As part of Saudis government national development plans, many public construction projects have been undertaken in the entire kingdom. However, a common denominator exists, delays have afflicted many of these projects. The type of delays are determined to be either critical or non-critical; excusable or non-excusable; but the latter category of delays can be categorized as either concurrent or non-concurrent. Furthermore, these delays may further be divided into compensable or non-compensable as detailed below.
Critical Delays and Non-critical Delays
These are delays that are directly correlated to the baseline master program prepared in line with the critical path, which according to the PMI is the longest path within a construction project network. As such, these delays occur whenever a particular activity in the projects critical path is delayed, and thereby, having a negative impact on the timeline for the successor activities, and therefore, the whole project. It is vital that all activities within the critical path are not delayed as a delay will be reflected in the projects scheduling. As such, planners and engineers have to comprehend the logic and sequence of activities, and thereby check which ones need re-sequencing, but primarily, according to Koo et al., (2007), they need to determine which of the activities may or may not be delayed.
The main difference between critical and non-critical delays is that critical delays are those delays that are directly affect the project scheduling, and thus, cause delays mainly on the completion dates. On the other hand, the non-critical delays influence the progress, but do not have a great effect on the achievement of the project. Therefore, projects, regardless of the location need a lot of planning, and thus, the use of the critical path method should be given consideration as it enables effective project scheduling by contradicting or justifying time relevant decisions of postponement of activities, as well as consideration of the prolongation cost (De Marco et al., 2009).
Non Excusable Delay & Excusable Delays
According to Fugar and Agyakwah-Baah (2010), any project delay solely caused by the contractor is referred to as non-excusable delay including ineffective scheduling and planning and poor experience or qualification skills. Excusable delays are therefore caused by factors that are out of control of the contractor, and include delay in payment by the client or changes during the construction process. For this reason, it is the responsibility of the contractors. Thus, any risk associated with the delay is entirely associated with the contractor and the owner is entitled to claim the delay based on the conditions specified by the contract, usually related to a penalty or liquidated damage. As such, concerning these types of delays, the owners claims for the project contractors delay are variable including delayed commencement of work at the site, failure due to improper project coordination thereby affecting the work progress, untimely ordering and procurement of building materials, as well as insufficient manpower to carry out the various tasks as stipulated by the critical path. To prevent these types of delays, it is paramount that the contractor adopts a flexible project management strategy, including partnering and turnkey arrangements, and flexible contracting schemes including cost plus fee contracting.
Compensable Delay & Non-Compensable Delays
As Wei (2010) purports, the excusable delays can either be compensable or non-compensable. While compensable delays are those cause by the project owners or their agents and thus the contractor deserves to claim any damages (Fugar and Agyakwah-Baah, 2010), the non-compensable ones are mainly caused by incidents or third parties that cannot be attributed to either the contractor or the owner, including governmental changes in the construction rules and laws or any changes in weather patterns that will affect the project schedule. As such, compensable delays are mainly owner caused. Therefore it is the role of the owner to ensure that all project needs by the contractors are availed in time, including capital to ensure that no delays are caused.
Concurrent delay & Non-concurrent delay
These type of delays are caused neither by the contractor nor the owner. For this reason, these situations hold that neither party is responsible to the other for costs associated with the delay. Most of these delays are typically included in the force majeure clauses, and include abnormal weather conditions, acts of God, acts of war, or labor strikes. However, this categorization of delays is complex because it consists of two or more delay categories occurring at the same time (Chai and Yusof, 2013). In this case, concurrent delays with two or more excusable delays amount to an extension. In addition, whenever non-excusable and compensable delays are concurrent, a time extension can be granted or the delay may be distributed between the contractor and the client.
The diagram below illustrates the types of delays in construction projects as dictated by Braimah (2008).
Construction delays and disruption analysis methodologies (Braimah, 2008, cited in Tarhini et al., 2015).
Best Methods for Minimizing or Preventing Delays in the Construction Projects
The delays discussed above can be minimized or prevented by applying measures that are commonly referred as mitigation methods or mitigation of delays. In essence, mitigation is only possible by re-sequencing the project activities whenever possible and without any action characterized by increasing the manpower or resources for the project. As such, any work achieved without any additional cost and promote project completion is referred to as mitigation. According to AlMobarak et al., (2013), there are various project management techniques that can be applied in addressing the numerous problems that afflict construction projects, including cost management, time management, project planning, and resource management, but the use of the principles of project management is still in its early stages in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, despite having the largest construction sector within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations (Deloitte, 2013).
