Eliminating Redo and Punch List Work: A Fixable Problem
A Common Defect: Redo and Punch List Work
I frequently speak about the ten productivity defects of the construction process and cite these defects via the use of the following pie chart:
Like each of the defects shown, redo work and punch list work come right out of planned project profits. However, unlike some of the project defects listed, redo work and punch list work is fairly easy to measure and often, with a little effort and focus, it is fairly easy to identify the cause. As such, it should be one of the easier defects cited to reduce or eliminate.
While redo work and punch lists both eat into project profits, redo work can be defined as defective work that has to be redone during the project, and punch list work is defective work identified near the close of the project that needs to be redone.
While the impact of redo work and punch list work varies from firm to firm and from project type to project type (e.g. specialty trade work versus rough trade work), the percentage of added labor craft hours required to do the combination of the redo and punch list work can be two, three or even five percent of total craft hours expended on a project. Given the fact that a five percent increase in productivity can often double project profits for a contractor, it is clearly in the best interest of the firm to focus on the reduction or elimination of this common construction defect.
A Proactive Approach to Eliminating Redo and Punch List Work
The word “quality” is a widely used term that relates to concepts such as customer satisfaction, expensive, long lasting, durable, consistency, etc. The word “quality” is also sometimes attached to a focus on doing a task or making a product right the first time, i.e. to do away with the need for redo work or punch list work. Call it what you may, it behooves a construction organization to initiate a proactive program to reduce if not eliminate redo work and punch list work from the construction process. The approach I am suggesting to do this includes the following five distinct focuses:
- Understanding of the process
- Identifying redo work and punch list causes
- Measurement data of defect occurrence, to include frequency and variation
- Brainstorming for and implementing improvement initiatives
- Communicating and reporting results
Understanding of the Process
Simply saying that “we are going to reduce redo work or punch list work” is not by itself going to work. The improvement program should be structured, just like an approach to doing a construction task or method. Actions speak louder than words.
To fix a problem one must understand the “cause” of the problem or defect. To best understand the process by which a defect occurs (such as redo work), and to understand the possible causes of the defect, it is beneficial to prepare “a map” or flowchart of the work process (flow charting a process is also called “mapping”). This entails using the following symbols to set a process out on paper.
When constructing the flow chart of a process, there is a question of detail, and also which symbol to use. It is important to not lose sight of the reason a flow chart is being prepared- to understand the process such that causes of defects can be identified. There is no “one” correct flowchart; some users might use one symbol to represent an action or event, while another might use a different symbol. Similar to the constructed flowchart for a paper processing system shown below, what is important is that the flow chart be of enough details such that 1) the preferred process is depicted, and 2) causes of defects from the preferred process can be identified.
In the case of the process that affects the need for redo work and punch list work, the construction firm should illustrate the process by which:
- Work is assigned to craft workers
- How the work is communicated
- How steps are taken to assure that the workers understand the tools
- Material and work skills required to do the work
- What standards or tolerance must be met
- How the work is supervised
- How quality is measured
- How non-compliance is determined
The flowchart that is prepared will vary for different firms. For example, for an installation contractor the process would entail only field processes or steps. In the case of a mechanical contractor, the process would likely entail both the fabrication shop and the field installation process. Work performance in either the shop or in the field could lead to the occurrence of work defects that lead to the need for redo work or punch list work.
Identifying Redo Work and Punch List Causes
It can be argued that one cannot fix a problem unless one knows the cause of the problem. While it may be easy to identify obvious causes of defects, other causes may go unnoticed without the preparation and analysis of a prepared flowchart of what should happen. The idea is to determine how and why exceptions to the preferred process may occur.
A detailed understanding of the process is more likely to detect previously uncovered or known causes of a defect such as redo work or punch list work. For example, at first glance one might expect the following causes for redo or punch list work:
- Poor workmanship
- Inadequate training
- Use of wrong tools
- Part did not fit
- Poor supervision
- Inaccurate communication
The study and analysis of the prepared flowchart of the process may detect that other causes exist, to include over inspection by the designer or even damaged work by the project owner that takes occupancy of the project before it is completed.
