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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.  



Columbia Elevator: A Critical Path to Customer Service Part III: Pay-It-Forward Culture for Customers

Louis "LJ" Blaiotta, Jr. on Monday, May 14, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

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Dione Birdsall, Director of Customer Operations

Dione Birdsall, Director of Customer Operations urges customers to maintain regular contact with their
Account Representative.

I’ve been proud to talk about how Columbia’s ‘Pay-it-Forward Culture’ inspires teammates to take great pride in their work and gives us all a chance to support each other as individuals, not just fellow employees. This culture has encouraged us to revitalize Columbia’s commitment to customer satisfaction. At the urging of our teammates, we have reorganized the way we accept orders for our products to make the process even more customer-centric. 

Previously, we were structured in a way that separated orders into segments to be addressed by experts in different departments, such as estimating/quotation, order acceptance/approval drawings, production/engineering, and operations. We’ve even talked about how those different departments interface in some of our earliest blog postings. But, it became time to make a shift when we encountered a business challenge.

When customers inquired at any time during these different stages of production, the receptionist went through an arduous process to determine the stage of the job process to connect the customer caller with the appropriate department. Now, each Columbia customer has an assigned Account Representative, who is intimate with the status of each job and can provide quick, accurate answers to any query. The team determined that this would be better for the customer, and it has shown to be true!

Columbia’s Account Representatives support our customers through the entire job process from providing estimates, to ordering a job, to reviewing and approving design and engineering specifications, to developing unique solutions when a construction site problem arises, and to resolving those field issues in the best way for our customers. Columbia Elevator teammates’ strategic response to the needs of and influences on the elevator installer’s construction jobsite issues has truly increased our focus on the ‘people’ side of the equation. Our customers call upon us for our Pay-It-Forward Culture, in addition to our solution-driven products.