Creating a Schedule and Dealing With Changes

by Kacey Larsen

The production of a schedule can take many forms, but the end result is a tool that must be usable for your production team to complete the project by a specified date for a desired cost and profit. Scheduling entails matching your company’s capacity to the project you sell. Your capacity is a function of several factors, which can impact the schedule. 

Understanding the capabilities of your staff is important to scheduling. How many projects can your project manager handle at one time? How many lead carpenters do you have on staff? How long does it take your team to set cabinets, frame out the new wall or complete the trim? These elements will drive the schedule and project length.

Your company’s capacity also includes having a close relationship with your trade contractors. You need to be able to count on them to start and finish on time, maintain their pricing as bid and produce to your standards. At the same time, your trade contractors need to be able to count on your project being ready for them when they are scheduled, and they need to know that you will pay them in a timely fashion.

Another factor of your company’s capacity is your suppliers. Are they able to deliver products when you need them? Will their prices be as quoted? In today’s environment of rapidly changing prices due to tariffs and labor, these are the most challenging to control. If you quote a project that will not start for six months, the cost of materials and labor will surely go up. A close relationship with your trades and supplies may help you manage this to some extent.

Be sure to consider holidays in your schedule. You may need to include local events that may impact a production schedule, such as a tour of remodeled homes, your chapter’s home show or even opening day of deer hunting season.

Every remodeling project is unique and needs to be treated as such. However, it is necessary to establish some foundations you can count on for each of your projects. Most projects start with some measure of demolition. Consider if it can be “fast tracked,” meaning a project is started while another is in the final stages. During build-out you will need to schedule in your trades and inspections. Depending on the space, you may be able to have several trades working at the same time. As for inspections, you will need to be familiar with the requirements and responsiveness of the inspectors in your municipality. You need know the rules of engagement and plan accordingly.

As you build out your schedule you may consider identifying check points—a spot on the schedule where an assessment of the project status is noted. Is it on track to complete on time and budget? Look for possible issues the project may face. Some teams run weekly production meetings to accomplish this, but many do not. As a result, they may find the project off schedule and over budget without really knowing how it got there.

Changes to the Schedule

Changes to the schedule can be caused by four players: the house, your staff/trades, the weather and the client.

  • The house: Most design/build companies try to build in a 10 percent contingency fund to cover any issues the house may have. The list of possible issues is extensive. For example, unseen water damage, moving a vent pipe hidden in a wall or finding previous alterations not to code. These are issues that must be corrected before you proceed, and you should have a plan if they occur. 
  • Staff/trades: Losing a key staff member or trade contractor can be devastating to a small remodeling company. Depending on project schedules, you may be able to pull crew members from other projects to fill the gap. It is best to have a fallback system. If you need support for a lead carpenter, plumber or electrician, you have a source for temporary help. 
  • Weather: The impact of weather will depend on the type of project. A kitchen or bathroom remodel will not be heavily delayed, whereas an addition that includes digging, placing footers and foundation requires waiting for the weather to clear.
  • The client: The client can radically impact the production schedule. Anything from a simple color change or selection of different fixture can cause delays. How you handle these changes depends on your capacity and how solid the start date on your next job is. Change orders must be your friend. Make sure your clients understand the change process and hold them to it. When you present the change order for approval, be clear on how it will impact their completion date.  Make sure that when you work the changes into the schedule to not only account for all the costs associated with the changes, but also factoring costs in lost opportunity on your next job. Some remodelers discourage change orders and provide many roadblocks to discourage clients from submitting them. Other remodelers prevent change orders by conducting an exhaustive client interview and helping the client make selections that they will be entirely happy with.

Scheduling and managing change is part of the life of the remodeler, and your success is measured as much by your ability to manage the process as by the quality of the work your company does. Developing the schedule should be a formal process. NARI’s Certified Remodeling Project Manager (CRPM) prep course spends three sessions on developing schedules and contingency planning and is a great place to start if you would like a more formal education on the topic. QR

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