“A considerable amount of waste is incurred in the industry as a result of poor logistics,” concluded the Strategic Forum’s industry report Accelerating Change in 2002. Three years later, we now know roughly how much waste we’re talking about – £3bn.
The subsequent follow-up report by the forum on the issue of logistics has revealed this week how poor transport planning by our industry has also resulted in greater health and safety risks, longer projects and a reduction in the overall quality of construction – as well as the industry’s image taking another battering. This is even more poignant given that Whitehall has placed sustainability and energy renewal at the top of its agenda, and is even considering speeding up developers’ planning proposals if they include low-carbon buildings (see page 18). So given this backdrop, surely now is the time to scrutinise the environmental impact of hundreds of fuel-guzzling, pollution-ridden, half-empty construction vans and lorries roaming the Countryside – isn’t it?
However, this is not just an issue for manufacturers and suppliers, despite the onus on the sector to ensure a project has the right materials at the right time. The forum is calling for the whole industry to embrace best practice. A project’s main contractor, identified in the report as the driving force behind any effective logistics plan, has, alongside its client, been urged to prepare such a plan in full consultation with its supply chain.
Designers, too, have been urged to consider the impact of site management from the earliest possible date – a move that becomes even more significant given proposed changes to the CDM safety rules. The whole industry is being asked to recognise that there are real financial benefits to improving the logistics of a project. But for this to be effective there cannot just be another paper chase – the fundamental criticism levelled at the old CDM regulations.
Research from BSRIA, conducted over the 10 years to 2004, has revealed that on average, site operatives from all trades spend 10% of their working day waiting for materials or collecting materials, tools or equipment. So there is real evidence for every site to take on board. And if the industry is not convinced by the need for cost-effective logistics management on a large scale, it should look no further than the military-style regime that has been installed at Heathrow Terminal 5, where hundreds of deliveries are made to the site every few minutes.
One industry leader points out that the industry is notoriously slow to adapt to technology and even worse at taking on board new ways of working. “The culture of the industry is that it needs a whole raft of hard evidence in front of its eyes to convince it that it will improve its bottom line before it will actually change its ways.” This latest report presents £3bn worth of evidence and a whole host of other benefits important to the industry. The challenge now is to avoid the paper chase and create real, lasting change to reap those benefits.
Tom Broughton, deputy editor