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For Pete’s sake, learn how to scoop the peanut butter!

By July 7, 2016 Uncategorized


Oh the yummy joys of a freshly cracked open jar of Creamy Jif! A heaping spoonful is pure peanut butter nirvana! The smell. The taste. The texture. Divine!

The trouble is that all too often that initial yummy goodness is ravaged by poor peanut butter handling. After all, much like running a containment project, peanut butter handling does not come with instructions!

It is completely understandable that in your anxiety to taste the peanut butter, you might hastily rip off that foil barrier and toss it aside, but unless you are looking to eat the whole jar immediately, you have made a classic mistake. Air is the enemy!

While losing the freshness barrier is bad, it certainly is not as grievous as gouging the peanut butter.

Gouging PB is just WRONG! It is messy, gross to look at and it ruins the PB. Please stop!

I always scope my peanut butter at a 45-degree angle.

You’ve paid money for that jar of peanut butter and every bite should be satisfying. The very minute you stab your knife into the center of the jar and whack out a chunk of peanut butter, you have begun the process of the destroying the quality and flavor. Every stab of the knife will cost you layers of that yummy flavor. Oh the sin!

All too often, construction project start-ups remind me of those gouged jars of peanut butter. The design criteria, the project specs, the material manufacturer’s guidelines, the installers’ manual and common sense have suddenly become a mixed-up mess that is somehow supposed to produce a continuous quality but often fail to yield the desired results.

I always scope my peanut butter at a 45-degree angle. This process ensures my jar stays clean, the peanut butter is smooth and the amount of peanut exposed to air is minimized. Likewise, I have learned the great value of bring a systematic approach to the start of a new project.

Over the years of my career, I can in all honesty state that the preparation for the pre-construction meeting is one of the most important stages in yielding successful field construction projects. This phase requires a systematic approach that brings all of the components of the project into one unified construction plan.

All too often, I have seen project managers throw all of the key documents into a bundle and expect that the bundle will miraculously self-sort itself into a consistent framework for project quality. The result: arguments ensue between contractor and engineer pertaining to project details that should have been worked out well before the project started; constructability issues become apparent, unfortunately during construction instead of during a peer review prior to project start; delays occur, and quality is compromised.

Engineering, manufacturing and materials testing are all important aspects of projects but these various aspects must be brought together with a solid understanding of how projects are actually constructed in the field and the challenges that these projects face in real world construction.

For instance, rain is a reality for most projects but very few projects have preset protocols for rain events. If an installer has to move into “blackout mode” to protect subgrade, what procedures are in place to assure that sped-up seaming is correctly addressed once the rain event has ended? What, if anything is done to ensure any temporary seams or repairs are properly replaced/repaired? What happens when the installer changes their mind about the seams being temporary?

Destructive seam sampling is another example of a common gray area. Sure, your specifications state that there must be 1 sample taken for every 500 linear feet of welding but what does this really mean? Does that specification apply to every machine/operator combination? Is the specification to be interpreted per day, or cumulative for the project? What method of determining the location of the sample is to be used, such as simply measuring every 500’ as sampling progresses and marking samples there, or allowing flexibility in sampling to account for suspect areas and avoiding sensitive areas like sumps, etc.?

I know from experience that interpretation of specifications is different between different owners, engineers, technicians, installers, and that the same applies to any of the documents used as a basis for construction. Simply put, it is important to make sure everyone is on the same page before construction starts. 

I could give countless, real-life examples of needless confrontations, delays, and costs associated with items that could and should have been addressed in a pre-construction (pre-con) meeting.

Rather than continue the list of my examples, I have attached a sample Pre-con checklist for geosynthetic project managers to help build a systematic framework for project start-ups. Download it here.

To all of my industry co-workers, I lift my jar of peanut butter and wish for projects that run as smooth as the top of my peanut butter!

Please note this is in no way a paid endorsement of Jif, it’s just one of my personal peanut butter preferences. (No compensation has been offered or accepted).

Photo: Mike Mozart

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