Tips for smooth project management
By Arden Bortzfield & Tess Wittler or some builders, managing tasks on the job site can be a challenge. This is especially true for builders with limited experience in project management. However, there are ways to coordinate the various job-site tasks to ensure your project runs smoothly. As a first step, Craig Deimler, vice president of Deimler & Sons Construction in Harrisburg, suggested investing in residential construction superintendent classes, which are offered by the Home Builders Institute, the work force training and education unit of National Association of Home Builders. Deimler said that he took the RCS class with his team to lead by example. Accurate subcontractor coordination is vital to running a smooth project. Ray Venema, owner of Susquehanna Builders in Montoursville, has used a core group of trade contractors for his projects for years. He begins each project by communicating the anticipated start date to his selected subcontractors. Once the project begins, he keeps it on track by giving subcontractors a two-week notice. However, he has noticed an additional layer of coordination. “Since my subcontractors are so in tune with how we run projects, they’ve taken to notifying the next contractor in line that the project is ready for them,” Venema said. “That’s the best form of coordinating a successful project.” Steve Artz, president of Your Towne Builders in Lancaster, doesn’t have a sophisticated system, but in his 17 years of business has found a “Job Initiation Form” to be the best communication tool to run projects effectively. “It contains the pertinent information for the job – from a detailed description of the house to its completion date,” Artz said.
One of the biggest sources of frustration for any project is when the necessary documents are not readily available on the job site, Artz said. One of his tips to other builders is simple, but often times overlooked. “Provide the same information on the job site as is in the office, so the supervisor can refer to it easily and quickly,” he said. “It isn’t good enough to write it on tablet paper and file it in a folder. Follow the system.” Tim Britton, CEO of Tim Britton Construction Services in Falls Creek, assigns a “lead man” to each project, and it is his responsibility to follow the budget and produce that job. Britton said there are four critical components in producing a win-win-win project for his customers, his trade partners and his company. First, he holds a pre-construction meeting with all parties involved in the project. This is where the salesperson/job coordinator introduces the homeowner to the lead man and the rest of the team assigned to produce the project. “By discussing project details and expectations in front of the homeowners, it raises their comfort level,” Britton said. The second factor is to make sure the client’s complete file is properly handed over from sales to production. This means drawings, scope of work, anticipated cost of the project and homeowner information. Once the job begins, the lead man is required to provide daily reports to the job coordinator. The final critical step is visiting the lead man on the job site two to three times a week to make sure everything is running smoothly. Britton said he’s found skipping a step leads to trouble. The best part about the lead man system is that it allows the owner to spend more time managing his business and selling his work. “I have 12 jobs going right now, and I am looking forward to golfing this afternoon,” Britton said. s
I Keystone Builder • November/December 2008
10/21/08 4:37:26 PM