As Alotaibi, Sutrisna, and Chong (n.d) assert, KSA is afflicted by construction project delays attributed to ineffective planning and scheduling of the project by the contractors, poor qualification, experience and skills on the part of the contractors, as well as delays in the progress of the project owing to payment by the client or change orders put in place by the client during the project life cycle. The authors asserted that in order to mitigate the aforementioned delays, then, various tools and techniques have to be capitalized on, as presented in the diagram below:
Mapping of the sources of project delays in KSA against project management process and tools. Source: (Alotaibi, Sutrisna, and Chong, n.d).
The authors proposed the following mitigation measures:
How to Manage Ineffective Planning and Scheduling in KSA
As pointed out by Alotaibi, Sutrisna, and Chong (n.d), ineffective planning and scheduling is a major cause of project delays in KSA. The authors pointed out in order to mitigate these, various techniques can be used. These include using project planning measures, such as a Work Breakdown Structure (WPS), Critical Chain Method (CCM), Critical Path Method (CPM), Precedence Diagram Method (PDM), Gantt chart, as well as a Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT), as stipulated by the Project management Institute (PMI, 2013). These are all project planning and scheduling methods that project managers should utilize in a construction project, and implementing them in KSA would mitigate some of the aforementioned delays.
In addition as Alotaibi, Sutrisna, and Chong (n.d) purport, controlling the project activities against the plan and schedule is paramount, and tools and techniques that can be capitalized on include adopting performance reviews, a project management information system, EVM, analytical techniques, as well as schedule compression techniques, all which can impact positively on the projects time management, and thereby mitigating the delays. For instance, Ahmad (2014) asserts that the WBS divides the various components of the project management into various work tasks so that these tasks can be united together to know the scope of the entire project, and thereby allowing each task to be assigned a time limit. On the other hand, the CPM shows the relationship between the various project activities with the critical activities, and thereby providing a dimension where the activity float can be observed, and thereby enabling the project team to observe the designated scheduling. As a result, the delays are mitigated as the team has more control over the schedule. As Heizer and Render (2011) and Howard (2009) assert, the PERT enables the project managers to examines and denote tasks that are involved in completing a certain project activity, therefore showing the project flow in order to map the earlier start time (ES), and the earlier finish time (EF), as well as the time duration for each activity. In addition, the PMI (2013) in its PMBOK guide, asserts that the PDM, Gantt chart, PERT, CPM are effective techniques of managing the project time thereby eliminating any delays beforehand and allowing the project to be completed within the stipulated deadline as dictated by the critical path. In addition, these methods, especially the CPM, enhances planning and good communication for effective time management by assisting in making time calculations and estimations, as well as highlighting critical activities and their float times. Hence, as evidenced by these tools and techniques, the project team is more capable to oversee the scheduling and planning of the project, thereby allowing the project manager in the construction project to mitigate the delays.
Managing Poor Qualification, Skills and Experience of the Project Team in KSA
As Alotaibi, Sutrisna, and Chong (n.d) assert, these can be mitigated by employing appropriate project management principles. Also, it is widely known that employing competent staff will promote the effective and efficient implementation of the project. Thereby, as PMI (2013) supports, recruiting staff with appropriate skills, experience, knowledge, and competencies is key towards mitigating project delays and adversities as they can successfully undertake tasks entrusted to them, thereby leading to the total success of the project. Therefore, staff screening prior to selecting the project team is paramount towards mitigating delays, as well as providing them with an opportunity for training to sharpen their skills (PMI, 2013). However, given that KSA has experienced construction boom, it is paramount to acknowledge the fact that shortage of experienced and qualified staff is partly to be blamed (Alotaibi, Sutrisna, and Chong, n.d).
Managing Delay in progress payment by the client in KSA
Most of the construction projects in KSA as Husein (2013) purports are critical infrastructure, and thus, they are supported by the government. For this reason, it is the main contributor of construction delays caused by progress payment. To mitigate this, the client should provide the require capital in time to prevent the delays, preferably at the start of the project. Also, appropriate project management techniques, particularly contracting techniques need to be reviewed. According to Alotaibi, Sutrisna, and Chong (n.d), a robust cost management plan need to be put in place in the country. Essentially, the contractor coupled with the client need to agree on an effective cost management plan, procedure...
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