Construction Site Errors: Why Bad News Early On Can Be Good Information



Category:   -  Published by: Behtash Abdi

So many things can go wrong on a job site, and the more complex the project, the more likely you are to encounter an unpleasant surprise. As much as your construction team might try to predict issues down the line, surprises are bound to happen. While you might see some of them coming before they happen, the most important thing is to be ready with a plan B to face them. In this piece, Canam’s experts discuss how receiving bad news early on can actually be an advantage!


How timing can turn bad news into useful information

When you are in the business of installing steel structures, the success of your project doesn’t just depend on how well you can execute the job on-site. You will also need an in-depth knowledge of the project requirements, even before you detail the very first anchor bolts.


Concrete elevations, anchor bolt locations, and concrete core locations will directly impact the installation. Some of these components are within your control and can therefore be coordinated efficiently, but what about mother nature? Like high winds or freezing temperatures. 


When the forecast says it might rain but the sky is clear and sunny, you pack a jacket anyway – this is called being solutions-oriented and having a plan B.


Construction isn’t any different. Seeking information, crafting solutions in advance, and having the ability to make the right call are factors that can make or break a project.


A matter of centimeters (and communication!)

Let’s say you’re installing a column that weighs about 16,000 lb with 3″ thick baseplates on 12 anchor bolts. If just one of those anchor bolts is off by 10 mm, the column cannot be installed. Some might say, let’s burn a hole in the baseplate and make it fit. We say, let’s take a closer look. The crane has already hoisted the column once, so there goes the crane, the operator, the rigger, and three ironworkers’ time. Costs add up very quickly, and at this point, the column hasn’t even been fixed yet. 


While mistakes can sometimes be resolved on-site, that option isn’t necessarily cheap. You still need to stop what you’re doing, which impacts the schedule. You also might need to get engineers, detailers, additional welders, or other experts involved, which increases costs of the construction and triggers delays. 


drone view canam's construction site


Sometimes, mistakes – if they’re not caught at all – can jeopardize a job site’s safety and turn into a catastrophe. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent such mistakes from happening.


If the locations of those anchor bolts had been surveyed and communicated to the detailing team before being put in the shop, all of those extra steps could have been avoided, as the column would have been detailed and fabricated to fit. 


The value of keeping an eye out

On one of our projects, a Canam construction manager noticed that the wrong wire-mesh gauge was brought on-site: after looking at the tags by accident, they realized the sheets were well below the required engineered capacity. In the hopes of saving money, the contractor had shipped these sheets from a different job site, and we were now in a bind.


By the time this error was discovered, a few floors had already been poured. Thankfully, our team took quick action by reinforcing the floors before anything bad happened. But this situation raises an important question: what if this mistake had never been caught?


What if the construction manager hadn’t caught a glimpse of the wire-mesh tag? 


Mistakes are a fact of life – but if they’re caught well in advance, the construction plans, methods, and approaches can be adjusted to suit the new conditions. As a result, the project will be safer and more efficient, while eliminating finger-pointing among trades.


What steps can you take to detect mistakes early on?

According to the experts at Canam, while reactiveness creates chaos and disorder, a proactive approach can eliminate surprises and excuses.

Here are our top recommendations for detecting mistakes as soon as possible. 

  • Evaluate the site, identifying hazards, obstacles, and concerns well in advance.
  • Understand the scope of your work, as well as the trades before and after you.
  • Establish a clear line of communication between trades so everyone stays on the same page and is able to raise a flag whenever necessary.
  • Collaborate with firms that are familiar with design assist, an approach that gets your partners involved during the early stages of a project. Using their expertise, skills, education, and experience, they can help you establish the best and most efficient approach for your project. Partners who offer this service and prioritize collaboration often have a plan B, C, and D in place, so as long as you keep them in the loop, they will be ready with solutions.
  • Use modern project management methods such as the Last Planner System (LPS), which is a cornerstone of the modern construction industry (i.e. design-build projects). LPS implements a pull planning method, as opposed to push planning, by getting trades involved before they even set foot on-site. This ensures no stone is left unturned and helps identify any potential errors or obstacles early on.
  • Always survey and check the work completed by previous trades – not to point fingers, but to be prepared for the unexpected with a solution.
  • Be consistent with post mortems and share the lessons you have learned: pass on key knowledge to better prepare your team and collaborators for future projects.
  • Kick off the next project by reviewing the issues encountered previously and keep track of how they were addressed and rectified. 

Construction mistakes have always been – and will continue to be – a part of this industry. However, a mix of proactiveness, open communication, and detailed coordination are the recipe for a worry-free project.

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