Archive for the ‘Project Management’ Category

Managing Bridge and Infrastructure Projects

Friday, December 16th, 2016

Let’s face it, people’s eyes start to glaze over as soon as we begin talking about bridges or infrastructure construction. It’s unfortunate because this type of work is incredibly challenging and important. We worked on a complex claim including analysis, report writing, and deposition on the Mackinaw Bridge, and it was just for the painter! Another project we worked on was a highway. Sounds simple enough, right? That highway ran through multiple local jurisdictions, utilities, bridges, and rights of way; and that doesn’t even scratch the surface (ha ha) of unforeseen soil conditions.

With more discussion occurring about improving the country’s infrastructure, we need to remind ourselves of project management processes that can help control the time and cost of these often mega-sized projects. Obviously, the primary process that we’re talking about is pre-project planning.

  1. It’s hard to imagine that you could ever have enough subsurface conditions investigations. Clearly you can’t put a test bore down every foot (or meter); but, it’s imperative to get as much information as possible on soil types, rock formations, contamination, buried structures, etc. In one case we worked on, the owner knew that there was a high probability of mineshafts underneath the building footprint. They made the decision to begin construction anyway with the understanding that they would handle any mine issues as they occurred. One could make the argument that they made an informed decision on how to address the risk of mineshafts (notice I didn’t use the word “mitigate”). On the other hand, allowing for the possibility of random and intermittent delays to construction might be costlier than carrying out a detailed subsurface investigation, which would have mitigated the risk.
  2. Work out a detailed mapping of aboveground and underground utilities. Most people think that utility companies know where their underground lines are running. They would be wrong. Utility companies often know where the lines are, but there are so many times that their maps are either out of date or the lines weren’t actually put in exactly as specified. Understand that there are many, many examples of water or sewer lines that are 50, 60, even 100 years old. Excavations don’t have to physically hit a utility to cause a problem; even coming too close to a utility line can cause it to shift and rupture.
  3. Explicitly require contractors to track costs and labor hours to a sufficiently detailed schedule, and include an earned value system. This recommendation goes to a number of things.
    • It promotes transparency. Transparency is the daylight that discourages outright corruption or just lazy management, which creates its own set of problems.
    • It allows for early problem identification. As soon as a drop in productivity occurs, this system helps zero in on where the problem is occurring and act proactively to make any corrective action.
    • Use of enhanced project management practices is good business. Not only does it increase your probability of finishing the project on time and on budget, it also helps you (as I often tell clients) “make money on purpose”. You don’t want to wait until the end of a project before you know whether or not you’re going to make a profit; you better know how you’re doing at 10% or 20% completion. While public owners may not be interested in making money, they definitely want to get a beneficial use out of the project as soon as possible.
  4. Seriously consider employing a Dispute Review Board to resolve conflicts as close as possible to the point of origin. The closer in time to the start of a dispute that a resolution can be reached, the more you’ll save the project time and tons of money. We all know that as reaching a resolution goes further out in time, the higher the costs for attorneys or experts and the lower the return (regardless of whether you’re the asserting or defending party). There are certainly fights worth fighting, but using a Dispute Review Board can take some of the emotional energy out of the equation such that a reasonable settlement of differences can be reached. I’m a member of the Dispute Review Board Foundation, and would be happy to answer any questions you might have on this valuable tool.
  5. Keep in mind that approaches to bridges or entrance/exit ramps often go through someone’s neighborhood. Never underestimate community engagement. Local populations can be a great ally or your worst nightmare. Early involvement of local people can help assemble a work force or short-circuit possible protests of the work by addressing concerns.

As always, please call us if there’s anything VN Services can do for you!

 

I75 - Toledo

I75 – Toledo

Highway Sys. 022301 28

Pittsburgh North Shore Project

845 AAS Mackinac bridge

Mackinac Bridge

8250

Wheatly Bridge

Windsor-Essex Parkway

Windsor-Essex Pkwy.

