Imagine being given the task of managing a 500,000-hour job scheduled to take place over the course of four years. Most contractors and electricians would jump for joy if they landed a project of this magnitude. An undertaking of this scope, however, carries with it a myriad of challenges and complexities. To help you realize the many factors involved in such a large project, let’s analyze and review a job that IES Commercial secured in 2009.

Put simply, a large job is really a group of small ones strung together. Nevertheless, this particular $65 million endeavor was greater than the annual revenue of 90% of all the electrical contractors in the United States and Canada. Managing such an enormous project requires extraordinary skill and know-how. Day-to-day challenges on a variety of issues include:

  • Resources — in this case, an unknown labor force
  • Schedules
  • Purchases
  • Billing and cash flow
  • Productivity
  • Subcontractors
  • General contractors
  • Turnover
  • Substance abuse
  • Cost
  • Lack of visibility at the task level
  • Coordination with other trades
  • Material price escalations
  • Job-site logistics, including tool and material movement.

The required tools for management and mitigation of the technical, business, and integration risks have to be in place, trusted, and used if you want to safely navigate the difficulties of such work. In addition, plans for organizational structure, reporting structure, information flow, and other elements must be made. Although the tendency of many contractors is to treat this type of project as “a typical job,” this mind-set can lead to major problems and financial loss. Let’s review the processes and procedures that were used in this example to manage the risks and potential pitfalls.

Setting the Stage

Because this particular electrical project stretched over four years, it would be tempting to compare it to working on four individual $16.25 million projects per year — but it’s not that simple. The difference on this project was that supporting infrastructure had to be shared with all other projects running simultaneously.

To organize this massive job for daily, weekly, monthly, and annual management — in addition to the traditional project and cost tracking tools — we set out to add quality and integration tools to assure continuous monitoring and correction during the job progress. Mitigation of the risks was clearly divided between:

  1. Technical Risks, which are electrically driven, such as: Code; inspection; design (including architectural, structural, and MEP systems); installation requirements; durability testing and QA/QC; contamination testing; electrician’s knowledge; as-builts; and submittals.

    The above risks were managed with industry-standard procedures, processes, and tools.

  2. Business Risks, which are monetary in nature, such as: invoicing; timesheets; material purchases; subcontractor’s payments; bonding; insurance; change orders; cash management; project organization structure and personnel; and profitability.The above risks were managed with IES’s existing business and financial management systems.

  3. Integration Risk, which is defined as bringing and aligning all of the pertinent elements needed to install the job, such as manpower, material, and money.

These risks possess the most critical and unknown factors during the progress of any large or small project. Any mishaps at the intersection of the three elements listed above are due to integration risk. These included but were not limited to:

  • Coordination with other trades for design, layout, and physical work space
  • Scheduling of work
  • Reporting on work and quality of work
  • Response to changes onsite
  • Material problems, including logistics, and lay down areas
  • Managing requirements of the daily work, the entire project, the company, and the environment, such as the general contractor, engineers, and architect/owner.

Managing the Work

Work Environment Management™ (WEM) was the tool used to manage the integration risk throughout this project. WEM relies primarily on usage of the newly developed ASTM standard for construction Job Productivity Measurement (ASTM E2691) as a feedback mechanism (see “Measuring Productivity in Construction” from the March 2011 issue of EC&M or visit http://ecmweb.com/training/measuring-productivity-construction).

Starting with the project schedule, the following elements of integration were set in place:

  • General’s scheduled-plan (GSP)
  • Work breakdown structure (WBS)
  • Job productivity measurement (JPM) — Set up, usage, and reporting
  • Electrical scheduled-plan (ESP)
  • Three-week look-ahead scheduled plan
  • Short interval scheduling™ (SIS) — set up, usage, and reporting
  • Change management process and protocol.

For this article, we’ll explain IES’s approach to setting the elements in place for managing the integration risk of this project.