As 2020 is coming to a close, many general contractors are taking the time to set new company goals and revise their organizational strategy headed into the new year. With lingering uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the biggest questions construction firms are asking when planning for next year is – How do I manage my resources more productively to help combat these new challenges.
In this article, we’re going to explore a few ways you can set your resource management up for success headed into the new year, and what you can learn from the year behind you.
Evaluate your resource planning process
Let’s start with evaluating your actual resource planning process. Inefficient or ineffective resource management will typically lead to negative outcomes whether it’s increasing costs, poor productivity, low morale, or even missed project opportunities. In a lot of cases, companies will evaluate their workforce’s productivity and utilization when trying to mitigate those negative outcomes into the future. However, those negative outcomes may very well be the result of the actual resource planning process more so than the work those resources are doing. When evaluating the year behind you, make sure to ask yourself the following questions.
How much time did I spend updating and maintaining my resource planning data?
Depending on how you’re managing your resources, you could be spending multiple hours each week updating your resource plans. This is time that could be spent more productively and can help to prevent some of the negative outcomes mentioned earlier. There’s a difference between maintaining your resource plans and managing resources effectively.
Maintaining your resource data means you’re playing catch-up. Decisions are being made and those decisions need to be translated into your resource plans. In this case, decisions are informing your data.
Managing your resources effectively means you’re one step ahead of the game. You’re seeing the plays before they happen and are able to identify and mitigate potential future risk. In this case, data is informing your decisions.
Construction-specific resource management tools are making a big difference in the industry headed into 2021. They’re giving operations teams an opportunity to distance themselves from manual processes, spend less time maintaining their spreadsheets, and use data to drive decision-making.
2. Do I have the data I need to make decisions effectively?
The reason that resource management tools are making such a big splash in the construction industry is because, for a lot of general contractors, resource planning decisions are made based on intuition or “gut-feel”. That’s not to say that anyone’s intuition is off-base, there’s certainly something to be said for experience in the industry and understanding the ups and downs of a project lifecycle and how resources need to be adjusted accordingly.
However, when that experience and intuition is complemented by the actionable data surfaced by resource management tools, the end result is a fully optimized workforce strategy. Construction is ever-changing and as a result, so are the resource plans. Knowing that your decisions are being driven by accurate data is a sure fire way to stay ahead of any changes and makes your resource planning proactive instead of reactive. Be sure to ask yourself:
Can I quickly reference historical project data to build better project teams?
Do I have accurate insight into my team’s utilization?
Can I visualize my entire project pipeline?
Do I know when my team members are available to take on new projects?
Do I know where every team member is currently allocated?
Read this guide for more information about construction resource planning.
Evaluate your projects from the previous year
The end goal when evaluating your projects is ultimately to help you make better decisions and predictions for project planning and estimating. These decisions and predictions, however, will be influenced by the quality of your data for both historical and active construction projects. This data is the foundation for improving resource strategies, risk management, and profit predictability.
Using this data to improve strategic planning and estimating will lead to better quality results, reduce wasted resource time, tighter scheduling, and higher overall efficiency and profitability.
What to look for when evaluating projects
The devil is in the details. Heading into a new year, a few of the data points you should be focusing on can broken down into the following categories:
Team member activity
Cost code divisions
Analyzing these categories will help provide insight into the performance of each of your projects. Looking at each project individually can help to paint a clearer picture of the factors behind your company’s overall profit performance.
Team member activity – One of the most critical aspects to predicting project profitability is evaluating the productivity and performance of your team members. Being able to accurately analyze and compare team member activities and utilization will help to create opportunities to improve the skills, knowledge, and efficiency of your project teams to achieve the speed and quality of work required to improve project profitability.
Analyzing this data helps to identify project teams that worked well together, identify opportunities for team member advancement, and evaluate the impact of individual team member performance on overall project results.
Team member utilization/cost – The performance of your project teams play a major role in the profitability of your projects. Being able to accurately monitor your team utilization rates allows you to identify high performing teams and individuals, and allows you to further compare utilization by specific projects or work teams.
Project overviews – Combining detailed team member activity and jobsite information in a project overview can help show you where labor hours and utilization costs have been allocated and help to identify what worked well, and what didn’t.
The goal of the overview is to provide leadership and operations managers with a snapshot of which projects were completed on time and on budget, and which projects fell short of achieving the objectives set forth by the original estimates. Using this information you can more easily analyze the reasons behind different outcomes for your projects and better strategize how to repeat the successful ones.
Tip: When creating project overviews, group projects that had similar outcomes together. Whether they were successful in achieving objectives or not, the goal is to identify trends that can help you better navigate resource planning moving forward. Repeating successful practices means first identifying what led to success. Once you’ve grouped your projects, take the time to evaluate:
Who was the leadership and management personnel attached to the project?
Who was on the project team?
What was the strategy behind resource allocations?
What was our actual labor cost vs estimated labor cost?
Cost code divisions – Being able to allocate your equipment and labor costs to specific construction phases will help to better understand which activities are the most profitable, and which are the least profitable. Your cost codes will help to capture all relevant data related to each phase. This will help you identify the consistent level of performance in the equipment and labor required for each project phase.
Identifying consistent levels of performance can create a solid foundation when targeting future projects and estimating costs. It also helps to surface your weaknesses and where you’re underperforming. Meaning you can identify where further training or equipment may be needed to achieve project objectives.
Resource management and workforce planning tools, like Bridgit Bench, were designed to provide your operations and management teams with data and analysis to better evaluate and understand your day-to-day project operations and performance. The end result is a team better equipped to plan resources efficiently and accurately estimate project profitability. When looking to improve resource planning into 2021, investing in tools that were built to help analyze and evaluate your teams is one of the best ways to see immediate improvements.
RESOURCE PLANNING IN AN EVER-CHANGING ENVIRONMENT
During his 16 years at Katerra, Joe Jenkyn has transitioned from Assistant Site Superintendent to the Director of Employee Relations and HR Business Partner, where he now manages strategic planning. General contractors, like Katerra, are having to pivot in terms of how they manage resource planning in this ever-changing environment.
Lauren Lake is the COO and co-founder at Bridgit. She holds a degree in Civil Structural Engineering and is well-versed in construction workforce management and resource planning processes. Lauren has been named to the Forbes Manufacturing & Industry 30 Under 30 and Best Of Canada Forbes Under 30 Innovators lists. Lauren has presented at industry events and conferences, including BuiltWorlds, Canadian Construction Association, Procore Groundbreak, and more. Follow Lauren on LinkedIn and Instagram.