Nuevo Cleveland Opens

Monday, August 29th, 2016

dscn0753_2_                                                                dscn0743_2_dscn0750_2_

Congratulations to Snavely Group, the Design/Builder, on the successful, on-time completion on the new Nuevo Modern Mexican restaurant on Pier 9.

VN Services is proud to have done the CPM scheduling for the new restaurant, which is phase 1 of 3 of the redevelopment, located near the Rock Hall of Fame and Great Lakes Science Center.

The two-story eatery is all modern glass, wood and steel and has stunning views in every direction of City and Lake. A main floor dining room and bar seats 100 with wraparound patio seats another 100, with overflow dining and private event space that can accommodate another 250 in and out.

Be sure to stop by and have a great meal and see on of the many beautiful sights in Cleveland.

30 year Anniversary of Chernobyl Nuclear Accident

Monday, April 18th, 2016

We’re coming up on the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl Accident.

Tucker Elliott worked briefly on the sarcophagus stabilization project, but thankfully never had to go there. The photo is of the nuclear fuel that melted onto the operating floor like a lava flow. The person in the photo actually survived, but you reached your lifetime exposure limit in 40 seconds!

Nuclear fuel on operating floor.

Nuclear fuel on operating floor.

Tucker Elliott becomes certified as a CM-BIM!

Friday, August 7th, 2015

MTE thumbnail 2015 cropped for blog Congratulations Tucker Elliott on becoming certified in BIM management!
VN Services is now able to provide BIM (Building Information Modeling) services and BIM management services to its clients, with a virtual construction of a facility PRIOR to its actual physical construction.
Our BIM services improve safety and owner visualization while reducing uncertainty through early detection of costly conflicts by simulating and analyzing potential impacts.
Offering both Pre-Construction and Construction services, our BIM process generates and manages the digital representations of physical and functional characteristics of your new or existing facility.
Questions? Curious?
Contact Tucker at (440) 729-0514, ext. 25 or elliott@vn-services.com.

BIM Sample #1

BIM Sample #1

BIM Sample #2

BIM Sample #2

Tracking Labor Hours is Essential to a Construction Project’s Success

Monday, November 24th, 2014

It may be preaching to the choir, but the topic of tracking labor hours per scheduled task completions is worth repeating.

How does a construction project end up with a positive project outcome? It’s not brain surgery! Make sure that the labor hours estimated for tasks are actually being expended (and not exceeded) and that the tasks are completing by their early finish dates (Performance Based Scheduling).  You will see a project that is on time, on budget, making a profit, getting an occupancy permit, and having many other successful project outcomes.  Get in, get done, and get out!

Notice that this does NOT mean that you should start tasks prior to their early start dates. There may be instances when starting tasks early makes sense; however, if the logical relationships between activities are correct, starting tasks early will probably cause negative impacts to someone else on the job because you’ve changed the plan that everybody else anticipated following. Changing the planned approach to the project could increase costs and cause delays. Work the plan that everyone on the construction team is in agreement with, and work it to the early dates.

Likewise, with labor hours. There are times when throwing more bodies into a task or working selective overtime makes sense. That said, the estimated labor hours for each activity task exist for a reason; so you shouldn’t try to accelerate tasks without consciously considering the possible impact to the labor hours that will be spent. The estimated labor hours represent the budget for each task, and every time you go over budget you risk losing money (this includes the Owner getting exposed to change orders or claims for additional costs).

Labor hours are the primary controllable cost on a project, and knowing (on a weekly basis) where and when labor hours are being expended isn’t just good project management – it’s good business!  Your project managers and superintendents should have their finger on the pulse of “labor hours budgeted vs. labor hours expended” activity by activity.  They should be acutely aware of this on a daily basis so they can track, catch, and adjust for deviations on a weekly basis.

If you don’t know the status of your labor hours, and if you are not prepared to work the schedule to the early dates, then you are not in control of your destiny on the project. Not controlling your project means that you won’t know if you made or lost money until it’s too late.

We tell our clients that they should be making money on purpose.   Working the plan, while controlling labor hours is a good way to do just that.  Our project management and project oversight services are the perfect, affordable tool to help your team stay on track!

s600A Labor chart2