to Work for You
April 20, 2023
How do you know if your percent complete is accurate?
Do you find yourself asking questions like, does this match with what’s happening in the field? How do we verify the accuracy of installed quantities? What will be the downstream impact if they are incorrect? How many reports are needed to run to cross check our data?
As projects get bigger and more complex, it’s more important than ever to focus on the amount of time your team is spending on different tasks. Well-running, efficient teams will try to accomplish tasks quickly by streamlining them without compromising accuracy. Let’s look at some of today’s biggest quantity tracking issues and their most workable solutions.
The Main Difficulties with Accurately Tracking Installed Quantities
- Handing off accurate information from the engineer in the office to the field and all the way down to the supervisor/crew member can be a painful task. Making sure you have the correct drawings with the accurate takeoffs and hence accurate quantities to install is key. Of course, by the time you have this information communicated, it always seems to change on a day-to-day basis.
- When it comes to which quantities are to be installed, which ones were installed, and then updating everything to measure your progress, communication is a two-way street. Manual tracking of such data by using spreadsheets can cause confusion, an extreme amount of maintenance, versioning nightmares and sometimes even crashing of spreadsheet files. It is therefore difficult to determine the one source of truth in this approach.
- Percent Complete. On top of that, everyone’s perception of what’s done is not the same. My manager can say it’s 50% complete but the engineer says it’s 25% complete, so which one is true? What are you really claiming? How do you measure with a common rule among all the project team members?
- Tracking the detail of quantities at the right level is another challenge. Assuming every project has a project structure broken down by tasks and each task has assigned quantities, the team must agree to the tracking that is setup. Standardization becomes the key to consensus in accuracy.
- Lastly, we come to rework, due to quality, or change in design, posing yet another challenge in the entire process of updating and revising your percent complete. But these challenges in tracking are just the beginning when it comes to quantities.
Down Stream Impacts of Incorrectly Tracked Installed Quantities
Now, let’s assume you have a system and a process down on how you track quantities and it’s working, but it’s only working when you receive the correct results at the correct time. This one metric drives the following calculations and other processes and can have significant impacts if the values are incorrect.
Earned value management (EVM), Dollar Gain/Loss ($G/L), Work-hours (Hrs G/L), and Labor Efficiency Index (LEI) are all metrics driven by total quantities and installed quantities, or percent complete.
The point is, if you are struggling with any of these challenges, forecasting in terms of “dollars by task” can no longer be trusted as it’s based on EVM. Two other very common metrics that become impacted are Estimate at Completion (EAC) and Estimate to Complete (ETC), both of which are extremely key in forecasting.
Even project scheduling is no longer accurate if the percent complete is off, because again, as we know, it is part of EVM.
When you’re forecasting the remaining work to be completed, project teams often tend to monitor the number of resources they need and plan for them accordingly. This can save a lot of money for the project overall and can transfer resources that are no longer needed — another important reason for forecasting to be accurate.
Most importantly though, without the correct data being communicated, you begin to lose confidence from the owner’s side, which might hinder contract payments and maybe potential projects in the future.
Delayed project completion, due to inaccuracy in the quantity tracking, may cause huge financial and contractual implications to the contractors and to the owner on current and future projects.
How Can We Avoid These Problems?
Begin with the end in mind. Why? Because it can be hugely beneficial to put a strong design management plan in place early on to track quantities, all the way from inception to the final “issued for construction.” This means having strong coding conventions, breaking down module areas and systems, plus as many attributes as possible to ensure data can be used in several ways.
As design kicks off a huge part of any project, it is also wise to put a strong document management plan in place to correlate all the design drawings to the quantities that they carry. This is critical, especially as drawings tend to get updated frequently with new quantities, so tracking these versions accurately and troubleshooting becomes a lot easier. Having an organized relationship between documents and quantities is extremely critical and valuable.
Next, how do you build the detailed cost breakdown structure with the right cost coding? Again, start at the end, visualize what your reporting needs to look like, and build codes accordingly. Include any reports that you’re going to need to catch red flags to ensure that you are collecting the right level of data that supports designing the reports you need.
As you move from design into construction, setting up rules of credit for all the different items that will be installed is extremely important. Rules of credit create that unified way of claiming an installed quantity via claiming steps. For example, you might have:
- Step 1: Excavate -25%
- Step 2: Install item -50%
- Step 3: Backfill -25%
Once complete, all these steps should total 100% for a particular item that gets installed in the field.
As you get to execution, designing work plans with your supervisor/superintendent/crews and setting the expectations of what’s to be accomplished streamlines how things need to be reported. Work plans can contain a lot of information like drawings, specifications, quality documents, safety guidelines, cost codes and weekly goals, 3-week or 1- week schedules, etc. All of these are valuable insights for quantity accuracy.
Finally, audit your plans and your data either weekly or monthly. Have a plan in place to always do a quality check on your data to validate that the work done in the field matches the data on the reports. Validate percent complete, rules of credit etc. by utilizing compliance forms to setup quality installation checklists. Why? All this builds confidence in the plan and helps to catch any issues early, ensuring teams are not performing rework.
As I said in the beginning, as projects continue to get bigger and more complex, it will be more and more important to focus on the amount of time your team is spending on various tasks. If you want a well-running, efficient team, finding ways to accurately track quantities quickly, while also streamlining the reporting without compromising accuracy will serve you well on present and future projects.
Ready to take a deeper dive? Schedule a one-on-one consultation to find out how InEight can help you succeed in your construction digitalization journey.
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