With the UK now boasting a record construction and infrastructure pipeline worth more than £500bn, it has never been more important to save time and money and to help funding pots stretch further
While collaboration has become a buzzword in the construction industry, too few projects are being driven by a genuinely collaborative approach. If a project is to be as efficient and successful as it can be then all project partners and allies need to work together to engineer the best solutions.
Too often collaboration is the watchword at the beginning of a relationship but the spirit of partnership and co-operation fades away as the project progresses and disagreements and disengagement creep in. Genuine collaboration where all parties continuously strive to achieve the best result is still the exception rather than the rule.
However, the importance of collaboration has never been greater. With the UK now boasting a record construction and infrastructure pipeline worth more than £500bn, it has never been more important to improve productivity to save time and money and to help funding pots stretch further.
Despite Lord Adonis’ proclamations average margins remain wafer-thin at just 2.5%. And these margins are coming under even further pressure from increasing inflation costs to materials and salaries. Almost two-thirds of projects (59%) are not built on time and almost one third of projects come in over budget (32%). This trend for poor delivery coupled with the industry’s financial challenges is the incentive the industry needs for all companies in the supply chain to work together more efficiently.
Too often collaboration is the watchword at the beginning of a relationship but the spirit of partnership and co-operation fades away as the project progresses
While collaboration should never have been viewed as just a nice thing to do the industry is coming under increasing pressure to collaborate. Collaboration doesn’t just produce better outcomes for projects but in the long term it produces better outcomes for contractors, communities and the reputation of British contractors.
How can we collaborate better?
To improve infrastructure and construction delivery, a collaborative approach needs to be adopted from the outset. Consultants, contractors and subbies should be brought together as early as possible at the start of a project to work out what’s technically feasible and break down the silos and adversarial approach.
Just as importantly this early engagement is crucial to set out the ground rules. All project partners need to agree to consistent ways of working, reporting and sharing information so that everyone in the supply chain is aware of how best to communicate and work with each other.
Working practices that encourage collaboration should be discussed, standardised and agreed. These could include adopting standardised project documents so that all parties present and report information in the same way and creating incentives which reward all parties for work together to improve project delivery.
It must put technology at the heart of improving Britain’s productivity puzzle which results in a British worker producing work in five days which a German worker can do in four
Benefits of technology
Technology also has a key role to play in improving collaboration, so needs to be embraced by project teams. BIM is just one example of a solution that is helping to change the way we build, helping contractors improve at anticipating costs and issues, ensuring programmes can be delivered more effectively.
Using a standardised software platform helps to drive consistent standards and provide greater transparency of data across the supply chain. These platforms create one central repository which parties can access to upload, share and extract information. Each aspect of the project can be mapped out from the beginning to the end, and viewed by any member of the team at any time.
Adopting new IT and information management systems may culturally, take some construction firms out of their comfort zones, but the investment can significantly increase productivity by reducing project errors, duplication, and rework.
Setting the agenda
As the government progresses a new industrial strategy and pursues ambitious plans to make Britain a world leader in major infrastructure, then it must put technology at the heart of improving Britain’s productivity puzzle which results in a British worker producing work in five days which a German worker can do in four.
Contractors must solve the productivity puzzle too but cannot do this working on their own. Collaboration is central to all of this because a construction project can only be as successful as its weakest link. Genuine collaboration is about ensuring all parties work together to prevent any weak links.