Measurement Data of Defect Occurrence, to Include Frequency and Variation
The next step in the improvement program entails the collection of measurement data, to determine the types, frequency, and variation in the number of defects that occur. In the case of redo work and punch list occurrences and causes, the collected data may appear as follows:
The chart shown is not specific to a given firm. It represents merely an example of measured causation data. In addition to the data shown, the data should be collected such that the number of incidences by type of project, by location of project, by supervisor, by type of worker (number of years of training, skill, etc.), and by the project designer can be determined.
The purpose is to gain a full understanding of the cause of the incidences of the defect (redo work and punch list work) such that the cause can be addressed and remedied.
The measurement of defect variation as a function of various parameters such as type of project, supervisor, or type and amount of worker training can be revealing such that actions can be made for improvement. For example, the chart shown below illustrates number of incidences of redo work occurring at projects for a specified period of time as a function of the supervisor in charge of the project.
While the “average” number of incidences shown for each supervisor for the time period is 10, it is the variation that should enable the firm to investigate and remedy the cause. There is likely a reason or cause why there are only a few incidences of redo work on supervisor 3’s jobs versus why the number of incidences of redo work is near twenty for work performed on the projects for which supervisor 2 is in charge. The idea is not to blame one supervisor (supervisor 2), nor to award the actions of supervisor 3. Instead, the purpose is to determine what supervisor 3 is doing right and what supervisor 2 is doing wrong such that improvement steps can be taken that duplicate good practices and eliminate weaker or bad practices.
Brainstorming for and Implementing Improvement Initiatives
Given sufficient data about the type and frequency of causes of a defect such as redo work or punch list work, the firm needs to take actions to identify and implement improvement. Some of the steps needed may be obvious such as the need for providing more training, providing more supervision, or improving communication. Other ideas and actions need to come through brainstorming. Sometimes the best improvement idea appears to be the most odd or untried action. For example, I have observed clients, after the collection of the type, frequency, and variation of data analysis successfully implement actions such as the following:
The above list is only a selection of actions I have observed firms take to address the elimination of redo and punch list work. While the list of actions likely is firm specific, each of the above steps has a common goal; eliminate the defect.
- Make quality (and redo and punch list prevention) part of the morning foreman’s meeting when the foreman assigns work to their crew. In addition to drawing attention to production goals for the day and possible safety hazards that may occur during the work do be done that day, a few minutes are spent on workmanship necessary to prevent redo work and a discussion of the tools needed to do the work, along with an identification of what to watch out for in regard to quality tolerances for the work.
- Posting of job signage that draws attention to incidences of redo work and punch list work and the need for improvement. Similar to signage that draws attention to the occurrence of accidents, the measurement and illustration of redo and punch list incidences can focus everyone on the need for improvement and the ability to make improvement.
- The implementation of an improved communication program whereby the supervisor takes steps to ensure that workers understand the work they are assigned, what tools are needed, and what tolerances must be met. The action involves the supervisor getting feedback from a worker once the worker is instructed what to do. The supervisor must take actions to ensure himself or herself that the worker is “not in the dark”- that the worker was not only told what to do, but also understands what to do.
- Documentation as to when and what type of training specific workers have been given to identify any shortcomings any worker may have. Training is provided accordingly.
- An “awards” program is initiated to encourage that quality work is done such that redo work and punch list work is reduced if not eliminated. Just as the firm might give awards such as free coats, or gloves, or even financial rewards to workers that are accident free for a predetermined period of time, a program of awarding work “done right” can be implemented.
- A program of viewing each worker or department as a “customer” of another is initiated such that problems and defects can be identified more quickly. Such a program makes individuals “customers” of one another such that they identify when their input customer does not perform in compliance with set out procedures. The focus is not on blaming one another, it is to make everyone accountable. Without such a program, problems go unnoticed such that they fall through the cracks.
Communicating and Reporting Results
If a program to reduce or eliminate a defect such as redo work or punch list work is to yield on-going favorable results, the improvement being made should be communicated to all participants. This might be accomplished by signage, oral communication, or even a new report that is sent to all concerned parties including the workers showing how improvement is being achieved and how their individual efforts are appreciated. Nobody wins when redo or punch list work is required.