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4Delay management

Title: Delay Management in a Construction Management

Table of Contents

3Research problem

3Background and justification

4Research questions

4Literature review

6Time wastage

6Approaches to tackling delays

10Conclusion and further research


Research problem

When undertaking construction projects, delays and disruptions are a major source of risks and loss. The successful construction project is supposed to be kept within the timeframe given. According to Assaf and Al-Hejji (2006), this makes it possible to avoid high costs and loss associated with construction delays. To the dislike of the consultants and contractors, a lot of projects face delays which lead to an increase of the initial costs. The delay of the construction projects can be caused by poor management practices and unforeseen calamities such as bad weather. Construction project is made up of an array of activities which are interdependent which makes it a challenge to manage. The main causes of delays are; labour strikes, third party, poor planning, change of orders, utilities, site condition and contractor errors (Odeh and Battaineh, 2002). Although not all types of delays can be corrected, it is possible to manage others through enhancing management accountabilities (Alwi and Hampson, 2003). The aim of this study is to recommend management strategies that can be used in minimizing delays in the construction industry. This is through looking at literature in the project management.

Background and justification

High loss due to construction projects delays

Construction projects leads to high loss when there are delays. The client is made to cater for the loss in most cases. The main client in the construction industry is the government who suffers high costs due to delays which leads to extension of project time and estimated costs. This cost is then transferred to the citizens through taxes. This is very common when the traditional form of contract is used where tender is given to the lowest cost bidder. In most of developing countries, traditional contract is highly used (Odeh and Battaineh, 2002). The total cost of project delay can be high and hard to estimate in some cases. Edmondson (2016) claims that US 281 project in San Antonio is a project that led to massive costs due to delays. The expansion project faced a lot of delays leading to high costs due to lawsuits. In 2005, the project costs were $83, 653101. The costs eliminating the lawsuits for the same year were $7 million. Today, the project costs about $2.5 million more compared to value at 2005 (Edmondson, 2016). This shows that construction delay is a major cause of additional costs. The high costs justifies for a research on ways which construction delays can be minimized through management. In Madison USA, project delay for the four major state highways led to an accumulated overruns in excess of $700 million (Edmondson, 2016). This is another proof that delays are major cost for the taxpayers. When delays cause a project to be paused, chances of labour and materials can rise (Alwi and Hampson, 2003). All these issues associated with delay of construction project calls for a research to looks for ways of minimizing delays in construction industry.

Research questions

  • How can the main causes of delays in construction projects minimised?

  • How can minimal impact on cost be attained in case of project delay?

  • Which is the most recommendable strategy to reduce delays in the construction industry?

Literature review

A construction project is a high risk activity and involves a lot of cost. To produce the final product, it involves a set of activities which have to be carried out to come up with the final product. For a construction project to be judged as successful, it has to meet the criteria based on cost, safety and time. Delay is a major problem that faces projects and varies from one project to another (Sambasivan and Soon, 2007). This has been experienced in a lot of projects leading to problems. An occurrence of a disruption may lead to a delay hence adverse impact on the final objectives. In most countries, construction sector is one of the biggest and most affected by delays (Fugar and Agyakwah-Baah, 2010).

In the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, construction industry is huge and has the highest value in the region. This makes it critical to look at the ways in which costs can be minimised through reducing delays. In 2013 the country had various construction projects which were valued at US$30 billion. This is a sector that contributes to 4.5% of their GDP in the same year. Delays in these projects have been the main challenge during their implementation (Alotaibi, Sutrisna and Chong, 2016). The total value of the cost due to delayed projects in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia was at US$146 in July 2012. This causes development pressures in the economy (Alotaibi, Sutrisna and Chong, 2016).

High costs of project delay have been bothering lot countries globally. Several researchers have looked at the costs of project delays in several countries. This is due to fact that delays are a major source of loss. A research by Frimpong et al., (2001) shows causes of water project delays in Ghana. The study was able to identify a lot of factors that leads to project delays which ranges from poor management, difficulties in payments, procurement and poor technical performance. A study done by Assaf and Al-Hejji (2006) was able to come up with main source of delays in construction industry in Saudi Arabia. The main source of delay factors were identified as approval of the shop drawings, contractors delay and design changes.

Most of the tools used in the construction industry are process oriented rather than being activity oriented. It requires thorough knowledge and details to make it possible to predict inherent risk in the industry. Time wastages occur during the activities. Thus, it is important to know each and every activity that is required earlier to avoid time wastage or delays (Sambasivan and Soon, 2007). Research shows that it is important to use aids such as charts, critical path analysis, project evaluation and review technique and other tools. This helps in maximizing the project value and ensures that it is finished in optimal duration (Alwi and Hampson, 2003). Despite this, all these methods and tools are not activity based. They fail to deal with the various types of activities and complexity which is part of the industry. Contractors have been pointed out by various studies to be the main source of delay. This is especially if there is a delay in the payment of contractor, partial payments and design changes by the owner (Ramachandra and Rotimi, 2012). Also, errors caused in the planning stages can also contribute to the delays.

Time wastage

Time wastage is a major problem in the construction industry. A study done by Akhir et al., (2013) showed that a lot of wasteful activities happen in the design and construction process. These activities consume time and effort and fail in adding value to the final customer. Construction process includes inspection time, process time, wait time, move time among others. Not all process time is value adding and some processes leads to wastage of time (Ramachandra and Rotimi, 2012). There are also time wastages that come from poor construction methods, lack of optimization and lack of performance. Waiting time is a major factor leading to time wastage. This is the idle time which is brought about by poor synchronization poor pace of work by the various groups which are involved (Nazech, Zaldi and Trigunarsyah, 2008).

