When scheduling for a construction project in a foreign land, it is important to understand the area’s climate, local culture, and other circumstances that may contribute to the project’s success, construction expert and scheduling author Saleh Mubarak told professionals attending a webinar that WPL Publishing hosted last month. Among other things, Mubarak urged those involved in such projects to gain a thorough understanding of the area’s climatic patterns. “You have to know the weather, and not only the weather but also the seasons. [Is there a] monsoon season, a rainy season, a hot season, and so on?”
Mubarak additionally suggested that schedulers address the following other issues potentially arising in an international project:
- Know the area’s culture, the “rules” (not necessarily the official rules), and the local laws. In making this suggestion, Mubarak stressed that there are pros and cons to partnering with local companies to help address these concerns. “You need to make sure that you partner with somebody who is familiar there and who you believe is honest. Partnering with a local company sometimes is required by law.”
- “You have to know the labor, materials, and equipment market [in the area]. Those are very important. Where will you be getting the labor from? In the Arabian Gulf, where I am, the level of skill is horrible. Most of the labor is imported from Bangladesh, India, and so on, and unfortunately they are not trained.” Materials sometimes are taken for granted, Mubarak added. For example, project officials should understand that wood may be relatively inexpensive in the United States but expensive near the project. He noted that some countries place restrictions on importing equipment.
- It is also important to understand which standard contracts may come into play. Mubarak emphasized that while standard contracts from the American Institute of Architects and Associated General Contractors of America may be used in the United States, another organization’s standard contract may be used for a project elsewhere. For instance, standard contracts from the International Federation of Consulting Engineers are “very important” in Europe. The types of standard practices being employed in the relevant area also are important to know, he said.
- Mubarak further pointed out that other, seemingly minor details requiring attention can prove detrimental to a project if not properly addressed. For example, the date format for ‘4-11’ reads as April 11 in the U.S. and as Nov. 4 in other parts of the world, he said. In addition, he asserted that it is important to know when a work week traditionally begins in the relevant project area and what the duration of that work week is. Communication also is an crucial issue to address in international projects. “Communications can be a nightmare. [Regarding] the language, you think English is English? No. Wait until you meet British, Australians, South Africans, and so on. [They speak differently.] Some South Africans I can barely understand.” Local expressions and hand gestures also need to be understood. “You have to make sure that you know the local language, the local culture. I don’t mean [that learning] Chinese or Arabic or Hindi [is necessary], but at least you [should] communicate clearly.” He further advised that issues relating to currency and measurements need to be understood as well.
During the webinar, entitled “Construction Scheduling Tips and Tricks: Better Schedules and Improved Project Performance,” Mubarak also lectured on the following other areas:
- Baseline Schedule Essentials -- This segment covered the planning phase and aimed to help attendees define project scope, manage risks, and hire a scheduler.
- Creating the Schedule -- This area focused on the Project Breakdown Structure, Work Breakdown Structure; number of activities; activity IDs and titles; and repetitive activities.
- Schedule Updates -- This segment covered frequency, procedure, “warning signs,” and “percent complete.”
- Other Topics -- Additional topics included project acceleration issues, change orders, scheduling in an international environment, and software.