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The challenges of scheduling

June 4, 2019

 We talk to a lot of contractors on a regular basis, and we like to find out what challenges them. We are not trying to stir the pot and make them think of something annoying, but to see if we can help. Contractors repeatedly tell us scheduling is the most frustrating aspect of their job. This is what Jesse Aguirre, president of Millennium Interiors in Pottstown, Pa., told us: “As a subcontractor, there is a demand to be ready when the job is ready for us. This is such a big challenge. Because if a schedule is behind, we are the ones who have to play catch up. We have to rearrange other projects to fit something else in. It happens all the time.”

There isn’t much a manufacturer can personally do to improve jobsite schedules—except for ensuring our representatives and technical team are offering support when it is needed. And we need to make sure our products are available and at jobsite on time. We also offer the following tips to contractors to help ease some of the scheduling woes. 

Get organized. Project managers are central to scheduling and organization. They need to keep daily tasks running, and they need to look forward to anticipate the weeks ahead. If you feel like you are always scrambling, maybe you need to hire a project manager who can keep you on task. 

Review documents. By the time a project start date approaches, you should know all the details. Give general contractors feedback if you notice an error or discrepancy. You are not insulting them by doing so—you are saving time. General contractors also should share a master schedule so each phase of the project is understood. This will ensure products are ordered and available in a timely manner. 

Be realistic. We all need a certain amount of time to complete our jobs. If a general contractor isn’t giving you enough time to finish your work, tell him. The person putting together a schedule needs to understand each trade and how long install will take. Sometimes they make assumptions (or they are hoping you can work faster), and this sets you up for failure.

Have a contingency plan. Weather or delays affect almost every job. Have a plan b and c available to figure out how your crew will get the job done. Offering overtime, pulling an extra crew member or having an earlier start time if allowed by municipal code are all ways to keep a job moving. 

Communication is key. When frustrations arise, the instinct can be to shut down. The only way through a challenge is communication. Your role is not to bend over backward for someone who messed up, but you do need to be adaptable and a problem solver. This skill will keep your crews moving and will keep general contractors calling you with more work. 

Look back. After a job is done, review everything that happened. Look for ways to improve, or highlight aspects that went really well. This will help you make future projects more successful. 

Some contractors say there is nothing you can do about scheduling. You just have to take the frustration and figure it out. In some ways that is true because you do have to problem solve and move on. But there are ways to make the path to a completed job smooth and less annoying. Aguirre says he wouldn’t have a company today if he wasn’t adaptable. Combine that with a few more tips and tricks, and maybe scheduling will become less of a headache for him and other contractors.

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