Upfront planning can prevent costly reactive decisions. Remember, pros are 'pro'active.

The major difference between the two words in our headline can be measured in dollars.

Anything that you can carefully plan and for which you can also predict possible problems along with reasonable solutions will save you valuable time and megabucks. That's what we call, "proactive."

On the other hand, everything else that brings your momentum to a grinding halt costs valuable time and megabucks. It has to be taken care of fast. That's what we call "reactive."

The only good thing about being reactive is that it points the way to being proactive when similar circumstances occur down the road. Ideally, many of these situations can be eliminated.

For example, far too many jobsite foremen are given a set of plans and specs, and sent out with absolutely no knowledge of what has already transpired with that project back at headquarters. A simple kickoff meeting will help everyone involved understand what they need to know.

This meeting should include input from everyone involved to predict any possible roadblocks and create a feasible work schedule that your foreman agrees can be accomplished. Deciding how much time and money can be saved with prefabbing should also be a critical part of this agenda.

Timely buyouts with committed approvals and deliveries need to be discussed and coordinated with your jobsite supervisors. Checking with your supervisors before buying would also ensure that all of the necessary parts and pieces are included with those "package" items.

Every single item in your contract that will be necessary to receive your final payment on that project should be discussed and delegated in this kickoff meeting. We always called this "By Who - By When." You can document this delegation or create simple flow charts on paper or on your software to assure timely compliance.

What Else?

How else can you help the foremen be proactive? Having your foremen check and approve shop drawings and catalog cuts before submittal will ensure their knowledge of what's coming along with giving them some control over actual field dimensions and differing jobsite conditions.

During each jobsite visit, you and your foremen should review any float time possibilities to maintain a productive workload for your employees and to eliminate future craft shortage problems. You simply need to ask, "What else could we be doing on this site?" You will be amazed how much this alone will accomplish and save in both time and dollars!

Your foreman should also maintain a constant "deficiency list" of incomplete items or items that need to be fixed. A prepunch list is quite effective for getting the job finished completely on time, and it's a godsend if you ever have to change a foreman near the end of a project.

How about helping the jobsite supervisors more? They should monitor each job schedule for manpower needs and pretraining before it is needed. This lead-time training can be accomplished on other jobsites, in your fab shop, with home study VCR tapes or at a vendor's training center.

Supervisors also need to attend a jobsite coordination meeting at least two weeks before sending crews or equipment to begin work on any phase of your work. Specifying a maximum number of mobilizations in your contract will definitely help eliminate most of the abusive in-and-out scheduling by second-rate job superintendents.

Proactive orientation and training with all of your jobsite supervisors will emphasize the critical importance of accurate and timely jobsite paperwork. You can explain how much time and money are lost due to:

  • Late and incomplete time sheets and cost codes.
  • Incomplete job logs.
  • Delivery tickets that were not turned in or signed without carefully checking count and condition of load.
  • Extra work orders that were not signed daily.
  • Verbal changes with no documentation.
Your supervisors should always be one full week ahead of specific job requirements to maintain ample manpower, tools, equipment and deliveries. They can use a written one-week plan that should be coordinated with the general contractor and other specialty trades at each weekly jobsite meeting. In addition to being very cost effective, these schedules provide excellent records to combat any future claims or liabilities.

Here are some other costly reactive decisions that could have been prevented with some preparation:

  • A little upfront questioning of your own employees, your suppliers and other trade contractors would have prevented you from bidding to that unscrupulous general contractor or construction manager.

  • Just think about the ongoing unethical relationship you created when you "chopped your bid price" to take away a profitable job from a competitor.

  • The lack of visible "jobs in progress" schedule results in too much work without available resources or not enough work to maintain your workforce. Layoffs have always been tough to administer, but in today's skilled craft shortage layoffs are a disaster!

  • A simple "right of way" coordination meeting with the MEP trades will eliminate those frustrating "10 pounds of potatoes in a five-pound bag" installation battles.

  • Jobsite visits should always include safety concerns. You need to discuss protective equipment, trench safety, safe scaffolds and fall protection. Safety is definitely one place where you cannot afford to react to something you overlooked or forgot. As you know, you will not get a second chance to prevent an accident.

  • Everything that you must do repetitively should be written on a printed checklist so that you can simply check off each applicable item rather than scratching your head trying to think about what you might have missed.
Ask each of your supervisors to review these ideas and discuss what else they feel would help them save time and money and also create an enviable professional image. You should also weigh what you would be spending on each item along with the positive results or savings.

However, all of this proactive planning and scheduling will not eliminate all of your jobsite screwups. When Murphy's Law strikes, you will still have to be reactive. But we'll look at how to deal with these situations positively in next month's column.

I hope before that time, you will have shared these recommendations with your crew.

Remember, the real pros are definitely "pro"active.