Mechanical contractors are being urged to upgrade how they track changes in productivity during the COVID-19 disruption and into the future to stay on top of costs and avoid falling behind competitors.
The advice came from MCA Inc.’s manager of field operations Sonja Daneshgari, who was invited by the Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada (MCAC) to address members as part of a Sept. 23 webinar session billed as Track your Productivity Impacts Due to COVID.
It is important to measure productivity, and measure it correctly, Daneshgari said, because the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting “not just your money, not just your jobsite, there are a lot of different levels of impact…it disrupts the way an entire industry works.”
Daneshgari referred to the technological improvements currently being embraced by the construction sector in communications, processes and tools as the “industrialization” of the sector. The disruption was already happening before the pandemic took hold and it’s now “really accelerating,” she said.
“We have to realize there is the industrialization happening in construction and we have to figure out how do we react to it and to stay ahead, or at least how can we can stay with the flow and not get left out.”
The acceleration in change will not stop, she said.
“The acceleration that is happening right now due to COVID, due to the disruption, will stay and will keep on going. There will be a different way of doing our work. It is something we will have to figure out.”
Contractors are learning how to deal with shifts in schedules caused by many COVID-related factors now familiar to the industry, such as a shortage of manpower, but there are also less obvious factors to be recognized, such as changes in the flow of workers and machines on worksites when certain locations on the site are taken out of play due to COVID, said Daneshgari.
All of those factors should be identified and quantified, she stressed, as part of the process of understanding productivity changes. But one danger with that, she said, is the risk of being overwhelmed by information.
“All of us are experiencing extreme information overload,” Daneshgari commented. “It is almost overwhelming. I am sure many of you have experienced it, but it is important to quantify it.”
She said traditional analysis of project delays breaks down into expected or known causes that have yet to be quantified, such as manpower; “unknown knowns,” such as spec changes and change orders; and unanticipated unknowns, which create the most uncertainty. That’s COVID today, she said.
“The part that hits us the most is the uncertainty,” said Daneshgari. “The part you don’t know that you don’t know.”
As soon as possible, try to tackle that unknown, she urged.
There is an array of productivity-tracing software that exists on the market, such as products from Procore and PlanGrid and also JPAC (Job Productivity Assurance and Control), which works with existing accounting software many firms already have and enables weekly analysis of changes in product input, referred to as short interval schedule tracking.
A sample chart presented by Daneshgari showed COVID impacts divided into categories such as site movement and logistics, new daily tasks, PPE requirements and delivery restrictions. Productivity variances were measured each week and in the scenario outlined, new impacts could be measured within three days.
Daneshgari also showed how software could compare individual tasks completed or not completed with a projected timetable and register the percentage completion at project timeposts and the cause for incompletion.
These are the types of discussions owners, contractors and subcontractors are having these days as they discuss responsibility for project delays, Daneshgari said. Firms with the best information are arriving at negotiating tables in the most advantageous position.
“There is all this discussion, who is going to pay, but you are not going to have the discussion unless you can quantify it,” she said.
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