While lead framers are not responsible for developing project costs or schedules, they are asked for input into the decisions of others who must estimate and schedule construction. The superintendent, for example, might need to know if he can meet a deadline with the crew that is in place; a lead carpenter might need to know if there is enough material available to complete the job; or the framing contractor might need to know if any labor can be spared to send to another job.
To answer these questions, the lead carpenter must understand and appreciate the importance of the construction schedule and budget. This means thinking ahead and looking at the project as a whole, while also focusing on the details. It means evaluating the crew’s ability to perform its job at a particular time under a given set of conditions.
A crew includes both labor and equipment required to install materials. On any given day, the makeup of the crew can change. One person may not show up or may be sent to another job. At other times you may have to absorb extra manpower on short notice. Equipment you expected to have available may not be there or, with little notice, you may have the benefit of equipment. When faced with these situations, a seasoned lead framer draws on his or her experience and makes the necessary adjustments to either push the job or, at the very least, maintain the momentum.
The lead framer should understand the labor hours required for each task, and be able to know in his or her mind if the schedule is realistic and can be maintained. Perhaps more important is recognizing potential problems before they become real problems. In a matter of hours, what seems to be a minor glitch can become devastating to the schedule. For example, if fuel has not been requested for a piece of equipment, production may be forced to stop while waiting for a fuel delivery.
Never underestimate the importance of realistically measuring the crew’s ability to perform the work. Keep in mind that most jobs, unless very short in duration, are scheduled well before the work begins, and job durations are usually based on optimistic job site conditions. During the course of construction, a monthly schedule is broken down to weekly schedules, and weekly schedules are broken down to daily schedules.
Before committing the lead framer to a schedule, the framing contractor normally has agreed to the means and methods that will be followed for the job. If the estimator has based the estimate on a crew that performs differently than an average crew, the schedule may or may not have allowed enough time for the work.
Once a productive and effective crew has been assembled, nothing can slow that crew down faster than a shortage of material. Construction project estimators and schedulers often look at past project costs for material, labor, and equipment needs and costs. They may make adjustments to these figures based on input from the field, allowing for factors such as a more experienced work force, or new equipment that will make the work go faster. Nevertheless, material shortages can still occur.
The lead framer needs to keep an eye on the rate at which materials are being used, and communicate material needs to the superintendent.
Project estimators perform quantity takeoffs that are really a best guess of how much material will be needed for the job. Waste is a concern in the quantity takeoff for any area of construction.
There is some inevitable waste in framing lumber, depending on spans, wall heights, and the grade of lumber. A rule of thumb for lumber waste is 5%-10%, depending on material quality and the complexity of the framing.
The lead framer should be made aware of any material lists, structural framing drawings, shop drawings, engineered drawings, or cut lists that have been prepared for a framing project. This information is critical to ensure that the correct stock (lengths and widths) is used in the assembly of the frame. Read all notes on the drawings and find out whether the plans being used are the most recently amended or approved version.
Using the plans and shop drawings, the lead framer can determine which material to use for cripples, jacks, headers, blocking, and other miscellaneous members.
Keep in mind that many initial stock deliveries are “short," meaning that as the project nears completion, someone is responsible for ordering just enough materials to complete the frame.
This is sometimes referred to as “will call." The lead framer needs to know in advance if this strategy is being used.
On some projects where material storage and handling are restricted, a “just-in-time" delivery schedule may be necessary. This means that the lead framer must, in some cases, anticipate material and equipment needs on a daily basis.
In “will call" or “just-in-time" situations, the lead framer must be made aware of any problems in deliveries and must estimate and plan material use in order to maximize the productivity.
A lead framer may be given instructions to perform change orders with little regard for how the change will affect time, cost, and crew productivity.
The time and cost of change order work varies according to how much of the installation has already been completed. Once workers have the project in their mind, even if they have not started, it can be difficult to re-focus. The lead framer may spend more time than usual understanding and explaining the change. Modifications to work in-place, such as trimming and refitting, usually take more time than was initially estimated. Post-installation changes generally involve some demolition. The change may come after finishes and trim are installed and may require protection of in-place work.
When faced with a change or a rework situation, the lead framer must break down the typical day into segments and estimate the impact on each segment. Say a change involves reframing an opening or creating a new opening in a wall that has
been completed. The estimated time for the change should account for demolition, possible salvage of original materials to be reused, procurement of new materials required, and possibly a reluctance of the crew to perform the change. The time spent on the change will generally add time to work in progress. If the lead framer anticipated four openings per day and now has to reframe two, productivity for framing openings may drop to three per day until the change is complete. This will delay setting windows or installing exterior sheathing and other tasks. (See “Changes to the Plans" and “Extra Work" in the next section.)