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The Critical Path Method in Construction How does Columbia Elevator Support the Installing Elevator Contractor? Part II

Louis "LJ" Blaiotta, Jr. on Monday, June 25, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

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Delivery Crates Stacked ready for delivery

Columbia’s Strategically Staged Delivery strategy allows for compressed delivery times and helps keep Columbia’s customers off the Critical Path.

Keeping with Columbia Elevator Products customer-centric and Sequentially Staged Delivery approaches, our customers are better able to meet the demands of building developers. In alignment with the various phases of product shipment, our process allows for approvals to be divided into two separate processes: first, the structural and second, the aesthetic. This allows the building developers to operate the elevators as shells throughout the course of construction without having to make decisions regarding the interiors until much later.

In the structural phase, approvals are for the size of the opening, the height, and the door speed. With this information in hand, we at Columbia can ship structural components, with the hangers and track, ready for assembly. Then, when the developers determine what the wall thicknesses are, we can send finished frames with the doors and the unadorned cab shells, including already built in LED lighting.

There are many labor and time saving nuances to this process that benefit the customer at the construction site. Because we know in advance that the hanging panels will be installed later, we can pre-punch the shells, with hanging louvers built into them, so that contractors do not need to apply hooks in the field to hang the panels. Later, when we ship the interior hanging panels, they interface seamlessly with the perforations already in the cab shells. Even if at this stage we do not yet know what the panels will look like, the louvered shells are, in effect, pre-templated with a perforation pattern that will work with a combination of hanging panels.

There are several benefits to this process:

  • no hole is greater than 3/8” to meet code and allow for a running elevator;
  • the job doesn’t get held up, the contractor has certainty that the cab interiors will fit; and
  • the risk of damage to the decorative panels during installation and tenant move-in is alleviated.

To further compress the timeframe and get the customer what is needed, Columbia Elevator Products now stocks pre-punched cab shell panels on our shelves, not only for standard 72”x84” wide platforms built to handle a 2,100 lb cab but also filler panels that in effect stretch the walls and canopy to cover a cab of any incremental size and weight up to 5,000 lbs. Additionally, the car fronts ship in separate crates, left- or right-hand as specified, with the door operators already mounted in the transom.

Since these items are standard and not subject to an approval process, we can send them practically immediately upon order. So, even if the architect is still in the process of approving the interiors, the contractor can begin installing the elevator system, including the cab enclosure, without having to wait.

Our Account Representatives oversee all of this because they are focused on giving Columbia’s contractor customers the best possible time and cost efficiency for their installations. One of our Account Reps likes to compare our process to purchasing a tailor-made suit. Part of the suit is mass-produced or bulk-fabricated to standard waist sizes, and part of the suit is customized when it is detailed to customer-preferences of sleeve length, pant length, and cuff style.

This tailored approach - guided by Account Reps for our customers - enables Columbia to build its product parts in bulk, rather than one elevator at a time. This is beneficial to the customer because it keeps costs down and provides a uniquely, customized elevator all with fast delivery!


The Critical Path Method in Construction How does Columbia Elevator support the Elevator Contractor in CPM?

Louis "LJ" Blaiotta, Jr. on Monday, June 11, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

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Blue Elevator Cab interior by Columbia Elevator

During the construction process and various phases of product shipment, approvals can now be two separate processes, first structural and, much later, aesthetic. Cabs can be run during construction as unadorned shells, and later finished with a virtually infinite selection of interiors ranging from simple (photo above) - to the ornate (photo below).

 Bronze Cab Interior by Columbia Elevator

Along the Critical Path of a building’s construction, the installing elevator contractors, our customers, never want to be the mechanical system in the building that causes a delay in its opening. That failure to meet deadline could expose the contractors to liability for liquidation damages, a slew of penalties, and a ding on their reputation.

Because it takes weeks to manufacture uniquely specified elevator products and to ship them to the building site, the solution would appear to be for the contractors to simply place their orders earlier. However, this is often not possible. The contractors get ‘squeezed’ in the middle because the building developers may not yet have given them the final direction and approvals for how they want the elevator to look. Consequently, with today’s modern construction techniques and buildings being topped-off more quickly than ever, elevator products – especially entrances, doors, transoms, and cabs – are needed in less than the minimum lead time that had been traditionally required for them to be fabricated and delivered.

