The job of the construction foreman is particularly challenging but he still has to supervise the project for things to take shape under his watch. The job of a foreman is never boring but is one which is filled with activities from coordinating toolbox meetings, coordinating site workers, to procurement of materials, it is always an exciting venture.
The construction foreman is generally in charge of all the construction work crew on the site. He allocates the work package that is meant to be done for each day and coordinates the site’s crew to complete all tasks daily. He supervises these tasks and ensures that the work gets completed as agreed by the client and other stakeholders. Technically, he is expected to finish the project within the specified budget, quality and schedule. Any deviation from this will typically imply that the project failed. Therefore, to accomplish this task, the foreman ensures that his team of workers are highly trained and are capable of doing the needed tasks in the project.
The project work is divided and distributed to several teams. During the execution of the project, it is the responsibility of the construction foreman to observe that work is being done as planned. Any deviation from the planned project execution method is investigated and corrected. It is also the Foreman’s responsibility to ensure that completed tasks are up to quality. In an ideal project environment, the foreman is seen as the main supervisor of the construction work. He has the technical knowledge of the project work being done and therefore he can authoritatively supervise all construction works to the needed level of quality.
Furthermore, the foreman also ensures that the work done is executed according to the planned project schedule. If there is an exception to this he creates an exception plan, which is a kind of problem report to the construction management on while the project had not been done according to the plan. Furthermore, he is expected to suggest a corrective plan to bring back the project to schedule. Typically to bring back an ideal project to schedule, the foreman has three options:
- It is either he adds a mechanized labour to the human labour already available,
- Or he decides to add more human labour to the existing work crew, which is called crashing in construction projects, or
- He decides to perform the project work in a parallel sequence, which means that project tasks that are supposed to be sequential in a project plan are done at the same time. This is called fast-tracking in construction.
The last type of improving a project schedule is primarily used, as it typically does not add any cost to the project but considerably increases the project risk. A typical example of this scenario is the rush to quickly build a block wall and plaster the wall. Technically, it is a typical practice that after erecting a block wall, there is a considerable amount of time that is allowed to elapse to allow the blocks to set accordingly. But an immediate plastering of the wall just because you want to save time, can lead to development of cracks on the plastered wall due to settling of the block walls and this could lead to rework and other remedial works. Technically, it is the primary role of the foreman to recommend a feasible approach for exception reports and corrective works.
The moment that a milestone is reached in a construction contract, it is the work of the foreman to call for a joint inspection of completed project tasks with the clients and all other project stakeholders. Any approved work means that the project progresses to the next stage.
Root causes of problems associated with the foreman in a construction site.
Bad Supervision – Technically, the most frequent root cause of all site foreman-related problems is bad supervision. In an ideal project, it is the primary function of the site foreman to supervise all construction works as they are being executed simultaneously. Bad supervision causes incomplete works, bad quality, indiscipline, site workmen, defective works, loss of man-hours and project delays.
Bad project management skills – While construction management is different from project management they can both be applied simultaneously to yield a successful project. When a foreman knows only construction and he is not knowledgeable in project management, he has no soft skills to manage communications and expectations at different phases of the project. While several technical knowledge areas are associated to project management, a lack of knowledge of these techniques could lead to issues regarding the profitability of the project, a delayed project, project communication break down, demoralized workers and many more.
The inability to use BIM: Building Information Modelling is a powerful tool in managing the process of construction. A foreman that is not skillful in using BIM would end up not only slowing down the project but would disorganize the project leading to improper sequencing of project tasks, passing the wrong instruction to site workers, delivering defective works and more. While BIM experts are traditionally employed to handle BIM in construction projects, sometimes that role gets passed on to the site foreman.
Bad leadership qualities: The construction foreman is generally seen as a leader on site. As a leader on-site, if he has poor leadership skills, he may not be able to lead and motivate his workers, negotiate more time for project works, communicate to clients authoritatively, and make crucial decisions. Bad leadership qualities in a project could lead to conflicts, bad interpersonal relationships, bad social dynamics, anger, frustration, stress, fatigue and bad works. While all these are seen as mere emotions and behaviours, they can cost a project millions.
Lack of knowledge of project work: While the construction process is often generic, each construction project is unique. And with this, it could spawn some job tasks that the site foreman may have never been involved in. And in most cases, these foremen may never alert the management about their inadequacies in some certain project areas until the last minute when a portion of the project work fails, before they come clean about their inadequacies in certain areas of the project. A lack of skill of the construction foreman – who is typically the driving force of a project – can potentially cause the project millions.
Solutions for the root causes associated with the construction foreman.
Typically, in an ideal project management environment, issues relating to inadequacies of the Site foreman are dealt with through training and addition of more resources. Issues like bad supervision are critically investigated to determine the reason for the bad supervision. Perhaps, the reason for the bad supervision is the inability of the site foreman to properly handle the site, there are two primary solutions to this: Which are is either he is trained or he is giving an additional supervisor. This way efficiency is increased to the ideal output. While project management skills are essential for a site foreman to have, they are indispensable to ensuring that your projects are successful. In a scenario where a site foreman has poor project management skills, he is trained in project management to enhance his level of expertise on the subject.
Similarly, the inability of the Site foreman to use BIM is also solved with the relevant training. A construction site where the foreman is abreast of BIM and all construction-related automation technology is the ideal construction environment. While BIM is still relatively new in the market, it is only natural that people can get familiar with the tool only through professional training and practical simulation. The advantages of BIM and its related tools such as the construction management software should be made known to the construction foreman. Then again, BIM can serve as a simpler and more practical method to supervise a construction project.
With his raw knowledge of construction and the technical capability of BIM, supervision is a lot easier, and thus you increase the quality of project deliverables which leads to a happier client. Furthermore, the leadership qualities of a foreman can also be enhanced through training, while leadership is an essential skill in project management, it is necessary for the motivation of the site workforce, resolution of internal conflicts among the site workers, negotiation with the client or project manager for more time to deliver some project tasks, and so on. Leadership in construction is primarily dealt with by project management training.
In the final analysis, your site foreman is the main driver of your construction project. If he is inefficient, the project fails. Therefore to avoid this, you have to ensure that the efficiency of the site foreman is up to the ideal output level. Practically, what this means is that he has to be comfortable with construction, project management and construction technology. Since the construction foreman is relied on by site managers and construction contractors, it is only ideal that he is given the right training and tools to coordinate the operation of the site and to ensure that everyone does their job properly. That is what makes an ideal construction foreman.