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How Project Management Firms Streamline the Construction Process

construction site For any person undertaking a construction project, there are benefits to hiring a project manager. That’s because these seasoned construction professionals can streamline construction by:

• Creating an effective strategic plan and ensuring buildability
• Obtaining permits and entitlements
• Hiring the most qualified General Contractor (GC)
• Communicating with the design and operations teams
• Anticipating risks and reducing change orders

Let’s explore how a Project Manager can save a project time and money.

1. Create an Effective Strategic Plan

Long before construction gets underway, the project manager sits down with the owner to discuss the viability of the project. If the venture makes sense, the PM will make informed recommendations on timing and budget, and produce an outline for the project.

2. Coordinate the Design and Ensure Buildability

Next, the project manager must coordinate the design — a set of drawings and specifications that illustrate how a project should operate and function. Design is rarely completed by a single individual, and the project manager’s role is to coordinate the organization of different elements from various sources. The finished design acts as the foundation for several other key project processes such as contract strategy, procurement route selection, and contractor appointment.

The PM will also evaluate the design for buildability, which involves reviewing the construction process from start to finish to reduce the likelihood of errors, delays, and budget issues.

3. Streamline Obtaining Permits and Entitlements

A critical step in any major new build or renovation is securing the proper permits and entitlements. As anyone who has ever gone through this process can confirm, this step can be time-consuming and frustrating. A seasoned project manager will be able to navigate permitting and entitlements with greater ease than the uninitiated.

4. Solicit and Review Bids to Find the Best Suited General Contractor

During or after the proper permits and entitlements are secured, the project manager will begin to solicit bids from qualified GCs. In turn, the appointed GC will obtain bids from subcontractors for any specialty work that’s required.

5. Set Expectations for the Operations Team

Communication is vital to each phase of a project, and it should continue well into the commencement of construction. Before the manual work begins, the Project Manager will clearly communicate expectations to the operations team, taking care to be transparent about equipment and supplies schedules to make sure that there are no delays resulting from long-lead or manufactured materials.

If every project stakeholder is on the same page, the process will be much smoother, be less likely to have delays, and require less intervention from various parties.

6. Anticipate Risks Ahead of Time

Even with the best of planning, there are a number of ways that construction can be slowed down or halted. Common risks include:
  • Incomplete drawings and inadequately defined scope
  • Poorly written contracts that do not clearly assign responsibility
  • Issues with subcontractors and suppliers meeting their obligations
  • Unanticipated change orders
  • Unexpected increases in material costs
  • Availability of building materials or other supply-chain problems
  • Unknown site conditions
  • Safety incidents and accidents
  • Labor shortages
  • Damage or theft to equipment and tools
  • Natural disasters
These risks might sound dire, but with proper foresight and management, they can be mitigated.

A knowledgeable project manager will hold regular meetings with the owner and all parties involved to mitigate threats and ensure that a contingency plan is in place. They will also assess each risk based on its probability and its impact on the project, and also factor in the amount of time, money, and work each risk will require to effectively manage.

7. Reduce Change Orders and Mitigate Their Effect

Another common setback to any construction project is an unanticipated change order, which occurs when there is an amendment to a construction contract. A project manager will anticipate this possibility in the initial contract and establish a process for initiating, authorizing, performing, and funding for a change order. They will assign a reasonable project contingency to cover this type of unanticipated occurrence. Expect the unexpected! Having this spelled out upfront will help prevent unanticipated change orders and the potential for disputes, and will ultimately curb their effects on the schedule and budget.

Reasons for a change order include:

  • Unclear Statement of Work (SOW). An SOW should clearly outline the development, implementation, and delivery of the contract goods and services. In other words, this should include stating the work to be performed, location, timeline, deliverable schedule, performance standards, and other applicable special requirements like security or safety measures. If any of these elements are missing, the likelihood of change orders increases.
  • Incomplete design. When there are insufficient details for pricing, change orders can also occur. For example, failure to include details for grading and sloping pavement construction will have to result in a change order to accommodate the extra costs.
  • Mismanagement of design. With each discipline preparing plans and specifications separately, they need to be well-coordinated, generally by the project architect. Problems can arise when there is mismanagement through an architect or design firm overseeing the complete design. The quality of deliverable design documents is an important consideration during the process of selecting professionals for design and engineering, and should be evaluated carefully before committing.

Final Thoughts

Project owners will benefit from hiring an experienced project manager who can streamline the process, and ultimately save them time and money.
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