October 1, 2019

IE3: Project Controls

Matt Hayek



On this episode of Inside Engineering we talk with Matt Hayek, a Project Manager running our Project Control's group at RK&K. What our Project Controls? Matt gives us the lowdown and talks about how he measures success.
Inside Engineering: Untold stories
and fascinating people from the world of civil engineering. This is episode three, recorded in September 2019. Project Controls with Matt Hayek. Inside Engineering is brought to you by RK&K. Learn more at rkk.com.
Everyone, welcome back to another episode of
Inside Engineering. We have what is obviously another great show for you today in the studio with us is Matt Hayek. Matt is a Project Manager which is a completely nondescript title so we'll get you to break that down for us. Absolutely. But Matt handles what we call Project Controls. And so Matt welcome to the studio. Thanks for being here. Thank you. Thank you. This is a great studio. It's my first time actually in the studio shooting something. You come in here a lot and just sort of harass us. Usually. Usually, yeah. And so thank you for actually taking the time to do something legitimate with our time and yours. Great to be here. So Matt, Project Manager, obviously a lot of people have that title. It's a it's a very industry standard title but you're into project controls and you're on the Construction Management side. Can you talk to us about what you do in your role? Absolutely. Absolutely. So I actually manage our Project Controls Group for the firm, which is a great role because I get to work with a lot of different people but ultimately Project Controls deals with the cost and time aspects of a project, right? So it's all the processes, processes, that are associated with that gathering data. You know just the analysis of schedules, cost estimating all that is rolled into project controls. So it's a great piece of a project because you get to touch little pieces of every single project that you come across so. So I generally am not focused on a single project for my entire day. I usually have maybe three or four projects that I'm working on ,more than that at a time, but on a single day I really get a variety of stuff to work on. So how does it work with a project? Can you walk us through how you get involved with the project and sort of the lifecycle of that and maybe a typical project or an exemplary project, exemplar, that would show us kind of what you get to do with all the things that you mentioned? Yeah, yeah absolutely. So I mean ideally we would be involved for the entire project lifecycle right. And if you're not familiar with project lifecycle, the idea is that you go through planning, design, construction, and then maintenance, essentially. I mean that's that's a broad, you know, broad look at it. And you've turned it over to the client. You've turned it over to a client and there's still there's still things that you can be involved with at that point. So project controls really should be one of the focuses from the very beginning. So in the planning stage you might be in a situation where you're trying determine, 'Alright let's get a rough idea of how long it's going to take us to perform this project. Let's look at the construct ability issues that are associated with it. Let's talk about maybe a rough idea of what kind of budget we need to plan for in order to do the things we want to do.' So that's where it starts in that planning phase. And then as you get to design you know your ideas are a little more firm and you've used some of that information that you've garnered from the planning phase, whether it be the scheduling work we've done, the cost estimating, the constructability, to influence that design. So you're not getting to the point where you design this project and somebody says, 'Oh no I've got a I've got a problem with this let's start from scratch.' So that's that's essentially how you would start that process and as you move forward and the plans become more detailed, people know what they want, there's still a lot of work to be done there you know. So in the design phase you still need to fine tune what that schedule is going to look like. You need to fine tune your estimate for what you think it's going to cost what you think the contractors are going to actually bid this thing for. And then as you get into a construction phase you're going to be looking at what the contractor's submitting a lot of time. So you're gonna be looking at what their schedule looks like. So you've given them... you've allotted a certain timeframe for them to perform this project and so they've come up with a schedule that essentially shows all their work accomplished in that timeframe. So you're going to review that and you're going to determine whether that's a reasonable approach to building the project. And of course it's always a fine line. You know we're not trying to tell contractor how to build the project but we're trying to point out any issues maybe with their assumptions or with their logic. So that's based on the knowledge that we have... Exactly. of how the project... What it should look like. Exactly. Exactly. Based on the knowledge that we have about the project and based on our knowledge of the industry. Right? So you know you might know for example that, 'Hey you're you're probably not going to be able to put an overlay on a bridge during these winter months because the temperature just won't won't reach what it needs to.' So that that could be a comment for example that you'd come come up with a contractor schedule. But then there's there's the the big part of it. Once it gets into construction unfortunately is dealing with the claims that are coming from a contractor. So depending on the contractor depending on the project depending on the situations out there there could be a lot of claims on a project there could be none. And generally those deal with a cost in a time aspect for what that change or what the what the impact what the what the unforeseen condition actually did to the project. So we stay very involved in the construction phase. I would say that's probably one of our heaviest times of involvement in that project lifecycle. I have to say for me when I think about trying to put together a schedule for really any kind of big project or any kind of project but especially a big one wrapping my head around all the things that need to be done, down to like when you know some material is being delivered and then from there how long it takes to install the thing. How do you how do you start with that? I mean obviously there's a process but
can you kind of summarize for us how you
approach that and or how your project controls group handles those that kind of those things? Well I mean you know the reality is that it takes a very special person to
do that kind of work.
