Do You Know Where Your Project Stands?

By October 3, 2019Uncategorized

The crackle of dried fall leaves, warm sweatshirts and a crisp breeze always brings me surges of energy as the feeling of fall is in the air. It is truly my favorite time of the year and not just for the homemade pumpkin muffins.

While I love basking in the fall weather, all too often this time of year I find job sites are bogged down with unneeded stress. Weather delays, material shortages and near panic on timelines have site owners wondering if their project will finish before the snow flies and icicles dangle from the roof tops.

Material delays and shortages are one of the biggest reasons for project delays. Often these delays can push jobs into a high-cost, high-risk time frame where installers battle to keep from losing money due to elongated project time-lines. Installers move to time and material (T&M) charges while project quality is compromised as welders work between the snowflakes in cold weather to complete their projects.

This type of UNNECESSARY stress was all too prevalent when I performed an audit for one of our clients. As part of the audit, I sat silently through the weekly progress meeting and listened while the installer stated they did not know how much of the original material ordered had arrived on-site!  They were months into this multi-million-dollar high profile project spanning more than 100 acres. If this had been a novice installer I might not have been as frustrated but as a very qualified installer this was shocking. To complicate this matter, a significant portion of material was being rejected by the QA firm, and subsequently replaced by the manufacturer. To make the matter even worse, from an owner perspective, the CQA firm also had no clue on whether the rolls showing up on site were for the original order or part of the replacement! The owner could be paying for more material than they needed, or find themselves in a shortage situation near the end of the project as they bought directly from the manufacturer – either way, the owner’s project was unnecessarily at risk.

Thankfully this stress can be mitigated through project management processes. Throughout the year, I receive numerous questions about managing projects, from both a field and office perspective, and from the entire spectrum of services – contractors & installers, engineers & technicians, and owners & owners’ representatives. One of my first responses is that at any given time, someone (ideally more than one person) should, upon request, be able to provide a quick summary of the status of the project.

Summaries seem so simple. For example, a checkbook register is a simple log of bank account transactions but the simple data collected is actually very important to how we operate. If the data is kept current and accurate, we can make informed, healthy decisions; however, if data is lagging or inaccurate, we can end up in a whole mess of compounding trouble.

I will share some of the data we might typically collect for weekly summaries to keep projects running smoothly.

Earthwork Summary
  • Volume of material placed
  • Map of areas where fill is placed
  • Approved borrow material used to date and amounts remaining
  • Problems encountered
  • Corrective measures
  • Quantities of materials placed
  • Quantities of materials remaining
  • Map of areas where geosynthetics have been installed (progression)
  • As-built sketches for daily deployment layouts
  • Total geomembrane seam footage by weld type
  • Destructive test failure rates
  • Quantity of repairs performed and tested
  • Problems encountered
  • Corrective measures

If the project contains piping, then relevant data may include lengths of materials welded, quantity of pipe remaining, length of pipe installed, number of welds, number of rejected welds, problems encountered, corrective measures and so forth.

By now, I am sure you get the idea. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to track information from construction projects in real-time – simply put, you can make immediate decisions that can increase the quality of the project, or even temporarily stop the project if necessary. However, collecting the data is not enough – that data then needs to be extrapolated to understand how it might impact the project. Why you ask? Let’s look at key take-aways for items on the above geosynthetics list:

