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How to Mitigate the Impact of Delays in Construction

Updated: Sep 22, 2021

If you ask a room full of contractors what they believe are some of the most frustrating and costly events that can occur in construction projects, you’d find that more often than not, the word “delays” will spew out of their mouths.


Extreme frustration and profit %'s ticking down like a timer are what contractors typically envision when someone utters those dreadful words….There has been a delay. They immediately start thinking about how this will impact them, especially since there may be several workers expecting to start on a project in a couple months. This is a common occurrence in the industry, which often leaves contractors scrambling to find work for their staff to fill the gaps left by construction delays.


There are some causes for delays that are outside of anyone’s control, such as the weather, but often construction project delays can be avoided, and at the very least, mitigated.


Common Causes for Delays:

  • Bad weather

  • Soil contamination

  • Equipment malfunction

  • Labour shortages

  • Construction mistakes

  • Missing or incorrect data

  • Funding delays

  • Budget Inaccuracies

  • Poor Scheduling

  • Discovery of Hazardous Material

  • Poor Communication of Critical Information


How to Deal With Construction Project Delays After They Happen

Typically when it comes to construction project delays, project managers are usually the first people to receive the blame from either the client or the contractor. Therefore it is essential for PM’s to be well versed in conflict resolution, and even more so to be quick with coming up with countermeasures to help mitigate the damages from delays.

The following list describes a few helpful steps that PM’s can take to help manage delays that may have occurred during the course of a project.

1. Investigate the cause of the delay


Who or what was responsible for the delay? Was it someone on your team? A consultant? The weather? In order to come up with any plan of action to mitigate the impact of a delay, figuring out the root cause should always be step one.

As seen in the above list of potential causes of delays in construction, there are several possibilities that can lead to a delay. Determining the cause can require a variety of phone calls, interviews, and meetings but only once the cause has been determined can you and all the stakeholders make an educated assessment of the situation, allowing you to come up with the next best way to proceed.

2. Inform all stakeholders what the cause of the delay is


Regardless of who or what is at fault for the delay, it is essential to let the responsible party know that the management of their work, or lack thereof, is inhibiting the construction from moving forward. This is key in preventing them from further impacting the construction schedule.

Ultimately the goal should be to have a proactive conversation with all stakeholders involved to determine the best plan of action to mitigate the impact of the delay, and perhaps use the opportunity to brainstorm on ways to make up for lost time.


3. Draw up a new plan with all affected stakeholders


When forming a new plan with all the stakeholders, it is essential to review the original schedule to determine how each party may have been impacted. As a group, determine which tasks are the highest priority as well as their deadlines for when they need to be completed in order to reduce the impact of the delay. Anything that isn’t important should be set aside and pushed back in order to accommodate the resources required to accomplish the high priority tasks.

4. Be directly involved on-site to execute the new plan


The hardest part of dealing with a delay happens in the field, where workers may be asked to work through less than ideal conditions and extended hours to make up for lost time. Naturally, workers tend to relax when the PM or supervisor isn't around. This coupled with the fact that the adoption of construction project management software like OnTraccr is on the rise, the time spent by a PM and even supervisor on site has been greatly reduced since they can remotely monitor the daily work progress from anywhere. Don't have a project or field management app yet? Check out our article on the benefits of deploying a field management solution.

During the course of a delay, the significance of having PM’s and supervisors on-site is that they can then be hands-on in implementing new procedures or workflows to help make up for lost time. While on site they should monitor their crew to see how they are coping with the impact of the new procedures, and also observe any other activities that may further add to the delay.

5. Constantly monitor progress and accelerate work


For some people it may not be easy, but now is the time to keep the pedal to the metal and pressure project team members to accelerate the time taken to complete tasks. It is essential to redefine your project’s critical path all while making sure that everyone is following the new schedule with great attention. You may not be able to completely make up for lost time, but one day can mean millions of dollars in major projects, so it is essential to not lose hope and to keep pressing forward to mitigate the impact as much as possible.


6. Remind everyone that safety is still the main focus


This is also the time to remind everyone to still keep safety as their #1 priority. The pressure of delays may tempt workers to perform riskier activities in an effort to speed things up. This should be avoided at all costs. Managers and supervisors should constantly monitor workers to make sure work is happening in a safe and effective manner, reminding all workers to follow company procedures and policies.

Want to learn more about how new safety technology can be applied on your projects today? Check out our article on game-changing construction technology trends to keep an eye on.


Next up: Part 2 - How to Avoid Delays in Construction


Construction schedule delays are one of the most costly and dreadful problems faced by stakeholders. They are typically caused by incidents that were preventable if the proper procedures had been followed from the start. Having the correct tools and resources to manage and maintain a schedule is key for any contractor to turn in a profitable project by ensuring everyone is informed of any schedule changes and impacts automatically.

That is where software such as OnTraccr can come in and help take away a lot of the overhead required to manage and maintain a project. In the next part of this series, I will be talking about some of the steps you can take to avoid delays altogether, and how you can use tools such as OnTraccr to help automate some of the tedious workflows that are required to maintain a healthy communication pipeline for all stakeholders.

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