Easy now. Easy. No really, really I mean you know I am a very, very detail oriented person. I mean I focus on the the tiniest little details. I mean we recently came back from a trip to Disney with the family and we would go on some of these rides and you know my wife would be like, 'Oh that was that was a great ride. You know that was that was awesome.' The kids would be all happy. I'd be like, 'Eh, I saw like seven things that were wrong.' Seven things that were broken and needed attention. Turn off and enjoy the vacation. Exactly. Exactly. But you know that's I think you know to be in Project controls no matter what it is whether you deal with schedule or cost estimating you need to be a detail oriented person. And the idea is that if you really want to fine tune what you're doing if you if you want to get it right you should be focusing on the smallest increment of work. So when we look at a cost estimate for example I know you were talking about scheduling let's let's shift to cost estimating because I think it's an it's an easier example. When you're looking at a cost estimate, the idea would be, alright let's let's break it down to the smallest level. Alright, so we're building a bridge right? What's the next level down? Alright let's let's pick an element of the bridge. Let's let's let's pick the beams. Alright, now let's break it down further. Well what do I have that's involved in putting those beams up? Well, I've got I've got maybe a six man crew; I've got a crane; I've got I've got night work that needs to occur; and I've got the actual delivery of this material to get it to the site. And so once you understand all those pieces you can start putting prices associated or costs associate with each one of those items and you can come up with a pretty accurate estimate of what it would cost to do that and scheduling is no different. Scheduling is essentially the process of breaking breaking that schedule or that element of work into the smallest possible element that you can and then logically tying it to each other you know so. It's really a question of starting at a higher level, breaking it down, breaking it down, breaking it down, and then getting to your lowest level. And then once you put that into software essentially you get your schedule. And then as changes come along, I mean I guess your goal is to avoid things that affect the critical path. Critical
path. You sound like a scheduler here.
I mean I did a little bit of research beforehand. Nice nice. Well now I mean that path is set; if that if that gets longer than your delay. Yes. I mean that's that's the definition of the critical path. The critical the critical or let's say the critical path defined or the longest path defined is the correct path is essentially the longest string of activities that determines what the time frame of that project is. You know there's all this other stuff that's occurring on on different logic paths and they have certain flow to associate with them now if they get delayed too far they can become the critical path. But but yes the focus is on that critical path and the goal is to limit what affects it. Now when you deal with a change on an on a project or an unforeseen condition the idea is you're trying to find ways to mitigate those impacts because that's the best case scenario is, 'Hey yes there is this unforeseen condition but you know what we can change this traffic control plan and we can work around it so that we don't have to impact the project.' Everybody walks away happy. 'Mr. Contractor I'm going to pay you for the extra work, but I'm not going to pay you for the time.' I'm not going assend the contract. So the work still gets done in time. Contractor gets paid for the extra work and everybody's happy. That's the goal. So you mentioned, you talked about some things that someone in project controls might need. They might need to be detail oriented. What are some other things that someone you know early on in their career are looking to get into project controls? What are some skills that they might need to have? You know the the detail oriented parts very important. Alright. So being able to focus on some of the details associated with whatever you're working on. I mean that's really a skill that that helps you in a lot of different things. But it's almost a necessity for project controls. The next thing that I would probably say is is a pretty major part of it is your ability to write, because,
ultimately, you need to produce reports that
communicate your findings and communicate what's going on to the stakeholders. At the end of the day if you're not a good communicator, if you can't write well, if you can't speak well it's very difficult to be successful in project controls. Interesting we've seen that theme come up a couple times here with our guests sort of these unexpected parts of being in engineering. And I think it's really good that you point that out that those, not soft skills but they're skills that... I would call them soft skills I mean I think that's fair. I mean they're there they're skills that are broadly applicable. Right. That's true. They're not they're not fine tuned and focused on one individual facet of project management or construction or design or anything like that but essentially they're skills that will help you A) in your life but B) in whatever whatever role you choose you know for a career. Indeed. So, obviously being able to accurately estimate the cost of a project and schedule, those things are really valuable to a client. What are some other things that there's some other value that project controls brings to a client? Well, I mean so product controls actually entails a lot of different pieces here. I mean schedule and cost are certainly the biggest focus. But there are a lot of other things that we do that impact those things. Right? So risk management for example is a big part of project controls. And when you think about it's you know, what's associated with the risk, right? There's a cost impact and a time impact. So again that's a big value add that we bring is the ability to assess risk and point out different different items that might cause issues later on in a project. So it's a little bit of foresight. Additionally we do a lot of work with software. So it's the software that helps run a project. So document control systems, they
they essentially help manage the flow of
