How to Navigate Scheduling Impacts From Labor Shortages and Construction Materials Price Increases

Delays don’t have to derail work entirely. Documentation and adaptability are essential to creating better outcomes for all parties.
By Jim Gallagher
October 13, 2021

As the winter weather season approaches, many construction projects are already facing delays due to supply chain restrictions and materials and labor shortages. This element of delay and increased costs have many contractors scrambling to minimize impact on current projects and timelines. Unfortunately, there is no blanket road map for negotiating resolution of these or other unforeseen influences. However, by implementing best practices of construction management, contractors and project managers can put themselves and their work in better position to mitigate negative effects and achieve more successful results.

Construction scheduling delays resulting from interruptions and shortages in the building materials supply chain is leaving all parties vulnerable. Project managers may need to reallocate resources to move forward, but that doesn’t mean they should do so from a short-term perspective. Each project and contract involves different parameters to negotiate resolution. Record keeping, planning and communication are critical to staying on top of the daily changes resulting from these impacts.

Contractors and construction managers can make sure teams and resources are being best used now and into the future as scheduling obstacles resolve by implementing the following tips.

1. Be proactive

Preserve a snapshot. Whether work is frozen or moving forward, the first step is making a thorough record of the then-current project progress prior to the occurrence of the schedule impact or event. This way, project managers can delineate between progress achieved prior versus after the impacts were experienced. The snapshot comparison will prove beneficial in establishing the effect of the impact(s) and place the contractor in a better position to seek recovery for the resulting cost and time increases.

2. Think outside the box

Consider efficiency and feasibility. Every construction project faces a varied set of impacts and challenges. For some, it will be better to freeze work internally to best preserve resources, while others will need to find a way forward in spite of complications and disputes. Being flexible may also help to reduce future claims.

3. Update and reevaluate the work plan and project schedule

Construction plans and progress should evolve throughout the performance of the work and be regularly reevaluated to ensure work can continue to stay on track as closely as possible. Assuming that impacts will stay consistent through an ongoing event is setting a project up for greater difficulties in later phases.

4. Trust but verify

Establish a plan going forward. Factoring in cost increases, materials shortages and difficulty finding skilled labor may require new plans for projects that leave room for greater flexibility. Though scheduling impacts may have changed the original planning, the most important goal—completing the work—will depend on being able to continue working while minimizing the effect that such impacts have on the overall project budget and duration. Careful thought should be provided to ensure that revised work plans, regardless of how well intentioned, do not merely shift the problem down the road when the options to minimize the effects of such impacts may be further limited.

Although delays are a familiar part of the construction industry, they don’t have to derail work entirely. The path to resolution will depend on the specific operations laid out in each contract, but documentation and adaptability are essential to creating better outcomes for parties at all levels of a project.

by Jim Gallagher
Jim Gallagher is a Principal at Resolution Management Consultants, Inc. (, and is a Professional Engineer licensed in 15 states, a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), where he serves as Chairman of the Highway Construction Committee, a member of the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) Committee on Contract Law, and a member of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), where he serves on the Construction Management at Risk (CMAR) Taskforce and Liaison Group Committee.

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