Let’s talk about lag. Not the lag you plan for when you’re project sequencing - that would be too easy. We’re talking about the frustrating delays associated with managing remote projects.
Does this scenario sound familiar?
There’s a lag in there. A big one. A failed compaction test is definitely NOT how you want to learn of possible material issues from 4 days ago.
With a deadline looming, you get a call from one of your foremen to inform you that the current phase of the project failed the compaction test. How can that be? The popular consensus on site is the trucks that came on the weekend brought the wrong size crush for the base. You attempt to locate the haul slips but they haven’t come into the office yet. The foreman reports aren’t in yet either so you don’t even know which trucking company was hauling. The project manager that dispatched the crews on the weekend is golfing in Palm Springs so you’re not sure which labourers or operators were on site Saturday. Armed with only the contact list on your phone, you start making calls.
Lags exist at three pivotal stages in the problem solving process. They are hard to avoid but once you identify them, they present unique opportunities to implement new processes that can markedly increase efficiency.
First Lag: Recognition
The first lag is the time it takes for someone to notice that there is a problem. Seems obvious, but problem identification is notoriously challenging for many reasons. In some instances, lack of experience can contribute to recognition lag. If particular crew members are green or the project includes new procedures that have never been implemented before, it will be unlikely that issues are recognized immediately.
Another barrier to awareness can be the sheer volume of information that is generated daily on large projects. Collecting and analyzing the data takes time. Sometimes reports are not produced frequently enough to alert management to issues.
Projects are always going to present challenges like the one in the scenario above. But imagine if you had the ability to see the haul slips as soon as the loads arrive. You would have been able to eliminate the recognition lag time and immediately rectify the material issue, preventing the failed inspection all together. A digital system can provide real-time insight into what is happening on your sites. Heck, Chad could even check it from Palm Springs.
Second Lag: Administrative
Ok, now that you know there’s a problem onsite, you’ll just fix it and get back to business as usual, right?
The rectification can’t happen until you are 100% certain of what went wrong in the first place. Otherwise, any solution could just be a shot in the dark. And as a wise woman once said, ain’t nobody got time for that.
An administration lag is the time it takes from when a problem is identified, to the moment a solution is ready to deploy. The length of an administration lag is determined by many factors, including the quantity and quality of information you have to base your decisions on. Depending on what issue has arisen or incident has occurred, accessing all the pertinent details could be a nightmare.
Verbal communication and third-person recollection from workers are not your friend at this point. The most easily accessed, indisputable information should be found in the job file, as long as it’s accurate and up-to-date.
As the news of the failed inspection spreads on the jobsite, theories and assumptions begin to sprout like weeds. Was it the wrong material? How much water was put on? Did the vibrator on the roller ever get fixed right?
You could follow up on each of these "helpful" hints through texts, phone calls and second-hand stories, or you could check the data through your construction management software. Trucking tickets for gravel and water at your fingertips. Maintenance records and parts invoices from the roller maintenance dated last week. Suddenly, your administrative lag is no match for cold, hard facts. Shazam.
The Final Lag: Impact
You’ve been battling for hours to mitigate the issue on your jobsite and avoid going over budget. You caught the issue, formulated the most direct, cost effective solution and now you’re ready to watch the magic happen.
But, nothing’s happening.
Welcome to impact lag. The time it takes from the moment a solution is implemented to the moment it begins to take effect is based on many factors. There are instances where patience is the only course of action (or, inaction) but in certain cases, impact lag can alert you to operational inefficiencies or barriers to effective communication. Are there up-to-date drawings on site at all times? Is the necessary equipment on site? Are you able to receive instant feedback or is there a dreaded lag again? These cases provide an opportunity to improve the processes that you have control over and reduce future impact lag times.
The best thing to do while you closely monitor your field operations to ensure that you are back on track is to formulate a Plan B, and maybe even a Plan C. Just in case. Don’t get caught in another recognition lag here - a digital link to your field operations will keep you on the pulse of the project.
The bottom line: Communication of information means lag cost elimination. Added bonus: it rhymes!
Lags make the process of recognizing an issue, formulating the best solution, and executing a remedial plan time consuming and rife with profit leakage points. You’re a boss at solving problems, but you need information that’s consistent, relevant and accurate. Aimsio can provide digital links between the office and field operations that make communication fast and efficient. Lags don’t stand a chance.