This can be quite the conundrum until we at Columbia are able jump in to help the contractors. Of course, we cannot demand that our customers give us their orders earlier. They are already getting job specifications to us as soon as they can, but, as mentioned, construction is no longer conducting business within traditional lead times. The marketplace reality led us to rethink: how do we keep our contractor customers off the Critical Path, by not only manufacturing their orders more quickly, but also delivering them faster?

Columbia’s Account Representatives support our installing contractors with Columbia’s Sequentially Staging Deliveries. When we have contractor customers on Critical Path jobs – whether low or high rise - it makes sense for us to send them the roughs at the stage of putting up the rails. If the contractors run up against a hiccup with the rails, they can start putting in the roughs. Next, we ship the jambs with the cab shells, so they can hang the jambs, and start installation of the door operators in the cabs. Before you know it, the cars are running; they are being used as construction lifts, and the building is getting its Certificate of Occupancy or C.O. Later, we can build the interiors, using our XChangaCab® program. XChangaCab® was originally designed for modernizations, but now we’ve adapted it for use in new construction because it keeps the ‘pretty’ part of the cab well-protected and looking pristine until the end of the project. 

Our Sequentially Staged Deliveries approach has various benefits for our customers about which I’ll elaborate next time. But let me tell you - our tested model is becoming known in the industry. We now have customers calling upon Columbia’s Account Representatives to ask,

“Can we get staged delivery for this job?”

And the Account Representative responds,

“Of course! We at Columbia Elevator can deliver low-rise or high-rise, code-compliant, beautiful elevators using our successful Strategically Staged Delivery process to any building site in the United States or Canada. Tell me about your job’s needs, and I’ll help you make installing elevators easier and faster!”



The Critical Path Method in Construction Where does Elevator Contractor fit in CPM?

Louis "LJ" Blaiotta, Jr. on Monday, May 28, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

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Columbia Elevator deleivery crate

Crate for delivery This crate is ready to be shipped according to Columbia’s Sequentially Staged Delivery strategy. Columbia used this technique successfully during construction of New York City’s World Trade Center Complex Towers 3 and 4 and 432 Park Avenue building

To ensure jobsite confidence and peace-of-mind for its customers, Columbia’s Account Representative strategy is to keep its contributions to construction projects off the so-called Critical Path. The Critical Path Method (CPM) originated in the 1950s as a project modeling technique for many fields, including construction. An early high-rise application example was during the development of the original New York City World Trade Center Twin Towers in 1966. CPM proved to be a successful management tool for defining the shortest possible completion period for a project. 

While competitive factors and maximized profitability often demand the quickest possible completion of a project, realistically there are fixed limitations on how fast a building can be built. Certain aspects of a construction require lead and wait times that cannot be avoided. For example, it takes a certain amount of time for the concrete poured for a floor to dry before the next floor can be added, and then again for that floor to dry before adding the next floor above it. Determining the shortest amount of time possible to construct a building involves taking all critical items – the conditional pieces that cannot be started until a prior process is finished – and lining them up end-to-end to calculate the aggregate time required to complete the entire chain. Arriving at this measure of total time defines the Critical Path.

With the Critical Path for a project established, there are many functions that can be performed in parallel as the path rolls out. In construction, this is particularly true regarding installation of the elevators: how and when various stages of the installation are executed – ahead of or in harmony with Critical Path milestones – without being integral steps on which any other items on the Path depend. Columbia delivers its products for installation precisely when needed or earlier, to prevent its contractor clients from ever becoming an obstacle on the Path that would delay the entire building.

Unfortunately, our contractor customers sometimes get placed on or near the Critical Path through no fault of their own. This happens because our customers’ clients, the building owners and developers, have so many early-stage areas of concern on the construction site, they often don’t worry about providing the elevator contractor the timely, necessary information needed because they are concentrating on other items first. Initial priorities are items such as the foundation and the plumbing that need to be addressed before the building can even start to go up. Next come architectural items such as the exterior of the building and the lobby. Elevators are typically slated for late-stage delivery, often with the building more than halfway up before elevator contractors are even allowed on-site. One of the project’s most critical and time-sensitive items for the building owner is the issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy which cannot be issued until there are running, code-compliant elevators in the new structure. It’s for that reason that the elevator contractor needs to get all the information needed to start fabrication as early as possible in the approval process to ensure that it isn’t the elevator which is holding up the issuance of the C.O.

Next time, we will share how the Critical Path supports our clients – the installing elevator contractors – keeping their work on schedule and benefiting the overall construction process.