With the Government’s Autumn Statement just around the corner, the thorny issue of the UK’s woeful industrial productivity is once again raising its head
As we accelerate towards an uncertain post-Brexit world, both the government and business is now under no illusion about the importance - and the challenge - of raising our game across all sectors of the economy.
It is a critical issue. Particularly once the UK is outside the European Union, we really can no longer tolerate, as the recent industrial strategy consultation pointed out, productivity per worker and per hour worked being outstripped by our rivals in Germany and France and a whopping 25 percentage points below the US.
Nor can we sustain the current productivity gap between London and the rest of the UK. The UK must rapidly rebalance its economy and step up investment and support to the regions if it is to truly engage all available skills and capacity.
Recent work by the Digital Built Britain programme demonstrates the critical role the built environment plays in driving the whole of the UK’s economy, with a significant proportion of the £1,869bn annual GDP directly related to the performance of our built environment.
This work highlights that boosting the productive output of the nation goes way beyond simply reducing the annual £89bn capital cost of the infrastructure which our vital transport, health, or social services rely on. And it goes even beyond the need to boost the efficiency of the estimated £122bn invested each year to maintain and operate this infrastructure.
As I constantly remind the industry, maximising the outcomes achieved from this investment starts by spending time and thought at the start getting the brief correct – setting out with a clear view around what interventions really will move the dial for customers.
While we must certainly build on the successes of the recent BIM Level 2 programme, which has seen investment in innovation, digital technology and collaboration really start to make a step change in built environment infrastructure delivery, this focus on efficiency will only take us so far. In reality BIM is just the starting point for a bigger, more important transformation across the sector.
It is a transformation that will require a new data centric approach and a new data-embracing culture across the built environment. Most likely it will also require a new language, stepping away from the important but constraining world of BIM and towards a new and bigger world of data exploitation, information management, feedback and advanced analytics.
To be honest, while talk of industry transformation sounds daunting, in reality there is still much low hanging fruit for us to take advantage of as we start to tackle the challenge. Not least based around the fact that globally, businesses across all sectors still currently only access and utilise around 1% of the data that is available and ready to help boost performance.
Accessing and mobilising this so-called dark data is key to the required industry transformation; setting in place vital feedback loops, predictive analytics and data-driven decision making processes that will take the built environment beyond BIM.
Boosting productivity means we all have to change to survive. We cannot go on delivering 21st century infrastructure with 19th century techniques which as currently placing such a disastrous brake on the UK economy and its ability to complete and grow.
Don’t forget BIM – build on it. Now is the time to adjust your thinking and your focus to embrace the new world of data opportunity. A more productive, profitable – and rewarding – future awaits.