After over 35 years in metal fabrication, one of the biggest things I’ve learned is the importance of good collaboration amongst the various contractors on a project, ideally all coordinated by the general contractor or construction manager. When everyone is working at their best, striving toward the common goal of producing the best end project, the results can be simply amazing. Of course, striking this balance isn’t easy and takes a huge amount of cooperation among all involved to keep the ball rolling in the right direction.
So what can you do to make sure the project you’re leading is staying the course? How can you ensure that you’re doing everything possible to ensure the best outcome for the overall project? And, what’s the best course of action should something go wrong?
I’ve had the opportunity to work with some fantastic project managers and subcontractors in complementary trades over the years, and here’s what I’ve learned about leading a truly successful team.
Start With A Great Communication Plan
Clear lines of communication are key to a successful project and one of the best communication tools on a job are drawings. Accurate and detailed drawings provide the best means of communication between the various contractors working on a project. These drawings should clearly outline what the specifications are for your part of the project and how it fits into the overall project. These drawings are a very valuable resource should a question arise at any time during the course of a project.
Whenever possible, I try to work with like-minded professionals that I know and respect. The more you know about the various contractors involved on the project, the better, and if you have an established rapport or can verify they have an upstanding reputation in the business, even better.
Why is this so important? Because quality is contagious. From the architect who designs the home to the general contractor to every fabricator and subcontractor who touches the project, each one contributes to the quality of the final project. Starting with a relationship built on trust gained from past experiences, industry reputation and cooperative spirit that focuses on quality is critical to success. When everyone’s contributions are on time and each fabricator can be trusted to put forth their best product, it creates an environment of excellence that’s contagious in the best of ways. As a contractor, your reputation is only as good as your last project, so ensure that this is possible for everyone by relying on trusted sources whenever possible.
Ultimately the responsibility falls on the project lead to ensure the success of the project, and that can only come with a team that works with a cooperative mindset. Build a team-oriented environment and encourage your fabricators to share knowledge, provide guidance and be open to the same from others as it will help everyone be successful in the long run.
Sometimes mistakes occur not because a contractor is negligent, but because they simply don’t have the experience, especially when it comes to very specialized areas of work. We’ve worked with some incredible builders who have a portfolio of truly outstanding work, but, for example, it may be the first time they are working with a metal fabricator on a staircase and are unfamiliar with the nuances of such a project. A good project lead will encourage early communication between the builder’s team and mine to discuss the specialized framing such a staircase requires for successful installation.
Houston, We Have a Problem…
It’s inevitable. Despite the best laid plans, things still go wrong, but having a skilled team makes resolving unexpected issues much easier should they occur.
If you encounter an issue about project specifications, refer back to those drawings we discussed at the beginning. I can’t stress enough the importance of good, detailed drawings and how essential they are to not only a quality outcome, but to a smooth, uncomplicated process for all involved. If there are changes along the way, be sure to document them thoroughly, in writing. A paper trail is invaluable and irrefutable. Detailed drawings are every contractor’s best friend.
Project Management Equals a Quality Project
The value of good project management to your own piece of the project, as well as the project as a whole, is undeniable. It ties directly back to customer satisfaction, your reputation and, of course, cost. When you invest in the right project manager for your team you’re rewarded with quality communication, coordinated teamwork and solid craftsmanship, qualities that will shine through in every project you put your name on.