likely feel a strong ownership of all procurement (whether it’s corporate or project related), so this can be a challenging case to make in some companies.  Nevertheless, it’s such a vital part of any construction project that it is a function that should be operated out of the project team’s software system rather than from finance.  Project managers and project controls staff need to have real-time visibility into metrics such as,

  • Fully committed budget
  • Accruals
  • Commitments against project budget
  • Vendor performance KPIs
  • Real-time project costs from suppliers and subcontractors
  • Materials receipts
  • Subcontractor progress claims

When the purchasing and subcontracting are performed by a different team on a different system, these key metrics are also a far distance away and need to be re-entered into the project management system. This not only introduces delays and potential for errors, it’s unlikely that all the required metrics will be available.

4. Preconfigure Everything

The concept of preconfiguring data may be a bit foreign to come organizations if they’re not currently using a construction project management software platform.  Preconfiguring is the process of setting up the rules, constraints, pre-defined options (for dropdowns), pre-loaded data, etc. so that while the project is underway, the software can perform data integrity checks at the point of initial entry to eliminate errors, omissions and delays.  While it’s true that some amount of data constraints can be inserted into a spreadsheet, this is a tiny fraction of what a construction software system can accomplish.  Complex rate rules, for example, can be configured so that Joe Kansas working 15 hours on the Civil crew on the afternoon shift on a Sunday will be paid the appropriate amount of overtime and double-overtime according to his collective agreement.

5. Communication and Collaboration

The importance of communication across the project teams is perhaps a bit obvious, but it can’t be overstated either.  The pandemic has put some strains on in-person communication and has been the cause of a disproportionate amount of difficulties – from cost overruns to legal issues like disputes and claims in 2020-2021 – for many construction contractors.  According to Arcadis, for example, the number and value of disputes rose dramatically during the pandemic due in part to a physical breakdown in communication.

Communication comes in many forms and goes beyond in-person updates.  It includes transmitting status, on a regular basis, such as progress, forecasts, potential cost overruns, performance issues, potential change orders and much more. It can also boil down to ensuring everyone on the team is working from the same information, assumptions and the latest version of documents.  It means keeping both internal and client stakeholders in the loop on both the successes and challenges within the project on a regular basis.  The majority of these communication strategies can be significantly aided and facilitated by a multi-user construction software platform that has built-in notifications, collaboration tools, powerful reporting, dashboards, vendor portal, client portal, and much more to ensure communication breakdowns don’t compromise the success and flow of the project.

Productivity, Profit and a Happy Customer

These 5 debottlenecking tips are all designed to streamline efficiency and thus improve productivity and project profitability.  And, of course, they additionally lead to a much happier customer.  Welcome to 2022!

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