PODS Process Provides Scheduling Solution
By Jim Brandt, LEED AP (12/30/2009)

McCarthy Applies Technique to Deliver 4,000 Beds in Arizona

McCarthy Building Companies’ southwest division, based in Tempe, Ariz., was challenged by the Arizona Department of Corrections to complete a $170 million, 4,000-bed project that encompassed three job sites in three different cities.

In order to meet the schedule demands, McCarthy Southwest’s Arizona division developed the PODS process, a scheduling process modeled after the process used in high-rise condo construction projects, in which each trade works on a different floor and then moves up with other trades following behind in a seamless transition of work.

Brandt

McCarthy initially used the PODS process on a 13-story condo project in Tempe, but it has since expanded the process to other facility types. The process works especially well on projects with repetitive elements, and a modified version facilitated delivery of Arizona’s 4,000-bed expansions at the Perryville, Tucson and Yuma prison facilities.

In collaboration with project architects Arrington Watkins, the McCarthy team modified the process for implementation in the correctional setting, where facilities tend to have a much larger and more horizontal footprint than the high-rise developments of the commercial and residential sectors.

Under the PODS process, during preconstruction, the general contractor creates divisions within the project and color-codes the areas so subcontractors are able to understand the workflow and deliver their portions on time without impacting quality or undermining safety. Each trade works on its assigned area, then moves on to the next area using a predetermined schedule developed by the general contractor and agreed upon by the subcontractors.

With PODS, the first step is for the general contractor to clearly define the work-area pod within the project. A pod is defined as a repetitious group of units within a larger structure or area. The successful implementation of the process is dependent on a buy-in from the subcontractors’ management team because once the work areas are defined, it is imperative the subcontractors understand the amount of work they need to complete in the given timeframe.

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Safety is a high priority on construction sites, and the PODS process allows each trade to work in its own designated area, which avoids the hazards of having multiple trades working on top of each other while establishing a more streamlined workflow and productive worksite.

Each trade is required to clean up the work area prior to moving onto the next area, which more clearly defines jobsite cleanup responsibility and accountability.

Revising Conventions

Using the construction industry’s generally complex traditional method of scheduling — one trade at a time — if one subcontractor has a hiccup in its schedule, it creates a domino effect on the whole project and delays all the other trades, ultimately resulting in late delivery of the project.

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With PODS, the biggest hurdle is that the trades need to understand there is no time to rework or go back to finish something — done means done, and the task needs to be completed correctly the first time. Once the subcontractors’ management team is on board, the general contractor must work with it to explain the process to the field team staff so they can meet expectations. Communication is key.

With the Arizona prison expansion project, the team recognized the repetition in the housing units and started to break down the other buildings. A housing unit comprised either two or three pods. The team established a timeframe of five days for trades to accomplish each task, such as overhead MEP rough-in, framing, MEP in-wall, drywall, etc. This timeframe is referred to as a pod step.

For example, the project’s Type C buildings, 200-bed dormitories, have two pod steps. Each step is five days, so it takes 10 days for each trade to complete its work on that building type. The Type D buildings, 300-bed dormitories, have three pod steps that require a total of 15 days.

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Once the pod-step durations were established, the team looked at the other four remaining building types and applied the same concept. Schedules were based on the amount of interior build-out required. The major benefit of this method is that it creates a schedule subcontractors can understand and embrace, but more importantly, it enables the general contractor to monitor job-site progress on a daily basis. 

This method also allows the project team to incorporate more frequent quality control checks into the schedule. At the end of each pod step, the team identifies a quality day during which time the general contractor evaluates the quality of the work put in place during the previous week. Frequent and ongoing quality control ensures that the completed work is acceptable and that subsequent work is not proceeding prematurely. 

PODS, which has proven to be successful and popular with subcontractor teams, provides a safe, efficient work process that supports the delivery of quality projects that need to be completed in an expedited timeframe.

Jim Brandt, LEED AP, is a project director for McCarthy Building Companies’ Southwest division in Tempe, Ariz.

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