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Four Ways Specialty Contractors Can Reduce Construction Rework

Rework plagues owners, managers, and subcontractors alike. It is one of the biggest reasons for stagnant and declining productivity and steals hours, days, and even months from projects. In some cases, it causes such severe missed deadlines and budget overruns that subs fail to meet contracts, facing legal consequences or, at the very least, the potential loss of their good name and future business.

Much of the rework that is seen as a “necessary evil” by subcontractors can be avoided through better collaboration and more efficient processes. With these tips from PlanGrid, you can learn the common causes and effects of rework—and avoid the need to fix what has already been built.

Common Causes of Construction Rework

First and foremost, it pays to understand why rework crops up:

  • Design changes and errors: Plans change frequently for a myriad of reasons; mistakes happen, or there is a misalignment between what is designed and what can actually be built.
  • Missing documents and details: The information that teams need is hard to come by or, even more commonly, the information is not available when it is needed.
  • Lack of collaboration: Work environments may fail to encourage teamwork and might even create adversarial relationships between stakeholders.
  • Poor communication: Teams may be unable to exchange information while in the field, especially when project data are stored in a trailer hundreds of yards, if not miles, away.
  • Ineffective procurement: Teams may fail to get supplies on time or get the wrong materials and supplies altogether.
  • Schedule pressures: Problems can arise when rushing to meet a deadline or failing to adhere to designs or quality standards.

How Much Does Construction Rework Add Up?

The consequences of construction rework can significantly undercut your bottom line or even bankrupt you if the owner or other major project stakeholder is unhappy enough to litigate. According to some estimates, between 4 and 6 percent of total project cost is due to rework, and that is only counting direct cost or what is reported. This estimate fails to capture all the little side projects and do-overs that suck up so much of a worker’s time and job materials.

If rework is not properly documented, subs can end up taking the blame and footing the bill for a large portion of it. Even if the worst does not happen, rework still results in lost money, lost time, and massive frustration.

One of the biggest challenges to meeting final project deadlines and intermediate markers is productivity. Unfortunately, rework is one of the biggest productivity sucks. In some cases, it can negatively impact productivity by up to 300 percent. A full 30 percent of all work performed by construction companies is simply just fixing something that was not done right the first time.

Losing time and money is a source of serious discontent for everyone on a project—especially the boots on the ground. Rework takes a toll on morale, with subs having to tear down work they thought was already complete. In turn, worker frustration can negatively impact productivity and motivation, which begins a new cycle of lost time and money, and on it goes.

Four Ways to Reduce Rework in Construction

Most rework results either from missteps in the early stages of a project or from systemic problems that plague a project throughout. Here are four ways specialty contractor teams can reduce rework.

  1. Ditch Paper and Manual Processes: It’s simple: using paper and relying on outdated technology— such as Excel spreadsheets and lengthy email threads lead to consistent errors and miscommunication. These methods do not track changes in real time. Subcontractors are forced to trek long distances to an office for information they need, and then it is often too late to make good use of it. Instead, go digital and adopt technology to automate some of those tedious and typically error-ridden administrative processes like submittals.
  2. Align Project Teams Early On: When all stakeholders and subcontractors on a project treat their jobs as independent of others, chaos is likely to prevail. Rather than letting havoc reign, consider working towards more collaborative delivery methods that treat everyone on the project as part of one firm. When team members are aligned at the start of a project, motivations shift from “How can I do my part?” to “How can we complete the project together?”
  3. Improve Field Communications: Communicating in the field is hampered by many roadblocks, resulting in frustrations, delayed schedules, and, yes, rework. Cloud-based technology and collaboration software allow team members to keep each other up to date about changes and make sure plans reflect the latest, regardless of whether the jobsite has cell or internet service. The right software provides instant access to your project documents, is easy to use, and keeps communications centralized so everyone knows what is happening in real time.
  4. Set Quality Standards: Project closeouts are often delayed because of concerns about the quality of subcontractor work. To reassure general contractors and prove things were done correctly the first time, adopt systematic standards for processes, workflows, tools, and equipment. Institute a system of checks and balances to ensure quality assurance and quality control measures are consistently met to reduce the potential of construction rework.

At the end of the day, rework starts with early action. If you understand the most common causes and take immediate and concrete steps to alleviate the potential for problems, you are far less likely to suffer at its hands. By keeping these tips in mind, you can avoid cost overruns, missed deadlines, and unhappy general contractors and owners.

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