A successful project starts with solid planning and ends with a smooth hand-off. The phrases "on-time" and "under budget" are often used in discussions of project delivery, but how often can they actually be used to describe a project?
When our firm was contracted to install the electrical portion of a food processing plant, we experienced the effect poor planning can have. Not only did the various trades not coordinate well with each other, nobody knew who was responsible for completing important tasks on the job. Part way through the project, we discovered large gaps where critical tasks hadn’t been assigned to anyone, and other areas where the same task had been assigned to multiple groups. This created mass confusion for all. By the time the project was completed, the value of our initial contract had doubled due to extra work and change orders.
Even a project as simple as switching out light fixtures and outlets requires adequate planning to be successful. It can be very time consuming and expensive to use a trial and error method. Moving things around and making changes is much easier on paper than it is once the space is torn apart. The drywaller, painter, and electrician must all do their part to make everything come together in a smooth manner. Whether you’re wiring a new office building or retrofitting a multi‐million dollar processing plant, the four keys to completing the project successfully are the same.
In this blog, we'll address the final two keys.
Key #3: Coordinate and communicate ‐ the earlier the better.
Having a plan is great, but it’s useless if no one follows it. Owner involvement is key to ensuring that the plan is followed. Explain what needs to happen and when and what the consequences will be if the schedule isn’t adhered to. Often once the “what” of the project is completed, the owner leaves the process and isn’t involved in the “how.” All that matters is that it gets done. As one player among many, electrical contractors are very dependent on others to complete their work. It’s very important to make sure that the owner understands how important each piece in the schedule is to the ultimate success of the project. The owner can then hold everyone accountable and make sure things get done when and how they’re supposed to.
Knowing when things are going to happen allows team members to better schedule their time and resources. Early and consistent planning and communication will help identify the team’s concerns and resource conflicts early enough to adjust without causing many problems for others.
During another recent project, our firm needed to install 2,000 feet of conduit within the concrete foundation, all during a very aggressive plant shutdown. By planning effectively, we were able to identify problems early, like drawing errors regarding existing conduit and concrete pier locations, trade stacking, and scheduling inconsistencies, that wouldn’t have been discovered until installation. Instead of putting the entire project behind schedule, working closely with the other contractors helped cut three days out of the shutdown schedule.
Unforeseen issues always come up and put people behind schedule. When everyone on the team communicates effectively, it’s much easier to manage expectations and adapt accordingly.
Key #4: Hand off the completed project.
A complex industrial project can be a once in a lifetime opportunity, so getting things right is critical. A chief component of that is making sure that the right personnel are involved in the project wrap‐up. Too often, while the installer is busy testing the equipment and making sure things are running smoothly, the people that will be responsible for operating the plant are busy painting railings, sweeping floors, or simply not around. The appropriate support system is needed to help those who will take over. Training and support can often leave a lasting impression on those who now need to operate and maintain the newly installed equipment. Appropriate documentation will make future support and maintenance much easier and will also simplify the work for the next person who may need to modify the work.
No project goes exactly as planned, but it will be much easier to resolve problems if you understand the overall project goal, get early input from everyone involved, make sure people are communicating and working together, and leave behind an appropriate support system. These keys will go a long way in helping you achieve your “on time” and “under budget” goals.
Did you miss Part 1? Read this blog to learn more about the first two keys here.