Contractors reveal framework to boost private sector productivity

Major contractors including Mace, Skanska and Sir Robert McAlpine have released a plan to boost productivity in the construction sector.

The framework, published yesterday by not-for-profit group Be the Business, outlines seven steps which contractors, particularly in the private sector, could take to boost their productivity. They include early engagement with other parts of the supply chain and identifying the scope for data and technology use in each project.

Also involved in the project were Landsec, Lendlease and architect Bryden Wood. The firms make up Be the Business’s Construction Productivity Taskforce.

The seven steps themselves, are based on two particular construction projects and the measures taken on them to increase productivity. Construction News visited the first one – Landsec’s The Forge in London (pictured above) – last November, while the second is British Land’s Blossom Street project Norton Folgate, in east London.

Improving productivity within construction would help to address a host of ongoing issues within the sector, British Land head of developments and chair of the taskforce Nigel Webb said at the launch event, held yesterday at the headquarters of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in London.

Step 1: Engage Engagement of supply chain partners and key stakeholders

Step 2: Define Conduct a definition workshop to agree key metrics

Step 3: Identify data Identify key data points needed to measure the key metrics

Step 4: Identify technology Identify and integrate suitable technologies to capture the required data

Step 5: Collate data Collate the data capture plan: mobilise technologies and processes to streamline data collection

Step 6: Measure and analyse Measure, analyse and review to test the metrics and identify productivity
improvement insights

Step 7: Improve and feedback Implement productivity improvements and feedback on results

“Margins are a big issue in our industry, particularly amongst contractors and the supply chain,” Webb said. “I if I was asked to set up a construction company today, I would think there were mad, asking me to do that and to take on all that risk.”

But improving productivity would help that, he added, and with it bring extra finance to invest elsewhere in the business.

“That itself allows us to invest in skills, to invest in net-zero technology and to invest in our people,” he said.

An increased focus on planning, a key part of improving productivity, would in itself have a wide impact on the sector, Skanska executive vice president Katy Dowding said, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There was a lot more preplanning [during the pandemic] and a lot more thinking ahead. So, safety improved, as well as production,” she said. “What we’re seeing with this is improvements in safety, quality, reduction of waste, and therefore environmental carbon benefits as well.

“It’s about a lot more than just doing things a bit cheaper. The aim of the framework is to establish a mindset where productivity is central to planning and management and considered as early in the design process as possible.” 

The first step involves engaging with the full supply chain, to organise the collecting of data, and to identify all the possible problems on site. There should then be frequent meetings between the various parts of the supply chain regarding what data is collected, whether it has helped to solve the issues on site or given insight on ways to improve productivity.

“The whole team needs to have a desire to share and learn from each other to get the most out of the study,” the document detailing the framework reads.

The second step focuses on defining the metrics which need to be collected, what data should be collected and how, and how often it should be collected, via a workshop with the other supply chain partners.

The various teams involved in collecting the data should then find suitable technology to analyse the data, before it is collated, measured and then analysed. The final step in the process would involve giving feedback.

Landsec head of design innovation and property solutions Neil Pennell said improving productivity is “the key to driving transformational change in the construction sector”.

“To be able to improve, it is important first to measure and compare,” he said. “This framework, with its data to dashboard focus, provides a great starting point for the industry to begin to standardise the process of measuring site construction productivity.”

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