documents, of communication through a project through all the stakeholders. And that's pretty important. I mean that's that's one of the things that helps keep, the let's call it the gears oiled and keeps a project moving along. You know the best the best kind of document management system that you possibly have on a project is when you don't even know is there. Just functions. It just functions. Our previous guest last week was Tom Earp. Oh great. And so you're working with Tom on some different kinds of things to make some of those processes work even better for documents, and photos, and stuff. Absolutely. One of the things we're working on for the firm right now is our own document management system that spans both design and construction. So it's already built out significantly but we're continuing to expand it and put great things into it. So it started off where it was an RFI and submittal management system. Then we built this document module to it; then we built this design submittal comment tracking system. We're building this photo module, this photo management module to it. So the idea of monitoring your progress photos throughout a project. I mean right now I would say 90 percent of the projects out there probably just take photos and shove them into some folder and then nobody really looks at them until they need something. So the idea is to make that a more meaningful process. And then we have a lot of other pieces of the system that are in the works. So it's a really exciting project that we're working on and it's great to be able to work with Tom on it. Yeah it seems like it'll really brings some improvements and efficiencies that are really valuable Absolutely. That's one of the great things about about what we have here is that you know we we have these people that you can reach out to and get something like that done. You know I just can't imagine what it would be like to work here if I didn't have a Tom Earp or a Jim Ridenour or or anybody else you know in our huge lineup here that I could reach out to and make some of these visions actually come to fruition. So it's pretty exciting. When you're looking at a project that you've worked on how do you determine if it's been successful or not? Beyond just the project being finished and we worked on it and we feel good about it. But how do you actually determine the success of it from your perspective? Well I mean you know dealing with cost and schedule right there's a usually a clear indicator there. Was that a softball question? No no it's it's really not right. So I could be involved in a project that has several errors in the plans and you know if you have a situation like that, I mean the expectation would be that there's going to be additional costs, there's going to be additional time, so successfully moving that project to the goal line, getting it there is one thing. So it really depends on what all the different factors are in a project whether you can really use the cost and time aspects as the indicator but the idea is that we walk away from a project that's been successfully and safely completed that we have done our best to minimize those time impacts, minimize those cost impacts, and ideally proactively identify them so that people aren't blindsided as we move forward. Right. That's and I would say that's probably one of the biggest successes that you can have: is making sure that everybody knows what the risks are, what's coming up, so that nobody is just completely blindsided. Sure. Well as you've progressed through your career I'm sure there's been a lot of lessons learned. What's what's a lesson that you wish you had learned or something you wish you had known earlier on in your career? Oh boy. You know one of one of the best piece of advice I got as I was growing in this career you know I'd actually gone to, she's one of our partners now Mimi, so I'd been talking to Mimi and I said, 'You know, things are getting really busy. You know I've got a lot of stuff going on. I'm also starting a family. There's there's a lot of stuff happening and I feel like I just can't keep up with it. I said How do you do it Mimi?' And she said, 'I don't.'. Wait what? Let me explain. So she said, 'Number one: family always comes first.' Which is a great thing about this company and about the people that we have is family always comes first. 'Number two: be ready to say no to things. You just gotta know what what what's the most important thing.' And frankly family trumps all. So yeah. Indeed. Yeah. All right. So we could talk about a lot of stuff. I mean you do so many things but we've come to the point in the show where it's time for your pick of the week. And we're going to try something new with the pick of the week this week because I know what it is. Yeah. Matt told me in advance. I told him in advance. And we've got we've got a little something something new this week that we're going to try to the back. Fingers crossed that it works. It should. It worked when we tested it. So Matt what is your pick? So it's it's a band: Young the Giant. Great great band. So one of the songs I'm into right now 'Simplify.' We'll let it role here for a seconds. Yeah. Try not to get a copyright claim on YouTube. We'll won't play it too long. As our lights flash. These lights.
This is Simplify, from Young
the Giant. Matt what do you what do you dig about Young the Gian. You know I got into them really early on in their career. They were just a not well-known band by the time I started listening to them. And I got them to got to watch them grow in their career. What's that. You to the next song? Yeah, we're switching to the next track here. You know gotta give the people a flavor of what's going on you know. But it was it was great to see them evolve through their style and I would say each one of their albums has a very different style to it. Interesting. OK. You know so if you go back to their earlier work you know it was just it was great. I mean it was one of the best albums I think I've ever heard. And the later albums you know took some time to to listen to and get used to but they were they were all just as amazing. I mean they just had these these great songs these great pieces to them. I mean I think they're just a great band listen to. Awesome. This is the track Call Me Back. Yup. And these are from the album Mirror Master. So Matt's pick this week: Young the Giant. Thanks. Alright.
Well Matt, thanks for coming in the studio and
joining us. We appreciate you taking the time to talk about what you do and and sharing some expertise yet with us. You can check us out every Tuesday on another episode of Inside Engineering. We are on your favorite podcasting platform and we're trying to be in as many places as possible. You can also find us at our website rkk.com/podcast, where you can stream every episode on demand. We also have a short anonymous survey there that we're just asking for some feedback, general feedback on the episode we're trying to make this as good as it can be. And so please take a minute to leave some feedback let us know what you think and we'll see you next week on another episode been on inside engineering. Be nice on that feedback please. Be honest though. Nice and honest. Alright, fair enough.

Show Notes

Lesson Learned

Matt got some great advice earlier on his career to remember that while keeping up with life and work can be overwhelming, family always comes first.

Pick of the week

Matt’s pick was the band Young the Giant. We listened to snippets from the tracks ‘Simplify’ and ‘Call Me Back’ from the album ‘Mirror Master’.

Featured Projects

You might also be interested in:

Ready to work with us? Let’s get started.