A Beginners Guide to Construction Project Controls

In this guide, you’ll learn about the six elements of construction project controls. Plus, uncover tools and techniques for effective project planning and budgeting.
project closeout
Construction Management Fundamentals
Roles & Responsibilities
Project Management
Tracking & Measuring Progress
Managing Cost & Budget
Quality & Risk Management
Leveraging Technology
Construction Management Fundamentals
Roles & Responsibilities
Project Management
Tracking & Measuring Progress
Managing Cost & Budget
Quality & Risk Management
Leveraging Technology

Track & Measure Project Progress With Workyard

If you’ve ever been knee-deep in the muddy waters of a construction site, you know that keeping things on track can be a mighty task. But thankfully, you no longer need to worry about having an out-of-control construction site; because we’ve got your back. 

This article will guide you through construction project controls with easy-to-follow steps and real-world examples. Here, we’ll break down the six essential elements of construction project controls that transform you from a construction padawan to a master builder. 

By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know all about project planning, scheduling, estimating costs, monitoring performance, adjusting scope, and managing quality. And, we’ll do it all without making you feel like you’re back in high-school trigonometry—promise! 😉

We’ll also introduce some tried and true tools and techniques to keep your projects on time and within budget. Plus, we’ll have some fun along the way because who says construction has to be all work and no play?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, project management specialists, including project control specialists, will see job growth of about 7% from 2021 to 2031. That’s faster than the average for all occupations! So whether you’re a construction management student or a seasoned professional looking to up your game, this guide is the perfect tool for you.

What Are Construction Project Controls? 🤔

So, what exactly are construction project controls? Glad you asked! In the simplest terms, construction project controls are the tools, systems, and processes that help to ensure a construction project is completed on time, within budget, and at the required quality. It’s like a map for your construction project, guiding you from the drawing board all the way to the final nail.

Now, why are these controls important, you ask? Without them, a construction project can quickly go off the rails. Remember, efficient project management is all about communication, coordination, and, most importantly, control.

A study by the Project Management Institute found that 89% of high-performing organizations value project management for meeting their strategic objectives. So, mastering construction project controls isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s a game-changer!

Project Controls vs. Project Management  

Now, let’s clear up a common point of confusion: project controls vs. project management. Are they the same thing? Well, not exactly. But they’re two sides of the same blueprint.

Project management is a broad discipline that encompasses the entire lifespan of a project. It involves planning, coordinating, executing, and finalizing projects according to specific timelines and budgets. Project management ensures that project goals are achieved and that all stakeholders are satisfied with the results.

On the other hand, project control is a specific function within project management that focuses on tracking, monitoring, and adjusting the project’s time, cost, and overall quality. It uses data and statistical methods to measure project performance, predict future trends, and adjust as needed to stay on course.

So, while project management is the general oversight of the project, project controls provide a more detailed analysis of project performance. In other words, project controls act as the operational engine within the wider vehicle of project management, driving projects to their successful completion. Together, they ensure a well-managed and effectively controlled project.

The 6 Elements of Construction Project Controls 🧭

1. Cost Control

Show me the money! Well, cost control is all about keeping an eye on the cash flow. It involves tracking and managing the project’s expenses, ensuring they align with your budget. This includes estimating costs for resources, labor, equipment, and materials, and implementing cost-saving measures whenever possible. 

2. Schedule Control

Time waits for no one, especially not construction projects. Schedule control is all about keeping your project on time. It involves developing project schedules, tracking progress against them, identifying potential delays, and implementing corrective strategies as needed. Schedule control ensures that every task is completed within the allotted time frame, keeping your project on track.

3. Scope Control

In essence, this is your project’s mission control. It’s about clearly defining what needs to be done (the project deliverables) and ensuring that only these tasks are completed. It’s about managing any changes to the project’s scope and preventing ‘scope creep’—when the project’s scope expands beyond its original objectives. Scope control is crucial in ensuring your project stays focused and delivers exactly what it should.

4. Quality Control

Not all that glitters is gold, but your project should be! Quality control ensures that the construction work meets the required standards and specifications. It’s about checking the quality of materials, techniques, and the final output, ensuring your project not only looks good but is structurally sound and safe too.

5. Risk Management

Every project comes with its fair share of uncertainties, and risk management is about facing them head-on. It’s about identifying potential risks that could impact your project’s success and developing mitigation plans. Risk management helps to foresee obstacles and prepares you to tackle them effectively, ensuring your project continues to move forward, come what may.

6. Time & Resource Management

Last but not least, efficient management of time and resources is crucial for any project. It’s about using your team, materials, and equipment effectively and efficiently. Proper time and resource management ensure you get the maximum output from your inputs, leading to increased productivity and successful project completion.

Why Are Project Controls Important In Construction 🛠️

Project controls are the backbone of any successful construction project. After all, without them, even the most well-planned projects might find it hard to meet key objectives such as staying within budget, meeting timelines, and ensuring quality.

Budget Management

Budgeting in construction is more than just numbers; it’s about making the most of every dollar. Project controls provide detailed tracking of expenses against the project budget, allowing project managers to see where money is being spent and how it aligns with the planned costs. 

This enables proactive financial management, identifying cost overruns, and implementing cost-saving measures when needed. This is like having a built-in financial advisor for your project, helping to ensure that the budget is adhered to and financial objectives are met.

Timely Completion

The timing of a construction project can make or break its success. Schedule control, a key component of project controls, aids in monitoring the project timeline, keeping a vigilant eye on the schedule, and tracking progress against milestones. 

