When Apter Remodeling/Craftsman, in Annapolis, Md., washired to do an addition for a school, it had to complete three months of work during the two-month summer break, owner Andreas Apter says. “Having these über-deadlines forced me to change old habits,” Apter says. And now, though only about 10% of the company’s work involves commercial projects, the extra regs, codes, and inspections required in commercial work has led Apter to adopt new processes for how the firm runs all jobs. Among the changes:
• Field employees review plans before project start. In the school project, a month before starting, Apter and his lead carpenter scheduled subs and ordered materials for every phase and discussed scenarios for what could go wrong. They also reviewed the project with the field crew, who pointed out some flawed engineering details, which Apter and the architect could then work through prior to construction. For larger projects, Apter also has begun to review all plans with trade contractors.
• Lead carpenters take full responsibility for projects. In the past, Apter would handle much of the work or handle it on the fly, inevitably missing some details. Employees also felt uprooted when Apter moved them to another job mid-project, which he occasionally did to stay on schedule. Now, leads see the project through to the end. However, although Apter has shifted responsibility to his lead carpenters, he also makes a point of visiting jobsites more often than he did in the past. But instead of micromanaging, “I make it a point to listen and ask questions,” he says.
No matter how much a team plans ahead, unforeseen change orders can often cause delays in both residential and commercial projects. He charged the client for the drawings. In the school project, the crew discovered old footings during the basement demolition for an addition. This along with change orders requested by the school and some permit issues — could have thrown the project off schedule. To counter that danger, Apter added a contract provision that allowed the company to complete change orders on a time and materials basis and deal with paperwork and payment after completion.