Approaches to tackling delays

In 1992, there was birth of lean construction in the manufacturing sector which was then adopted in the construction industry. The techniques involve a reduction in activities which fail to add value (Odeh and Battaineh, 2002). Most of the lean techniques are not activity oriented but has the ability to influence the activities. This is a small activity which can be included on the project with an aim of improving coordination in the participating teams. Pilot studies using lean techniques have shown early completion of some of the projects. It is important to note that unproductive works contributes to having project delays (Nazech, Zaldi and Trigunarsyah, 2008).

Chan and Kumaraswamy (1997) found out that before analysing the outcome of delay in a given project, it is vital to determine whether the delay is critical or non critical. Also, it is important to know that some delays are excusable while others are not. Excusable and inexcusable delays are further divided as concurrent and non-concurrent (Nazech, Zaldi and Trigunarsyah, 2008). Also, it is possible to define delays as either compensable or non-compensable. Excusable delays are brought about by circumstances which are hard to be controlled by the contractors. Based on the principle, excusable delays can be compensable or not. Compensable delays are brought about by the owners or their agents and contactors can ask for compensation. Non-compensable delays are brought about by third parties and hence cannot be attributed to the owners or the weather (Chan and Kumaraswamy, 1997).

A study done by Odeh and Battaineh (2002), show that delays can be reduced through use of mitigation measures. Through use of mitigation measures, work is re-sequenced and there is no addition of extra manpower where possible. Using the knowledge gained from other projects, it is also possible to mitigate delays in a project (Abedi, Fathi and Mohammad, 2011). Through such knowledge, it is possible to mitigate delays and the awareness brought by this knowledge can help in preventing future delays. Research has shown that it is possible to use a collaborative approach in collecting and utilizing the knowledge gained from the project by the engineers and contractors (Alwi and Hampson, 2003). It is possible to store the knowledge for the future projects through use of knowledge based mapping or web technology.

One of the propositions suggested in managing construction projects delays is that during the construction phase, there is need of having a robust project management plan (Alwi and Hampson, 2003). Most of the critical factors that contributes to project delays can be managed using the project management principles. This is due to fact that most of the studies points out that most of the project delays are caused by lack of implementation of project management principles. For most of the contractors, project management is new and hence is poorly applied. There has been wide reporting of projects success through the use of project management techniques (Alwi and Hampson, 2003).

Odeh and Battaineh (2002) assert that lack of qualification and poor project management skills among the contractors is a major problem in the industry. This can be managed by use of the appropriate project management principles. This is through use of tools such as multi criteria decision analysis during the recruitment process. It helps in identifying the candidates who have the appropriate experience and expertise (Assaf and Al-Hejji, 2006). It is important to determine whether the staff have the appropriate skills and also provide them with regular training to enhance their capacity and soft skills. Despite this, it is important to acknowledge that the construction sector has been suffering from a shortage of skills (Adam, Josephson and Lindahl, 2015).

Saeed (2009) claims that change order is common in the construction industry. This is where there is addition or deletion from the project scope. This may lead either cost or time overrun or underruns (Arvan and Leite, 1990). In the construction industry, owners frequently make changes to the project. This is thorough adding or deleting some activities. Change order is supposed to be evaluated and its impacts determined. This is an issue that cause unwanted delays in the construction industry. It has been proposed by various studies that change order should be well managed through use of project management principles (Saeed, 2009).

Having prompt approval of project changes is very vital in preventing delays. This is due to fact that the changes have an impact on the deliverables and management plan (Abedi, Fathi and Mohammad, 2011). This can be attained through hiring an experienced consultant who can help in understanding the impacts of change on the project. An experienced consultant ensures that there is no waste of time and resources. Through use of consultants, it becomes possible to set a stage for emerging activities. The experience of the consultants should always be evaluated before they are engaged in the project (Saeed, 2009).

Study shows that causes of construction delays varies from one country to another based on demography, regulations and technology used in the industry among other factors (Odeh and Battaineh, 2002). In countries such as Norway, costs overruns have been identified in cases where the completion time was short. This may be as a result of uncertainty rising when the project time decreases. It may also be caused by the ability of the project managers in overseeing main causes of costs overruns facilitated by project duration (Saeed, 2009). The risk nature of the industry makes it hard to analyse the main cause of cost increases. It becomes hard to determine the actor who leads to surge in the costs. This leads to blame game among different stakeholders based on their viewpoints. The duration of the delay is also based on the type of the project. For example, maintenance delays are the most severely affected. It is important to note that time delays and sustainability are linked in a way. Time delays leads to a rise in the project completion time. This can lead to damage to the ecosystems, high pollution and high impact on existing infrastructure (Adam, Josephson and Lindahl, 2015).

Conclusion and further research

This review shows that the frequent incidences of project delays are caused by ineffective planning, scheduling of projects, and lack of experience and time wastage. It is arguable that these are factors that can be managed through use of appropriate project management skills. While selecting contractors, it is advisable that clients should not select the lowest bidder. In fact, contractors should never take a job in which they have no expertise. Clients should also avoid making frequent changes which can delay a project. There have been lack of adequate literature on construction delays and how to come up with guidelines in planning activities. Future research should focus on an in-depth study which will be able to identify major causes of delays which are country specific. This is due to fact that it appears some of causes for project delays are unique to certain countries.


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