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How to Keep Construction Rework from Robbing Your Profits

Rework is a costly problem for many contractors. Not to be confused with change orders, rework is already-completed work that has to be ripped and replaced or work that has to be done more than once. It’s a known problem in the industry, and it poses a number of challenges for contractors of all sizes.

Given the naturally complex nature of construction, and the number of trades, suppliers, installers, and activities taking place on a jobsite, the more likely it is that human error and neglect will occur. When it does—usually due to a combination of poor communication, bad information, or an inability to coordinate efforts—it almost always leads to rework.

Rework isn’t just an annoyance that temporarily stalls a project. The costs of rework can hurt your profitability and project performance. In addition to the direct expense of ordering more materials, renting more equipment, and hiring more labor to correct the mistake, you also need to spend time investigating what went wrong, planning how you will fix it, and adjusting schedules around it. 

These and other indirect costs of rework may often get overlooked, but they can be as much as six times higher than the direct costs. When you add it all up, the financial burden of rework is huge, and it can put contractors already operating with narrow profit margins in an even tighter spot. 

Technology can help you minimize rework—and increase layout speed and accuracy.
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While all contractors feel the pain of rework, smaller and specialty contractors feel it even more. When you aren’t operating on a large scale, you’re not in a position to simply absorb the costs of rework. And if you’re a specialty trade subcontracted by other companies, you can become an easy target to blame for mistakes, whether you’re really at fault or not.

All told, rework leads to schedule and budget overruns that can hurt your project’s performance and ultimately rob you of profits. Minimizing rework is in your best interest to keep costs under control and your profits intact.

How to Minimize Construction Rework

To minimize rework, you need to improve your processes early on and throughout the project. Here are three ways you can do that.

1. Catch errors at the layout stage

Design errors are a leading cause of rework. Research has shown that design-induced rework contributes to as much as 70% of the total amount of rework experienced in construction and engineering projects. When errors happen at the design stage, they’re often not caught until the work is done or almost complete. 

“Rework resulting from client design changes or design consultant error has been identified as the primary factor contributing to time and cost overruns.” 

— Robin McDonald, XL Catlin

Yet it’s possible to catch design errors at the layout stage, particularly when you’re using layout technology to efficiently and accurately position points in the field. Robotic layout tools are more accurate than manual processes because their precise, automated capabilities reduce the potential for human error and omissions. 

Instead of relying on workers to do the measurements, the tool does the positioning for you, helping you achieve accurate and thorough point positioning whether you use 3D modeling software or work off 2D plans and digital PDFs. 

And because you can control the instrument remotely, you can get out from behind it to walk around and verify the conditions of the construction site yourself, so you can more easily uncover potential issues or discrepancies between the site conditions and the design or plans.

2. Collaborate on quality control

Undiscovered design errors are not the only possible pitfalls on a construction project. With so many trades working on a project, work “clashes” are bound to happen at some point. This can happen with MEP work, for example, when one system fails to properly integrate with another, such as lighting and ventilation that sometimes share the same controls. Without clear communication and access to the same information before work begins and during the project, those clashes can turn into bigger problems later. 

You can avoid costly construction problems with the right technology.
Get the eBook to learn more.

Though you may not be able to control the design, you can help validate it. Layout technology makes it easy to share any site condition information you uncover with architects, designers, and engineers. This enables them to address design issues early on before they turn into mistakes and rework down the road. 

When you’re on the lookout for potential issues during layout, you can also bring them to the attention of others, including the trades whose work directly impacts your own. Instead of tripping each other up, you can better coordinate the work you each need to perform using the same information about the site.

The technology enables a more collaborative approach, so you can perform necessary quality control at various stages of the project, avoid expensive mistakes and rework, and ensure the project is more successful for everyone involved.

3. Document the work performed

Your team may be used to performing layout and other workflows and processes using manual methods and paperwork. But these practices leave a lot to be desired if questions about your work should suddenly arise.

“Due to the lack of digitization, information sharing is delayed and may not be universal. Owners and contractors therefore often work from different versions of reality.”

— McKinsey & Company

In addition to identifying possible conflicts with the design earlier on in the project, you can also use layout technology to document the actual work you perform. This documentation can be used as invaluable proof of your actions and decisions in case questions come up about faulty work, flaws, or layout adjustments that needed to be made. 

While documentation doesn’t directly minimize rework, it does provide you with a verifiable record of what you did and why to help you avoid the blame and financial responsibility for mistakes that aren’t yours.  

Secure Your Profits with a Technology Solution

Rework is so common in construction that many have grown to accept it as an unavoidable part of the job. But there are technologies available that can help you spot and correct errors early, as well as provide documentation of and justification for the work you’ve performed. 

An easy-to-use robotic layout station can help you improve your layout processes, as well as minimize the chances of miscommunication and poor information. You’re able to reduce costly rework as a result and ensure that your profit margins don’t take a hit.

To learn how technology can help you minimize rework and other costly problems, get the eBook.

About the Author

Bryan Williams, Segment Manager, Field Technology Group, Trimble Buildings. Bryan has nearly 30 years of international experience working in the construction industry as a site engineer, construction surveyor, project supervisor and consultant. He has spent the last 15 years developing and marketing intelligent positioning solutions for the construction industry as part of Trimble’s Buildings.