Richard Robertson, business development director at Cadline, discusses why the construction industry needs to stop hiding behind “unforeseen delays” and show the public what proactive measures are being made
When googling “construction project delays” you get 84.8 million articles that contain reasons, causes, advice and even research journals on the subject. It is well known, as an industry, we are not good at finishing projects on time or to budget and yet, it is one of the most important need factors for clients. The consequences of delays can mean cash flow issues, time spent readjusting plans, communication nightmares, job changes and the unlikelihood of repeat business for that construction company.
For the communication part, we often use the term ‘unforeseen delays’, a phrase used to cover the warts and all that have led to setbacks in the project. What does the British psyche really think when they hear these words? Considering the wide overuse of this phrase means, I believe the phrase is starting to wear thin and this mentality is harming trust in the industry.
Most of the UK’s biggest hero construction projects, such as Crossrail and HS2, are delayed and considerably over budget, using taxpayers’ money. While we can all appreciate that construction projects are complex, they often start with little knowledge of site conditions, rely on a large number of moving parts and external suppliers. With advances in technology and better ways of working, the term “unforeseen delays”, we argue, is perceived as a get out of jail free card and a way to patronise the general public by not explaining what is really going on.
As a collective, we should be looking at proactive measures for reducing the use of this phrase and ways to communicate better so that we can rebuild trust and when real and unavoidable delays do happen, communication is met with understanding and patience.
We can look at other countries to give us the confidence to move away from over-optimism in the planning stage. Outside of the UK, other countries do this much better than us because they have more realistic approaches to risk management. They engage in risk management from the beginning in the pre-planning stage, to work around any issues and allow time for any realistic changes or considerations before the project starts. To thrive in the world of construction projects, it’s fair to assume we need a healthy dose of optimism and while big promises might look good in the proposal stage and when winning large scale projects, but accurate planning should be essential from the get go.
This is the golden opportunity to use software to plan properly, using thought through data and modelling is key. If you engage software that enables greater risk mitigation, the project will be met with greater trust if you set evidence-based project timelines and meet them.
Top of the range technology
In this digital era, the general public expects that top of the range technology is being used when projects are totalling multi million pounds of taxpayer money. We only need to look at the government’s use of Excel when collecting data during the Covid-19 pandemic and the ridicule that they faced when the data lines were exceeded. Delays blamed on incompetent technology systems are unlikely to be met with a considerate and sympathetic view from the public or the paying client.
Taking this one step further, it is important that projects provide everyone with the right tools for the job – companies may be running top of the range software on large scale projects, but it doesn’t mean it should only be available for senior stakeholders.
Technology advances mean software saves valuable time, money and resources by improving communication and streamlining workflow for the entire workforce. Which means that everyone engaged in the project should have the software support to make their job the most efficient it can be, and it is the responsibility of the senior management to ensure that everyone understands how to use it to their advantage.
The site office is naturally the hubbub of any construction project, but in 2021 it shouldn’t be the central point for all communication. Timely communication is an essential component for every construction project and it is of paramount importance that all teams are connected around a centralised, live schedule. Including those who predominantly work off-site or who are connected to the project, but work in other countries or time zones.
The construction industry needs to start communicating faster and more effectively, and abolish the possibility of breakdowns in communication by working in real-time. Adopting a live cloud based communication environment can speed up the decision-making process and stop situations where you might need to “down tools”, ultimately causing delays.
Using cloud based technology also means you are able to share a live version of your project’s schedule with your field teams, stakeholders and client at any time. It’s the only way to make sure everyone is facing the same direction and eliminate waiting time down to a minimum.
Paperwork is a dirty word in 2021 and is, understandably, seen as a ball and chain solution on large construction projects. While many people will still argue that there is a big need for paper trails for health and safety reasons, switching to a cloud based information portal will help eliminate costly paperwork mistakes that cause knock-on effects later down the line.
By embracing technology to securely store and share data, businesses can predict and plan ahead for possible challenges, pivot operations to meet growing demand and build a more insightful and responsive enterprise, which can be trusted. Utilising up to date data combined with AI technology, projects can be more accurately and efficiently planned, costed and undertaken. Now more than ever, delays, wasted funds and underutilised resources cannot be afforded, and those who take advantage of technological advances within the construction industry will thrive in the years ahead.
Business development director