- Features | October 2, 2017
Work Breakdown Structure From the Field
Construction jobsites are often unpredictable and impacted by daily changes. In order to reduce the impact of the
daily changes, an electrician needs to see the work ahead of them. This is the power of a comprehensive Work
Breakdown Structure (WBS). A WBS is a method to identify the necessary tasks that are needed to complete a specific job. The identification of tasks needs to be done by an electrician who is physically doing and leading the work (General Foreman or Foreman). To create a WBS, you bring the whole project team together to discuss and break down the project into small, manageable tasks. By writing down the individual tasks you will start to identify unanswered questions and potential risks. Once complete, the WBS can serve multiple functions. You can use it to accurately monitor job progress, real-world completion levels, and overall productivity to reduce the job risks and
predict and prevent upcoming obstacles.
Now, let’s take a minute to understand how a WBS is created. Before we start, we need to gather the project team all in one room. This would include everyone who knows anything about the job, as well as the field team that will need to know about the job. This should be the Project Manager, General Foreman, and Foreman. Depending on the size of the job, we can also include the Purchasing Manager, Prefab Manager, Estimator, and Vendors. Once everyone is gathered together, we then can start to identify the work.
Your work is the only thing that needs to be identified at the beginning of a WBS. The focus needs to be on the overall tasks that need to be done at the jobsite (investigation, temporary lights, layout, pipe, concrete pour, framing, grounding, demo, etc…). Another way to go about this is to ask, “What are the main itemsmthat need to be done for this job?” This question needs to be answered by the electricians. To utilize this tool correctly, the WBS needs to be created by the lead field person that will actually end up coordinating and installing the items onsite. As he or she is identifying the work items, start to write them down on sticky notes and stick them up on the wall. Figure 1 shows an example of a start of a WBS with the main tasks for the job identified. Please note that it is not important yet in which sequence or detail the items are identified or noted. To start every WBS, it is highly recommended to work with sticky notes or a white board, since there will be a lot of revisions made to tasks until the WBS is complete.
After all the main items are identified, the actual breakdown of the work can begin. You keep breaking down the work by asking yourself, “What does that mean?” or “What does this include?” Only by breaking the work down will it be possible to identify all the little items in-between the main installations as well as items that you may have forgotten during the first go-round of identifying tasks. The sub-tasks will also need to be broken down into manageable pieces for an electrician to complete in a week’s time. Depending on the job size, the detail of the breakdown can vary, but one sub-task should not exceed a week’s worth of effort. Example: If you’re putting up a fire alarm – ask yourself, “What does this task mean and what does it require?” Start listing it below your main items, such as disconnect old devices, rework the existing wires, install the devices, and test. In Figure 2 (page 21), you can see a WBS with a detailed breakdown of fire alarm and voice data.
After you’ve identified all of the work items and broken it down into manageable pieces, you ca