Construction: The real-time era

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By Russell Down, chief executive at Speedy Hire

Productivity and its effect on project timescales is increasingly a crucial factor for all types of businesses across the construction sector. 

As profit margins tighten, anything that threatens the project plan or deadlines can have a seriously negative effect on both the financial return and overall project success.

Cornerstone Projects revealed in its recent poll that construction industry players incur costs of up to 20% when deadlines are missed with over 85% of companies admitting to have experienced delays in their recent projects.

Newly developed technologies and methodologies such as building information modelling (BIM) and offsite construction have become increasingly popular, paving the way for significant project efficiencies. However, with so little leeway or contingency now built into timelines, an unforeseen delay for any reason threatens to undo performance gains achieved by these advances.

BIM has the potential to identify errors earlier in the cycle and changes can be made at the design stage. Reduced design errors mean less time-consuming rework and if issues are identified earlier, the construction stage can often progress without delay.

This efficiency drive has also seen a rise in offsite construction methods. For example, concrete beams can be precast off site, or whole structures created elsewhere with the involvement of many companies, to build standard configurations offsite and avoid the usual construction delays. 4D scheduling and sequencing tools also enable better managed and faster projects.

Every company involved in the supply chain has a responsibility to invest in this transformation and to deliver on time and in full (OTIF). 

Suppliers need to recognise and address the productivity issues faced by their partners, and be willing to make their own investment, in systems, equipment, people and logistics, to ensure they have the capacity and capabilities to further enable the success of customers’ projects, in this faster-paced world.

Adhering to the contractor’s schedule is imperative if the project timescale is to be met. Delayed deliveries, or part deliveries, often result in highly-paid, expert tradespeople on site, ready and able to work but waiting for the delayed equipment. 

Additionally, if large equipment arrives ahead of time, and there is no room, the subsequent blockage of a public area will incur excess charges in the form of council fines.

As the industry adapts to more efficient ways of working, the pressure is now on suppliers to match the time-critical requirements.  This is not the first industry, and will by no means be the last, to be affected and pushed to change due to the increasingly sophisticated customer demands.

The Amazon model has set the bar high in terms of customer service, providing an intuitive ordering system which allows us as consumers, to have our items delivered exactly when we want them. This level of efficient service is now spreading from our personal, to professional lives and expectations for faster service are now common, in every sector.

The introduction of new technologies and methodologies such as BIM and offsite construction do bring the construction industry closer to this reality however, any supplier delays stand to undo progress made by these initiatives.

The entire construction industry is under pressure to become more efficient and achieve target operating margins; the industry as a whole needs to bring the surrounding ecosystem up to speed alongside it. The need for near real-time service and reliability, is here to stay.


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