Managing a large-scale construction project is no small task. There are many moving parts, stakeholders with which to communicate, supplies to order, funding to obtain, permits to acquire, and safety to consider. With this understanding, it may not be a surprise to hear that time delays are quite common within construction projects. However, recent reports by Cornerstone Projects LTD sighted that 90% of construction projects experience time delays and finish behind schedule. Ninety percent! But that’s not all we know. The majority of these delays even occur within the first half of the project, because that is when any changes will have the greatest impact on the subsequent steps. These time delays not only delay the completion of the project but are also extremely costly, inefficient, and wasteful. So, what is causing these delays?
The International Journal of Managing Projects in Business published an article in 2018 highlighting the 10 most common causes of time delays on construction projects as the following:
Weather and climate significantly impact projects with more temperamental and extreme weather conditions, especially in Southeast Asia and anywhere along the Gulf Coast. These areas can have extreme typhoons, hurricanes, winds, flooding, and heat that prevents work from being done. The issue with this type of delay is that it is completely out of the control of the crew and even the best managers cannot prevent it. The only way to ensure this does not put a project behind schedule is to plan to work during the seasons when weather like this is less likely to occur. Furthermore, managers must incorporate the probability of weather delays into their overall timeline and add some cushion dates in the projections, so nothing falls behind.
Poor communication, lack of coordination, and conflicts between stakeholders are extremely common and completely avoidable mistakes. One stakeholder may need a certain vessel to complete their portion of the project, but another stakeholder may need to finish their step with that vessel first. If delays with the first occur due to a staff member being sick or lack of organization, it destroys the timeline for all other portions of the project. Every crew working on the project needs to be communicating exactly how much time they need, which pieces of equipment they need, and when they need it in order to ensure a smooth completion of the project.
Material shortages and financial issues have become increasingly relevant due to the supply chain issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many companies had to close for the safety of their employees, and this has led to a shortage in certain materials – especially ones that take several months to procure. This issue can be compounded when the construction project is dealing with items that are increasing in demand like certain safety equipment, construction drones, or heavy construction equipment. Because there are many factors at play with delays caused by equipment shortages, there is not one clear-cut solution. However, planning well in advance and identifying which equipment will be needed at every step will ensure ample time to reserve your equipment and organize who uses it and when.
Worksite injuries, labor shortages, and a lack of qualified employees also go hand in hand with delays to a project’s timeline. When improper training or disregard for safety protocol results in workplace injuries, it not only costs money for medical bills, but it also costs time and labor to replace the injured employee. Especially with employees who operate specialized equipment, having backup replacements for when these employees fall sick or have personal emergencies that prevent them from working will save time and money in the long run.
Though hiring extra employees and investing in planners, emergency managers, and ensuring equipment is rented for longer than is actually needed to seem like expensive and avoidable costs, these steps can actually save money in the long run. Pew Researchers discovered that every extra dollar invested in risk mitigation will save 6 dollars that would have been spent on responding to and recovering from the emergency or setback. Especially for larger-scale projects that lose hundreds of thousands of dollars on wasted time and equipment for every extra day the project is delayed, spending enough beforehand on comprehensive risk mitigation and planning will significantly save money and benefit the company in the long run. Construction projects have a lot of moving parts, and a lot of things can go wrong that are completely out of the control of the project manager. Because of these inevitable risks, managers need to ensure they have prepared properly for and mitigated every risk that IS preventable, like poor communication, workplace injuries, and lack of experienced workers. What can go wrong will go wrong, so ensure that what does not have to go wrong won’t. Invest now to save later.
Durdyev, S., & Hosseini, M. R. (2019). Causes of delays on construction projects: a comprehensive list. International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, 13(1), 20–46. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijmpb-09-2018-0178
Gerardi, J. (2021, December 28). Common Construction Mistakes | ProEst. ProEst. https://proest.com/construction/tips/common-mistakes/
Lightbody, L., & Fuchs, M. (2018, January 11). Every $1 Invested in Disaster Mitigation Saves $6. The Pew Charitable Trusts. https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2018/01/11/every-$1-invested-in-disaster-mitigation-saves-$6