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Laying the Foundation for Profitable Projects and Eliminating Waste: The Design

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Business Advice

Step One: The Design 

Aside from dealing with People issues, the question facing most contractors is what causes the problems relating to production on job sites?

Efficiency starts with a plan…. a roadmap if you will. The correct information must be available for your people the same way every time so they can produce work of consistent quality with as few questions and delays as possible. 

Consider this scenario: If you had a designer spend an additional twenty hours to detail a construction process correctly, do you believe their time would translate into increased production on site?

Unfortunately most of us focus on the cost of the additional 20hrs paid to the designer but do not consider the benefit in terms of the time saved on the project. We have all heard the expression “hidden costs” in relation to project execution, but most of us seem to be unable or unwilling to pay in advance to reduce or eliminate these hidden costs. Many of us take pride in the fact that we can figure it out on site!

One good way to eliminate a lot of people problems and waste is to give our people the information they need to do the work in a timely manner. The cost of a crew standing around while the foreman tries to figure out what to do will quickly exceed the cost of the 20hrs spent on designing a good construction detail. In addition, the crew will fall behind schedule thereby limiting their ability to take on other opportunities. In fact, the cost of not having a design, although not seen as an expenditure, can be more than quadruple the cost of just paying for the design service in the first place. Ironically, if the detail can be retrieved and used again in the future, the cost of the detail goes down substantially over time and in fact can be turned into a revenue source. The front end investment of producing a design will serve to eliminate one of the “nine types of waste”: WAITING. And waiting is oh so costly! 

A proper design must establish a balance between Cost, Buildabilty, and Creativity. If it does not, it will lead to an imbalance between Time, Money and Grief.

If one is fortunate enough to service clientele with deep pockets and have projects with a long time horizon between the planning and production phases, then their designs can call for exotic materials and unusual methods of construction. Any delays in production can be pre-planned although double handling of materials may occur and the project may need to be staged in advance in order to permit for smooth production and timely execution on site.

One reason why exotic design elements are more expensive to build is because they cannot be created using off the shelf material and they require tremendous skill to produce. Artisans are not usually concerned about production so purchasing from them will usually lead to delays during the production phase. Therefore, you must consider the impact of WAITING from a design standpoint before you complete your designs, otherwise production will be doomed to failure even before you start on the project!

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