When potential delays are spotted, corrective actions can be implemented quickly to steer the project back on course. This vigilant monitoring and adjustment mechanism is critical for ensuring your project crosses the finish line on time.

Ensuring Quality

Quality isn’t just a goal in construction; it’s a necessity. Quality control processes within project controls ensure that the construction work complies with the required standards and specifications. 

They provide a systematic approach to checking materials, processes, and the final output, thereby safeguarding the project’s integrity. This can also enhance the reputation of your construction firm and boost client satisfaction.

Mitigating Risks

Construction projects are rife with risks and uncertainties. Risk management within project controls helps to identify these potential hazards ahead of time. 

It involves systematically identifying, assessing, and prioritizing risks, then developing and implementing mitigation strategies. This proactive approach to risk can help keep your project on track and increase its chances of successful completion.

Efficient Resource Utilization

In construction and field services, resources equal time and money. Effective time and resource management under the umbrella of project control allows for optimal utilization of labor, materials, and equipment. It ensures that resources are used effectively and efficiently, reducing wastage and contributing to project productivity and success. 

Furthermore, it leads to sustainability, with more efficient use of materials and less waste produced. It’s about squeezing the most value out of each resource, leading to a leaner, more productive project.

Improved Decision Making

Armed with comprehensive data and performance metrics provided by project controls, project managers can make informed, timely decisions. They can adjust project strategies and plans based on accurate, up-to-date information, leading to enhanced project performance and outcomes. 

Having these insights at their fingertips allows project managers to anticipate issues and provides the knowledge to respond swiftly and effectively when issues arise. Thus, project controls are vital for strategic decision-making and proactive problem-solving.

When to Implement Construction Project Controls 🏗️

It’s important to understand that construction project controls aren’t just for crisis management and mitigation. Rather, they should be an integral part of the entire project lifecycle, guiding your project through each phase from start to finish.

1. Project Initiation: Laying the Foundation

This is the very first phase of your project, where everything starts taking shape conceptually. Here, project controls are crucial in setting up your project’s framework. They guide the definition of the project’s scope—outlining what is to be achieved, the tasks to be completed, and the results desired.

They also play a significant role in developing the project’s budget, determining how much it’s going to cost, and ensuring that the funds are allocated effectively. Plus, project controls help aid in setting the timeline, helping you create a realistic schedule for when tasks need to be completed.

2. Project Planning: Making the Game Plan

Once you’ve got the initial framework, the next phase is planning. This is where you map out the path to achieving your project’s goals. Project controls assist in developing a detailed project plan, outlining how tasks will be executed, by whom, and in what sequence.

They also help identify potential risks that could threaten the project’s success, allowing you to prepare contingency plans. Additionally, project controls guide you in setting quality standards to ensure the project meets the expectations and requirements of all stakeholders.

3. Project Execution: Where the Action Happens

The execution phase is where your project transforms from a plan into reality. During this phase, project controls keep your project on the right path by tracking the progress of tasks and ensuring they align with the plan.

They’re also crucial in monitoring costs, ensuring that your project stays within budget and any financial issues are promptly identified. Also, if any changes occur (which is almost inevitable in construction), project controls help manage these changes effectively to minimize their impact. 

4. Project Monitoring & Control: Keeping a Steady Eye

Project controls aren’t a one-and-done deal—they need to be consistently maintained throughout the project, ensuring that everything stays on track. 

This includes regular status updates to keep stakeholders informed, risk assessments to avoid potential issues, quality checks to ensure the project meets standards, and schedule reviews to ensure tasks are completed on time. 

5. Project Closure: Finishing Things Up

As your project nears completion, project controls are vital in the closure phase. They assist in finalizing all activities, ensuring that everything has been completed as planned. 

Project controls also aid in conducting a project evaluation to assess its success and document lessons learned, which can be invaluable for future projects. At this stage, project controls are like the final chapter in a book, neatly wrapping up the story while setting the stage for the future.

Tools and Techniques for Construction Project Controls 💡

Budgeting and Cost Estimation

There’s no need to break out your old-school calculator for budgeting and cost estimation. Various methodologies like unit costing, parametric estimating, and value engineering provide systematic budgeting and cost estimation methods. Job costing software like Wordyard can help automate the process, saving time and effort.

These digital tools help create detailed estimates, track expenses, and identify potential cost overruns, making cost control a breeze. Check out this handy construction budget template for a jump-start on your budgeting process.

Scheduling Tools

Gone are the days of scribbling project schedules on the back of your construction plans. Techniques like the Critical Path Method (CPM), Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT), or Gantt charts help streamline your project scheduling.

Furthermore, job scheduling software like Workyard provides a centralized platform for scheduling tasks, tracking progress, and adjusting timelines. And if you’re just starting out, here’s a construction schedule template to get you going!

Change Management Systems

Change is inevitable, especially in construction, and change management systems are vital for tracking and managing changes in scope, schedule, and budget. Software like Workyard provides an integrated environment for documenting changes, assessing impacts, and obtaining approvals.

Wondering how to write a proper scope of work that can adapt to changes? Here’s a detailed and informative article that can help you out.

Risk Assessment and Mitigation

Identifying, assessing, and mitigating project risks is key to the success of any construction project. Techniques such as SWOT analysis, Risk Breakdown Structure (RBS), and contingency planning can help systematically deal with project risks.

Certain tools can assist in maintaining risk registers, quantifying risks, and planning risk responses. And if you’re looking for a way to organize your risk management, here’s a risk register template to start with.

Project controls can seem difficult to understand and implement, but they become manageable and even empowering with the right tools and techniques—so why not start today? Try out Workyard by signing up for a free trial and improve project profitability! 🚀

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