Running and Truss Design

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I’ve been running for years and often think about the correlation between running and effective truss design. One aspect is “pace”.

Pace

If you’ve ever run any distance for time, you will become aware of how your choices more than your ability, will affect your final time. In a ten-mile run, for instance, if your goal was to run that distance in 80 minutes, you’ll need to run at an 8 minute per mile pace. If you run at a 10 minute per mile pace for 7 miles you’ll find yourself at 70 minutes into your run with 3 miles left to go. Three miles that you need to do in only 10 minutes. We irrationally try to kick it into high gear to make up for lost time, but the distance we must travel in the time we have left is just physically impossible. This brings us to an important principle: lost time cannot be recovered.

Choices

When giving the run an honest assessment, we can determine several points of failure that stem from our choices.

  • We didn’t start the run with the correct pace.
  • We didn’t measure our pace.

Choosing the correct pace is fundamental. You set a goal, then you break that goal into smaller sections. Once you do this, you must execute and run at that pace. If you don’t follow your plan, you may set your pace too fast or too slow, typically leading to the same result: not achieving your goal.

Measuring your pace during the run is also essential, it lets you know if you are lagging and need to increase your pace for the next mile or two, or if you are on track. Not measuring, as in the example above, can lead to being very far behind with no awareness until it is too late.

What About Truss Design?

Truss design, like all work, has similarities to running. While you can design some jobs with a “sprint”, many jobs require multiple days to complete.

For truss designers, many feel like they are too busy to assess upcoming jobs and make a plan while they are in the middle of the one they are on. This is understandable, but there are some important factors that may be missed.

  • An estimated time of completion (ETC) cannot be established.
  • Your ETC may differ from your design manager’s.
  • You may not have the skills need to complete the job and need to inform your design manager.
  • Missing information is not addressed.

If that job is to be completed on time it must be reviewed so that an estimated time of completion (ETC) can be established. If you open the plans on say, day 6, only to realize that it is a three-day project, you are behind schedule before you even start.

If your ETC doesn’t match that of your design manager, you need to discuss this with him or her before too much time elapses. The last thing a manager needs is to be informed that you can’t get the job done on schedule when it’s too late to assign the job to someone else. This can have a significant impact on your design manager and your fellow designers.

You also may not have the requisite skill to do the job. You may need additional help or the job needs to be reassigned to someone who has the ability to perform the job. The sooner your design manager knows this, the better.

Missing information is an important aspect of “pace”. Don’t use requests for information to “buy time”, but rather, be proactive about requests for information (RFI) so that answers can be provided in a timely manner before the job is due. Sending an RFI out the day before the customer is expecting the job is one way to tell them that you can’t manage your time. It also forces everyone else involved in the project to work at a frenzy to get the info you need, whereas the same email 6 days prior would have fit smoothly into their schedule.

Finishing Well

The goal of running the race isn’t just to “finish” but to finish well. When it comes to truss design, finishing well means that you can be satisfied with your performance, and those around you have the confidence that you are a key player who manages time well.

Tim Hoke
General Manager – Gould Design, Inc.
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