The Client is a major construction company that was awarded a major expressway project including five large interchanges. The road is one of many major infrastructure expansion efforts to develop the country’s transportation links.
The company had made significant progress in successful Project delivery in the previous year or so. However, senior management felt that there was still an uncomfortably high risk of missing budgets and deadlines for a variety of reasons.
Renoir’s main mandate was to support the company in the design and roll-out of tools and techniques to control manpower levels to be within the budgeted limits, whilst maintaining the timely progress of the Project. This included raising the productivity of manpower, and mobilisation and demobilisation of the labour resource to achieve the project objectives.
Although the company already had some management tools in place, they needed refining and supplementing in the early stages of the assignment. Two of the major new additions were the forward-look of required construction quantities for a 4‑week period, to enable the labour resource to be correctly allocated against the work to be completed; and a daily time and quantity reporting mechanism (TQR) to introduce a daily plan and actual component at Foreman level. Following the refinement, a speedy training programme for Foremen, Supervisors and the Site Managers was conducted.
A staff Task Force was set up and trained by Renoir in performance management techniques. This not only facilitated the transfer of best practices to the company but also laid the foundation for sustaining the improvements once Renoir’s involvement was concluded.
Management Action Teams (MAT) were set up for the key workstreams within the project, where senior Client personnel took accountability for the successful delivery of the benefits. These comprised Site management, Engineers, Task Force and Renoir consultants.
The MAT mandate was to ensure a) implementation is carried out in their respective areas without barriers, b) effective utilisation of key performance indicators generated by system tools, and c) compliance with manpower management recommendations as determined by the implemented planning and control process.
The project management control system included weekly meetings with the Task Force and MATs such that progress was monitored on a regular basis and any variances to plan were addressed. A Steering Committee consisting of senior managers and Renoir met every two weeks to assess progress and remove barriers to success.
Following the initial training sessions, on-the-job coaching continued for the entire duration of the programme. Close involvement of the Task Force ensured that the management tools were fully functional by the Project Week 7.
The standards for our operations were primarily established based on budgeted rates, which were meticulously adjusted to create ambitious stretch targets, while also considering the manpower needs for indirect support. Beginning from the fourth week, a comparison between actual and standard results was presented to the senior management through a thoughtfully designed dashboard. This tool was developed with the aim of providing a clear view of progress and deliver insights to further improve.
This helped site management to quickly understand the impact and importance of productivity including daily employee performance. The 4‑Week planning system, which included identification of scheduled activities to be completed, was instrumental in keeping a tight control over manpower levels, as it provided an early warning sign in case of potential oversupply of manpower.
The daily dashboard data indicated that one of the major factors contributing to delay was the lack of drawings, attributed to slow release of drawings from the main contractor. Once drawing status reporting was developed, it appeared that a lack of planning to identify major requirements was the main impediment to timely issue of drawings.
The 4‑week look ahead prepared by the planning team included drawing requirements and this heavily focused attention on the securing of this documentation so that planned work would not be held up.
A foreman league table was implemented as an additional tool to drive performance, measuring productivity by individual with their teams. Foremen embraced the tool and took it upon themselves to achieve higher productivity from their crews. A monthly public award event and the cash prices rewarded those foremen and supervisors at the very top of the league table; while weekly results were also publicised throughout the site.
The strategic application of planning and control tools, particularly in large-scale projects, is critically important to the success of a project. The structured approach that they bring to managing resources, monitoring progress, and mitigating risks enhances productivity, controlling costs, and ensuring the timely execution of projects.
Continuous improvement of productivity throughout the engagement enabled the company to accomplish more with less resources. The insights and controls were able to monitor the realistic manpower needs on each site. In addition, the company was left with a comprehensive set of installed tools to ensure performance improvements in future projects.
Companies are well advised to prioritise the integration of these tools and methodologies into their management systems, preferably during the preparation phase of large projects.