Richard Robertson is Development Director at Cadline, which provides technology and services to improve business performance in design, analysis, data management, and collaboration across the architecture, engineering and construction industries. Here, Richard discusses the issue of unforeseen delays and what proactive measures can be taken to solve them.
Recent research published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) suggests that three out of five construction projects are completed late. Considering this is more than 50% of building sites, we need to establish what causes this ongoing issue and look for ways to change. After all, it does no good for construction to be among a handful of industries that are known to never finish on time or within budget. Every new announcement of a construction site experiencing issues and delays costs contractors and firms a good share of public trust.
While construction projects are complex due to the many stakeholders and processes involved, it seems that the collective industry creates a smokescreen about delays – a mentality that is seriously harming trust in the sector.
Some of the UK’s biggest hero construction projects, such as Crossrail and HS2, are notably delayed and considerably over budget, causing frustration for contractors. More often than not, delays are caused by a lack of information or access to data in the planning stages, but these challenges can be easily avoided in future.
A major issue contributing to delays within the industry is communication silos. For example, an architect may be unaware of the latest construction timeline while the contractor chases for supplies. Deadlines set without the most up to date information are inevitably missed, and so the domino effect falls. By breaking down communication silos we’re able to set evidence-based project timelines that are far more likely to be met. We should approach risk management in the planning stage with practical eyes, work around any issues and allow time for changes before the project starts.
Large projects require the ability for teams to access and update data in real time throughout the construction lifecycle, such as order changes, redesigns, progress and job costs. This not only reduces the likelihood of error but saves time and resources by improving communication and streamlining workflow for the entire workforce. Often this information is only available to senior stakeholders, but everyone engaged in the project should have easy access to the most accurate information, via a secure platform, to work most efficiently.
Being able to convey information to colleagues in a timely manner is essential in every project, even more so in the current environment where information is changing rapidly, globally. Manual updates and paper or email trails can often become lost or create a backlog, causing essential time to be wasted on searching for information.
The pandemic has proven that the industry needs to be set up for modern ways of working in order to avoid delays, having thrown us into the deep end as teams adapted to working remotely. However, it has also helped us to realise that with the right tools, remote operations can be far more productive. For example, waiting for in-person site visits and manual reports to be completed can slow down progress, especially where firms are limited to the number of staff allowed on site at one time. But utilising cloud-based technology enables firms to view a site from anywhere in the world in real time, streamlining productivity, freeing up admin time and minimising delays.
These platforms allow companies to share live progress of projects with their field teams, stakeholders and clients, so all parties are aware of any potential issues and can ensure tasks run on time. It is in the interest of all construction companies to set their staff up for better ways of working and to embrace new methods and technology early – ahead of possible challenges arising.
Creating a construction plan based on estimated data is ineffective, even if the “ideal” results seem more attractive. Utilising technology enables businesses to plan based on accurate, up-to-date data with intelligent and cohesive timelines to offer a more realistic deadline. This avoids any risk of over-optimism and helps team plan for all scenarios, enabling them to be better equipped to make key decisions throughout the project timeline. As a key contributor to the UK economy, the industry is under immense pressure to meet project deadlines and delays cannot be afforded. With more businesses facing public scrutiny and being under the spotlight, it is ultimately how they respond to delays that can truly make or break a project.
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