Photo of workers on site with graphic of up and down productivity arrows

Construction delay disputes are issues that construction representatives both on and off the jobsite must work together to avoid. Discussions about these matters primarily settle on whether a delay was critical or non-critical. Critical delays adversely affect the project’s completion or another milestone. Non-critical delays slow down certain activities, but not the project’s crucial dates.

Parties also determine whether delays are excusable or inexcusable. Those in the first category are solely outside of a contractor’s control, such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters.

However, a contractor bears full responsibility for inexcusable delays. The offending party must also pay for the slowdown’s associated costs.

Fortunately, you can take decisive action to reduce inexcusable delay disputes. A primary way to do that is by boosting productivity and tackling aspects that can contribute to slowdowns — and here are five ways to accomplish that.

1. Prepare your crew for impact of COVID-19 measures

The COVID-19 pandemic drastically disrupted everyday life and forced people to assume new ways of working. Many stayed productive from home, but that wasn’t an option for on-site construction crews.

A July 2020 survey of contractors from the sheet metal, mechanical, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) industries explored how COVID-19 safety measures affected productivity. The study confirmed a 17.9% productivity loss. When making their calculations, researchers examined lost work time and extra minutes required to engage in virus mitigation measures. The results showed 85 minutes lost during every employee’s eight-hour workday.

However, the research also revealed that companies with existing pandemic mitigation measures had less pronounced productivity drops.

Dealing with COVID-19 challenges means being proactive in the office and on-site. For example, a good starting point is to add time for COVID-19 measures when writing new contracts. That simple step can avoid delay disputes through an understanding from the start that the pandemic may slow things down a bit.

Moreover, when hiring new team members, give them information to help reduce delays by setting expectations. For example, you might tell them the company requires having their temperature checked before starting work. In that case, you might advise them to arrive five minutes before their shift begins. Tell workers that they must come with masks, similarly to how you would not let an employee on-site without the proper headgear and footwear.

When clients and employees know about how COVID-19 measures may create delays, they’re more prepared to deal with them and understand how the right actions can keep productivity high.

Additionally, products such as wearables that help maintain social distancing can support work output by reminding workers to stay far enough away from each other and could expedite contact tracing measures.

2. Use advanced technology to improve accuracy

Errors can quickly compromise productivity. The best approach is to avoid mistakes. Innovative technologies can make it easier to achieve that otherwise daunting goal.

Read more: 3 Ways Construction Technology Keeps Projects & Payments On Time

Building information modeling (BIM) allows people to create 3D representations of buildings that include all associated details. BIM as a concept dates back to the 1960s — and has significantly progressed from there.

For example, some of today’s BIM models feature live sensors that show real-time changes. Construction company managers can view that data to address potential problems before those matters cause delays.

Some companies also combine BIM with other technologies to reap the benefits of advanced solutions. During the construction of a hyperscale data center in Denmark, construction teams used augmented reality (AR) products that fit into the wearer’s hard hat and visor. A person can then view full BIM models from wherever they are.

Site managers report that this solution has improved productivity by reducing errors and eliminating continual laser surveying. Additionally, AR assists with tracking changes and trends, helping people get on top of those matters before they cause delays. Outside of AR, some construction companies use cameras with live video feeds. Besides letting managers confirm that workers stay on track with tasks, the footage could spotlight safety issues. Those could lead to injury-related delays if unaddressed.

3. Understand how excellent communication minimizes delays

Clear and decisive communication between all parties can help construction company personnel and site crews meet deadlines. Conversely, poor communication can result in preventable issues like slowdowns, employee confusion, and budgetary overruns.

Creating a stakeholder communication plan is an excellent way to maintain high productivity and satisfaction between all parties. Determine how often each party wants to receive updates and through which formats. Project management tools can also keep everyone on the same page.

Read more: Improve Office & Field Teamwork to Reduce Payment Problems

At the site level, managers should instruct workers to follow a defined process for reporting problems that could lead to delays.

For example, if an employee identifies an issue, which person do they tell first, and do they document the matter in writing or just inform the appropriate party verbally? Having productive communications also means keeping thorough records that you can locate when necessary.

Maintaining complete records could prove crucial if misunderstandings arise later. If a dispute hinges on a court outcome, one party could lose their case due to the lack of documentation. Having a strong case alone is not enough. You must also possess the paperwork to support your claims. Fortunately, many project management tools include complementing apps that let workers submit digital documents and supporting images when providing daily reports.

Plus, a document management system could improve productivity by cutting the time you spend hunting for paperwork. A dedicated platform can help ensure that people title and save their documents in a unified format that includes details like the date and the project name. Document management tools also typically have search features that let you apply filters to narrow the results.

4. Address payment delays

Delay disputes don’t only occur when projects get behind schedule. They can also happen if it takes too long for someone to receive payment. Fortunately, various tools exist to standardize billing and collection processes, making them more efficient and less likely to contain errors or inefficient steps.

For example, your company might opt to use automated accounts receivable software in your construction company’s office. Most products on the market allow you to quickly populate outgoing invoices with the correct information based on digital records already on file. It’s also possible to set parameters concerning how often parties get reminders from you about upcoming bills due. These tools reduce the chances of disputes related to payment delays.

If you send an invoice through the postal mail, there’s always a small chance it could get lost. However, a move to electronic payments allows you to track them in real-time, and receive notifications when recipients open the documents. 

Automation can also largely eliminate disputes related to missing supporting documentation for the invoices, like lien waivers or change orders. Many tools add that extra content without ongoing input from a software user. Thus, there’s no need to worry that the receiving party may use missing information to justify not making a prompt payment.

Read more: Speeding Up Customer Payments with Technology

Some automated software used in the construction industry even allows users to check trade credit reports or look at a contractor’s history of making payments. It’s then easier to determine whether extending credit to them might result in future payment disputes.

5. Make better productivity a company-wide goal

Consistently insufficient productivity levels can have ramifications at all levels of a company. It can bring costly legal fees and result in reputational damage. However, the examples here show there are numerous effective ways to raise productivity and keep it high.

Take inspiration from what you’ve read here when getting started. Assess which of the above suggestions could give the most gains to your company, and how quickly you could implement new measures.

Remember that payoffs are not immediately evident. However, committing to productivity improvements and creating a plan to make them happen will put you on a path to success.

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