Top 3 Challenges of COVID-19 in Construction And How To Navigate Them

During this unprecedented upheaval of our economy and more specifically, the construction industry in general, it is very important to use the weeks ahead to plan for what is likely to be a very challenging phase of your business.  The fact is that this pandemic will remedy itself eventually and, once it does, the floodgates are going to open in a hurry.  This means that any job that is currently shut down is going to be on an accelerated time frame.  The old adage “stuff rolls down hill” is going to be very much front and center and those that are going to bear the worst of it are the subcontractors, specifically the MEP contractors.

  Let’s take a look at 3 key challenges ahead and discuss how to minimize risk for each:

1: Job Timelines “May” Be Extended…

The key word here is “may”.  No one really knows and even if you have a rock solid contract that awards you some level of protection, you must be cognizant that there is always loopholes.  That is why you must use this time to really plan for any and every challenge that you are likely to face.  Take each job and plan out the worst case scenario (no extension of deadlines) and determine the best course of action to minimize the effect on your company.  This means that the productivity of your jobsite is going to be paramount to your success.  You must first understand exactly how complete each job is, what is left to do and how long that is going to take.  Are you ahead of the game right now?  Are you 10% behind?  Take an inventory from a labor standpoint and work from that.  You can read more about the JPM standard and JPAC® here.  This productivity measurement tool is the only tool recognized by ASTM as the correct way to measure and improve productivity in construction.   Also, you must keep in mind that your backlog likely will not be pushing their deadlines so all of this will likely result in massive time and resource drain in the coming months, especially if you have a solid amount of work that is ready to kick off in April/May.

2: Material Availability is Likely To Be Limited:

Strategic thinking and planning is critical right now as we are in the midst of this crisis.  Keeping that in mind, one factor that is very likely to cause issues moving forward is going to be material availability.  Think about the downstream effect of the entire world grinding to a halt, albeit if only for a few weeks.  The supply chain is going to be disrupted, so now is the time to plan for material that you are going to need in the upcoming weeks/months.  Don’t delay and wait for jobs to reopen like all of your peers likely will do.  Use this time to reach out to your vendors, discuss availability with them and plan for the upcoming weeks and months along with them. Getting in line now is likely to pay off in a big way as we come out of this crisis and get back to work.

3: Document To Protect Yourself:

For those jobs that are not shut down, some or most are likely to be experiencing productivity loss, heavy absenteeism, schedule issues and a plethora of other critical issues.  Do not let these be lost as they can mean the difference between potential reimbursement, litigation avoidance, etc.  Using Short Interval Scheduling or SIS®, General Foremen can log the schedule for the day for their team and capture obstacles that derail their daily schedule.  This is critical right now as there is likely to be much more disruption during this crisis than normal.  Using detailed reason codes and capturing pictures and accurate notes, your team can effectively protect themselves if things do fall behind because of factors directly related to the pandemic.

Proper Planning Is Key to Success in Times Like These

As contractors, we are used to working through challenging times and this is no different.  By using this time to critically think through the challenges ahead, we can protect ourselves and our employees from the possibility of heavy layoffs, or even worse.  The companies that take this time to plan the weeks and months ahead and have full visibility and understanding of the challenges are going to be the ones that not only survive this pandemic, but thrive in the months and years to come.  WEM® in partnership with the great minds at MCA, inc. are here to help navigate those challenges and would be happy to provide guidance during this difficult time.

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