The Nuts and Bolts of Fast Track Build Outs: 5 Keys To Quick Project Success

blueprintsFast Track build outs present real challenges for today’s builders. Transforming, remodeling or renovating space on a tight schedule requires skilled, comprehensive supervision. Coordinating resources, manpower and supplies can be a logistical challenge.

There’s a common misconception that Fast Track build outs may necessarily require large budgets. However, short time frame projects can actually cost you less money than similar build outs with more generous schedules – if you have a project manager who knows how to navigate the challenges of a compressed schedule.

Here are 5 Keys to Fast Track Build Out Project Success.

  1. Success Starts With The Schedule
    Strong organizational skills are an essential element of any successful construction project. When you’re planning a Fast Track build out, operating on a short or accelerated time frame, then organization becomes even more critical. The compressed schedule means there’s no time for anything to be overlooked or miscalculated. At the same time, you need to make sure that budgetary resources are being used appropriately and the space constraints of the site are taken into account. Smart scheduling avoids bringing in more sub-contractors than can work on the build out at any one time, reducing costly downtime.

Managing Fast Track build outs requires an almost maniacal focus on the timeline. Making sure the job is done on time and on budget becomes easier when a two-week look ahead period is implemented. This allows potential problems to be identified and resolved before they occur. Special focus is needed on the critical path items because any delays here can significantly impact the entire project. Back up and contingency plans for every critical path item need to be crafted during the planning stage to allow for immediate implementation if needed.

  • Procurement Protocols: Be Aware of Long Lead Items
    Fast Track build outs are scheduled in hours, not days. There is no margin for error. Ensuring your Fast Track build out is completed on time and budget means ensuring all needed materials arrive on site and on time. Understand and review all suppliers’ shipping schedules. Identify opportunities to expedite the process, such as utilizing third party delivery methods that may be faster than a supplier’s ability to meet your needs. Any costs incurred, in terms of time or resources, will be more than offset by the efficiency realized as a result of your initiative and flexibility.

Long lead items, such as standard or special finishes, lighting or mechanical fixtures, or custom built cabinetry, can wreak havoc on a Fast Track build. It is not at all unusual for special orders to take longer than promised – and when you don’t have days to wait, that’s a problem! Explore options: pre-purchasing long lead items or taking advantage of expedited shipping can solve problems before they start!

Monitoring progress on long lead items, particularly as they become relevant to the critical path, is essential. Contingency plans, including alternative suppliers and materials, should be crafted during the planning stage. This way, if changes need to be made in order to have the build completed on time, all of the time consuming leg work and approvals have already been done.

Make sure your entire team understands how rapid procurement procedures will lead to Fast Track build success.

Having the project architects and engineers commit to a 24-48 hour turnaround time on all procurement submittals, while the contractor pushes submittals from the sub contractors, can make a vast difference in delivering a Fast Track project on time.

  • Know Your Sub Contractor’s Capabilities
    Fast Track build outs place special demands upon your sub-contractors. The ability to deliver quality work on a short time frame is contingent upon your sub contractors having adequate manpower, resources, and infrastructure to support your project’s needs. Nothing will throw a project off track like a sub contractor who is a problem maker, rather than a problem solver, on a project when they run into difficulties they hadn’t anticipated. Avoid this by selecting sub contractors who possess the ability and resources to deliver for you. Ideally, your sub contractors will have extensive experience working on similar projects. A proven track record on Fast Track build out projects can provide some measure of confidence in your sub contractors, but the need for diligent supervision and clear communication remain.

During the selection process, keep the requirements of the Fast Track build out in mind when making your choices. Assess potential sub contractors critically and objectively. They must be capable and available. All other considerations are secondary.

  • Communication: Start Strong and Keep Talking
    Once the schedule has been crafted and aligned, the next step is to ensure that all parties on the project are aware of it. A Kick Off meeting, stressing the short time frame, key deadlines, and project requirements, is an essential way to start the job. All trades should be included. After reviewing the schedule, make sure to invite questions and clarify any points that may cause confusion.

As the project moves forward, weekly meetings should be held with those sub contractors currently working on critical path items. The two-week look ahead concept should play a pivotal role in these meetings. Discuss and assess not only what is happening on the build now, but what the situation is likely to be in two weeks.

The goal is always to be thinking ahead, in order to identify opportunities to save time. For example, addressing obvious punch list items well ahead of completion will limit the number of tasks left to be done at substantial completion. When every day matters, this can be a significant differentiator. The ability to anticipate and prepare for challenges before they occur is one of the defining qualities that separates successful Fast Track build outs from jobs that don’t finish on time or budget.

Documentation is also critical, both to provide a record of events in case of difficulties and to serve as reference to guide future projects of a similar size or scope. For this reason, minutes should be taken at all meetings.

  • Trust But Verify
    During the sub-contractor selection process, every effort should be made to select those companies with proven track records of excellence. However, the project manager’s responsibility does not stop with the selection of sub-contractors. Be diligent and aware as the build progresses.

Sub contractors get into trouble when they fail to supply enough skilled workers to get the job done right. Check the situation on your Fast Track build out daily. Are your sub-contractors providing enough man power to get the job done within the project’s tight time frame? Any shortage or misalignments should be addressed and rectified immediately.

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