Tom Boland, Global Head of Digitalisation at Zutec, explains how the new Value Toolkit can bring the construction industry into the 21st century and change it for the better.
The construction industry has too often been guilty of short-termism, seeking ways to minimise cost and transfer risk, rather than considering the whole-life value of development and procurement phases. It’s a habit the sector must break if we’re serious about supporting the path to Net Zero, boosting productivity, delivering safe, high quality buildings, and improving social impact.
That is why the Construction Innovation Hub created the Value Toolkit: a government-backed initiative which looks to change the way the construction industry thinks about and measures value. Currently in its pilot phase, the Toolkit will help clients to make more value-based decisions across the investment life cycle of a project, ensuring better project outcomes and leading to a more sustainable built environment and model for the industry to follow.
Delivering real value doesn’t require a change in policy but rather in approach—one which addresses the safety, sustainability and longer-term viability of a project, and in turn positively impacts the client and end-user. While this change won’t happen overnight, the use of technology will certainly help to speed up the process, and ensure projects meet important, ‘big-picture’ targets.
The sector today faces a multitude of challenges, including a lack of organisational memory, siloed work environments and an adversarial, low-margin culture. This leads to inconsistencies in approach, a lack of alignment in decision-making and a narrow focus, when there should instead be a collaborative effort to achieve valuable, lasting results.
Further, the construction industry is one of the slowest to digitise, and the vast majority of companies still adhere to traditional practices, which hinders progress and leaves room for error, limiting the scope of delivering value.
One such example is the use of clunky systems, like Microsoft Excel and Dropbox, which are not tailored to industry-specific needs. Another is the continued use of paper, which is not only an environmental concern, but prevents the sector from carrying out projects more efficiently and evolving as a whole.
The industry needs to pivot its approach to one that supports informed decision-making and which allows teams to innovate. The Value Toolkit directly supports the objectives set out in the Construction Playbook—which emphasises an outcome-focused approach to projects—by continuously forecasting and measuring value performance throughout the delivery and operation of a project.
A unique value profile can be created for every company through the platform, providing the user with a baseline against which informed decisions can be made and which enables them to select a delivery model and commercial strategy that best meets their long-term goals. It will also empower suppliers to dovetail their services according to their client’s value drivers. This is really important because it reduces the risk of suppliers embarking on inappropriate work, which has so often caused delays and inefficiencies in building developments and infrastructure projects. Via the Toolkit, companies will be able to maximise value and address the skills and training needs required to bring clients and industry on board with this new approach to projects, driving better social, environmental and economic results.
Turning to technology
With the use of digital tools, the construction industry can better harness data and assess value from the design stage right through to the handover and beyond. Their use will also become mandatory as the sector moves towards the ‘golden thread’ proposed in the Building Safety Bill, particularly in relation to the way contractors hold and manage compliance information.
For instance, with the use of Quality Management modules, such as the one Zutec provides, field engineering teams working on projects can maintain compliance with construction quality specifications. Additionally, digitised QA/QC processes and snagging and defect management tools allow staff to work and collaborate via their mobile devices and customise inspections processes. During the construction phase, this reduces admin time and inefficiencies. In the long run, it ensures the safety of projects, lower maintenance and a reduction in embodied carbon, which in turn has a positive impact on society and will help the UK, and wider global community, reach Net Zero 2050.
Change is coming
The Value Toolkit promises a seismic shift, moving the sector from being cost-focused to value-driven, to society’s benefit. It is set to drive a new culture of transparency, openness and accountability, and when this is coupled with a rigorous approach to metrics in assessing success, robust data management will be a lynchpin component of successful projects.
Construction professionals who use the Toolkit, as well as other software such as Zutec, will be able to focus on the value of their projects, giving them a significant competitive advantage. This therefore needs to be a wake-up call to the industry, as contractors without a digital transformation strategy or innovation plan, and subcontractors who lack digital skills, will be left behind.
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