Take advantage of float time to complete the job ahead of schedule.

Today's skilled craft shortage is stretching the ability and imagination of most contractors trying to meet demanding critical path project schedules. In addition to extra costs and expensive overtime, some projects result in liquidated damages being assessed to the trades involved in delays. Most of these late completions end up with arbitration or litigation claims, making it difficult to collect retention and unpaid change orders and delaying your critical path cash flow for years.

You need to carefully examine all of the "commitment to completion" language before you bid a job or sign the contract. Perhaps you can negotiate to have any punitive language removed from the contract before you sign. You also need to monitor your jobsite supervisors' daily logs to ensure that you cover your butts (C.Y.A.).

Fortunately, there is enough work in most areas for you to pick and choose. Keep in mind that everyone is desperately searching for contractors with enough good employees to get their projects finished on time. This is that profit-producing "supply and demand" negotiating power that we've all been waiting for. The proverbial shoe is on the other foot, so now you can do the kicking. There is no need for you to make any commitments that you will not be able to fulfill.

Float Time

If you are involved in a critical path project where time is of the essence, you have some feasible options that can help you beat your schedules and increase bottom line profits. The key is to take advantage of float time.

Take the contract schedule and review the start date and completion date for every phase of your work. You also should review the other critical trades that must be complete for you to start, and also those that cannot start until your phase is completed. The time that is available between the date the site is available for you to start and the date the task must be complete is what we call "float."

You can use the float time to reduce the pressure of meeting critical path deadlines. Rather than pacing your workforce to complete each task per the contract schedule, you can finish tasks early and have extra hands available for other critical tasks as they arise. My motto is plan ahead and stay ahead!

You simply need to look at your job schedule every week and ask yourself these key questions: What else could we be working on? What would prevent it? What options do we have to overcome any roadblocks? Who else do we need to make it happen? What will it cost? What will we gain?

I guarantee you the answer to a couple of those questions will be pre-fab and pre-assemble. You can pre-fab on the jobsite or at your shop using your own forces or moonlighters. You can also provide flextime opportunities and hands-on task training along with my Green and Gold mentoring program, in which new employees receive the valuable advice of experienced workers.

Numerous Benefits

Any doubts you may have about using float time will disappear as you answer the last question, "What will we gain?" Let's take a look at what you will gain by properly using float time:

  • You will finish your job ahead of schedule, allowing you to capitalize on your forces to begin another profit-producing job.

  • You will get paid earlier for the work, boosting your cash flow and banking power.

  • You will polish that "on time" professional image that will enhance your company's negotiating strength and bonding power.

  • You will be able to maintain a much larger workforce on each job and reduce shifting crews from one project to another.

  • You will enjoy increased efficiency and cost savings with pre-fab vs. onsite labor.

  • You will find that cooperating, horsetrading and networking with the other trades is fun and profitable. You can rush or delay certain tasks to benefit each other's manpower availability. You can share the use of cranes, forklifts, welding machines, generators, pumps, backhoes, manlifts, scaffold, etc.

  • The attitude and productivity of your employees will be greatly enhanced by a "we are ahead" winning spirit, rather than the frustration and constant irritation of "when are you going to get it done" prodding. Nobody likes to be behind.

  • You will eliminate the frustration and expense of preparing for and fighting legal claims or arbitration proceedings.

Ample Opportunities

With all of these benefits in mind, let's look at some of the opportunities available to save you time and money on the job, with an eye towards potential roadblocks that could arise. These general tips can be adapted to specific job situations.

When your contract includes site utilities that are normally installed after the site grading is completed, you need to examine the cut and fill areas. If the finish grade requires a deep cut, you naturally want to wait until the grading is finished. However, when there are low areas that require fill to reach the finish grade, you should coordinate your work with the site contractor to finish any installations before filling is done to save excavation, shoring, backfill and compaction.

All of your underground piping within the building should be installed before the foundations and footings. Your excavation and backfill should always be completed before final grading or floor slabs are started to eliminate removal of extra material or bringing in more to reach the final sub-grade.

Having all your stacks pre-fabbed and laid out for the masons or carpenters saves them a lot of time and you a lot of money. Similarly, installing your roof drains and vents as the steel is being erected allows the deck installer to cut the openings and the roofer to install the flashings.

Pre-installation site meetings to exchange drawings can save a lot of money and grief for mechanical-electrical-plumbing trades. You can determine who goes first and establish alternate routes and elevations. Remember, you always need to follow up on any changes to your as-builts.

You can also coordinate your vertical installations and inspections with the metal stud and drywall contractors to allow you both to keep your crews busy and facilitate scheduling.

By cooperating with the painting, wall covering, and finish flooring or tile contractors, you can make sure that vital areas are installed first, allowing you to start your work early. This can also save other contractors from making unnecessary trips for remobilization.

Most contractors use a cleaning service to do all major cleaning before final inspection and owner occupancy. Normally you can negotiate a very economical deal to have the service clean your fixtures at the same time.

These situations differ on every project, but I can assure you there are always opportunities available to save time and make money. Don't get comfortable and complacent simply because you are on schedule. Remember that motto - plan ahead and stay ahead.

As you visit the jobsite or attend weekly site coordination meetings, you should always ask everyone involved the key questions: What else could we be doing? Who else would be involved? What will it cost? What will we gain?

our next step is to establish a written plan for the week identifying every item necessary to accomplish your goals. You'll be amazed and pleased with the results.