Measurements are critical to good construction. Not just in constructing walls, placing tiles, and balancing mechanical systems, but also in tracking contractor's performance on the project. A minute cannot go by where workers are not measuring boards, conduits, walls, concrete volumes, and hundreds of other things on a construction site, but are contractors measuring things for their own betterment?
What is Measurement?
Measurement contains three key components: level of measurement, dimension, and uncertainty. A very specific definition, yet it is very important. Level of measurement includes the magnitude, so for length it might be 12. For dimension we are talking about the units, in the case of length it could be feet. Uncertainty covers the precision level of the measurement itself including the process and tool utilized.
How does that definition apply to construction?
It is clear how level and dimension apply to every day construction activities, but uncertainty doesn't instantly come to mind. When we utilize a tape measure we can gather the first two items and we typically don't even think about the third, but the third is built into the tape measure. The markings on the tape measure are not perfect and the angle we hold the tape measure inserts uncertainty into the measurement. For the tools we use, it typically is not very important, but uncertainty is the reason that we measure twice and cut once. Even though it appears unimportant, uncertainty is critical. If the tool we are using measures to the nearest 1/8", but we need precision to 1/32", the uncertainty can cause multiple reworks and clouds decision making because the measurement's uncertainty was not clearly understood.
Are You Measuring Your Business or Just Your Product?
It makes perfect sense that our workers are measuring every hour of every day; however, almost all of this measurement is for your product. This is a requirement of doing a good job and is done routinely without debate or thought. Are you measuring things for your use? Of course you are measuring some things, like the hours worked for each employee. How about units installed? How about the production rate of your crews? How about the events that happen to your crew while you are working?
Let's take a deeper look at why you are measuring time. Obviously it is to pay the workers, but also it is to gauge how well you are performing on the project. If you only measure time and are using that as a gauge on how you are doing on the project, isn't there a lot of uncertainty in the measurement? During the project, you might have the number of hours spent and the number of hours budgeted, but what does that tell you about how you are performing? Are you really ahead or behind? Why did it happen? If you are half spent on the budget are you really half done with job?
Why Do We Measure?
Seems like a dumb question, but it is very important. We measure a stick of conduit before we cut it to ensure it is right. If the measurement is not right, our next action (cutting) will be wrong. It will cost us money and will force us to redo the work. When we measure our financial performance, we do it for the same reason. During the course of a project we are forced to make decisions and take actions every day. Are those actions right? Knowing where we are on a project by taking measurements will affect our future actions. This will yield better results. Football teams measure the scoreboard and look up at it regularly, not as a reminder, but so that they can change their actions. A Hail Mary pass play is really kind of stupid, unless you realize your down by 5 points with only 2 seconds left.
Start Adding Measurements to Gauge Your Performance
If your not doing it already, you need to start measuring more than time. Start measuring units installed, areas worked, events that occurred, and tasks performed. These new measurements will remove the uncertainty in gauging your success on the project. Let's face it, if your workers use perfect measurement to provide a perfect building, will it really matter if you don't make money providing this product? Measuring your performance (not just your install) will allow you to make informed decisions and take different actions that will yield better results.