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Insights Cycle Time in Construction


By Grant Perry

What is cycle time and, how does it relate to construction surveying?

Cycle time, according to mainstream Lean and Agile standards, is the amount of time elapsed from the beginning of a project (or event) to its eventual completion. Within the realm of construction, each component of the design and build process has its own relative cycle time, compounding the overall project cycle time with multiple layers of relative completion goals.

Cycle time as it relates to construction surveying has been our focus at Terrane for several years and, ultimately, has led to a quest for the truth in the amount of time it takes to provide the best quality construction services. For the average surveying firm, cycle time is defined by the time it takes to complete all aspects of a specific service package, from the initial consultation, contract negotiation, office computing and field execution, to the various quality control checks and verification procedures leading up to final delivery of the survey product to the client. For specific site visits provided during the project in progress, the cycle time is reduced to include only the pertinent services to that visit. Nevertheless, this cycle time can still exceed the lead time the client or contractor has budgeted for survey completion. Lead time is the critical element in construction surveying, especially when providing services at volume in a robust business environment.


Our team realized the importance of lead time in performing top-quality survey work and that it is in everyone’s best interest to have a positive lead time and long runway for which to coordinate and execute complex projects. Many years of construction surveying have also taught us that sufficient lead time, perfectly drawn plans, and conscientious coordination between disciplines are not common or to be expected in any situation. The most common thing heard in construction survey scheduling is, “Can you come to the site now?” or “What about tomorrow?”

Arguably the most critical and easily overlooked element to construction project management is the survey component, cast aside or forgotten until the last minute to coordinate materials, subcontractors, permitting, and inspections. These frenetic, last-minute calls to retain construction survey services prompted our team to action, to scale our operation accordingly, and to cut industry-standard cycle times down to a fraction of the status quo.

Our first task was to understand the client/contractor requirements based on their overall project cycle times and to scale our services to fit their needs accordingly. With Terrane’s powerful proprietary scheduling software, we found that we could adjust each element of the overall project cycle time at a single task level, refining and streamlining these tasks into a cohesive site visit framework designed for maximum efficacy with little or no lag time to the client or our overall systems. Key to this was the initial response time to survey requests. With careful and deliberate administration, the team was able to consistently respond to all survey requests within minutes of the first contact, enabling the coordination of project site visits in real-time and affording the clients peace of mind with the knowledge that we were actively working towards their goals.


With this first and most important step completed, our team was then able to assign tasks appropriately, schedule initial and follow up visits, and get the field crews’ “boots on the ground” in the time it would take most survey firms to just return the initial phone call or email. This, combined with our aforementioned proprietary software and processes, enabled us to consistently provide construction services on-site within 48 hours or less. Once these systems and processes were in place, the Terrane construction division was no longer “two weeks from everywhere” but instead setting the regional standard with our agile response, taking cycle time to the next level for many of our clients, contractors, and trusted construction partners.

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