Quantity of Materials Placed
  • Data Collected: Actual square footage/acres of material installed by material type and number of days actually worked by installation team (preferably by material type).
  • Data Evaluation: Determine physical production rates of the installation crew. Then project remaining good weather days needed to complete the project. This assessment will aid in decision making processes such as: is the project is going to finish on time and whether other steps may need to be taken such as: mobilization of an additional crew(s) to help speed things up, working night-shift, expanded schedules, cold weather protocols required (tents, heating, shift changes) etc.
  • This data is also important in determining Quantity of Materials Remaining!
Quantity of Materials Remaining
  • Data Collected: Full roll quantities of all materials being utilized on site including welding rod, bentonite and thread.
  • Data Evaluation: The amount of material deployed should be compared to the amount ordered and the amounts remaining. Then an assessment can be made to whether there will be any material shortages encountered which could cause significant project delays.
  • Waste factors can also be determined from this data, which is important in determining if the remaining material supply will be adequate and if not, what was the cause of a material shortage. If there was a shortage, was the estimate wrong, was a field error encountered (anchor trench excavated in wrong location or to wrong dimensions), or is it an inexperienced contractor just wasting material?
  • If material is being wasted and a shortage will occur, understanding how/why this happened is important to understanding if there is a way to mitigate the situation and who is fiscally responsible for the cost of additional material.
  • Typically, as the construction season moves forward material lead times increase, so a fall project with a material shortage or delay may end up with their construction delayed to the following year. These types of delays can range from minor inconveniences for site owners to revenue damaging operational inefficiencies.
Map of Installed Geosynthetics
  • Data Collected: This data is a simple boundary of installed components on a plan view of the work area (ideally accurately scaled). There can be multiple maps for multiple layers. For instance, a geomembrane map on the plan view of the top of clay drawing, and a subsequent map showing drainage composite placement on top of the geomembrane overlain with a map showing progress of the drainage aggregate placement. These maps should have dates showing the boundaries for each day of placement.
  • Data Evaluation: This is a quick visual check of the installed quantities. It also helps understand the flow of the project as well as identifying potential cogs that can cause delays and/or become a costly problem.
  • How much of the finished subgrade is covered or remains open? Accurate field drawings can help Project Managers make sure that there is a balance between prepared subgrade and deployment rates. Too much open subgrade with pending bad weather may be a reason to have a second crew come to help cover the subgrade in a timely manner or an installer may need to move into blackout mode to protect the open subgrade. Knowing the status of the project in real time helps mitigate damages and delays.
  • How much area is available to the earthwork contractor for cover/drainage material placement? Dates on the maps go a long way toward mitigating arguments between contractors over whether or not an area was ready at a certain time.
Daily As-Built of Geomembrane Installation
  • Data Collected: Drawing of the panels as they were deployed with panel numbers, repairs, roll numbers, destructs and tick marks for completed seaming and completed non-destructive tests.
  • Data Evaluation: This drawing provides the best visual way to confirm that panels, seams, non-destructive testing, destructive testing, and repairs have been performed. In a manner of minutes, a quick scan of the as-built can show work that needs to be completed. When rushing to button up a liner system before heavy rains, those few minutes of review might save thousands of dollars. In the bigger picture, it can be easy to miss a partial seam being completed or a destruct being properly capped if the crew is moving quickly. This type of quick double check is invaluable to ensuring a completed project.
  • Allows an assessment of seam quality – a bunch of breaks on a single seam warrants evaluation. It might be prudent to remove and replace the seam to increase the quality, especially if located in a sensitive area such as near the sump.
    • A bunch of breaks on every seam definitely warrants further evaluation to identify the root cause. If there is an issue with equipment or the installer, then changes can be addressed early on in the project. Sometimes this evaluation has led to the discovery that there is a material issue and in some cases the project material has had to be replaced.
Total Seamed Footages of Geomembrane by Weld Type
  • Data Collected: The total footages of all welding by type of welding. Note that this information is generally compiled from daily individual welding records based on operator/machine combinations to ensure equal dispersion of destructive samples among operator/machine combinations.
  • Data Evaluation: Used in conjunction with the daily as-built sketch, can ensure all seams are accounted for in the daily footage, which is essential for proper destructive testing coverage.
    • On large projects, there is a good chance subsequent materials will be placed in short order behind geosynthetics, so missing destructive test samples can become a costly nightmare.
Destructive Test Failure Rates
  • Data Collected: The total number of destructs sorted by weld type and the number of passing and failing samples.
  • Data Evaluation: Important for determining if the failure rate is excessive and if excessive, implementing appropriate remedial actions in a timely manner.
  • Allows failures of specific interfaces to be monitored as well (textured/textured, smooth/smooth, and textured/smooth).
Quantity of Repairs Performed and Tested
  • Data Collected: Total number of repairs with repair footages.
  • Data Evaluated: Each repair is typically an inferior weld method, especially regarding polyethylene liners. Therefore, an excessive amount of repairs (such as from blemishes, panel blowouts, welding, or carelessness) may warrant replacing the impacted area to increase the overall quality. It could also warrant removing the crew.
  • Knowing the number of repairs and the number tested repairs ensures none are missed.
  • Total footages for repairs need to be included with total seaming quantities to ensure adequate destructive test coverage.
Problems Encountered
  • It is always good for internal reporting to include any problems encountered in the field. This allows the ability to learn from the problems and hopefully move forward (this project and/or future projects) successfully mitigating the problem.
Corrective Measures to Problems Encountered
  • Equally important as listing problems is notating their resolution. While resolutions may or may not seem significant to the current project, preventing them from happening on future projects is key to reducing costs and helping ensure timelines are met.

Because of the amount of questions I have received in regard to weekly summaries, I am attaching a sample of the weekly summary that I use for geosynthetics projects. It can be modified as needed for different materials and to capture different information. This sample is from a dual-containment system geosynthetics installation.

It has been an exciting and busy summer and with the start of fall, I am looking forward to again having time to share thoughts and industry happenings with you!

As always, please feel free to send me feedback. I always enjoy hearing from people who read this blog!