Productivity and its effect on project timelines have always been important issues for businesses across the industry.
However, in this era of thin profit margins, anything that threatens deadlines can put the success and financial performance of an entire project in jeopardy.
According to a recent poll of construction firms by Cornerstone Projects, missing project deadlines can increase costs by up to 20 per cent, while more than 85 per cent of companies said they experienced delays on recent jobs.
So why has precision timing become such an important factor?
The planning bottleneck has much to answer for; delays at this stage put a project under pressure from the start. From this point forward, every partner at each stage of the build wants their return as quickly as possible.
Fortunately, the growing use of technologies and methodologies such as BIM and offsite construction offer the chance for significant efficiencies.
BIM accelerates timescales by helping identify errors earlier in the cycle and make changes at the design stage rather than during construction.
Offsite means concrete beams can be precast in factories and whole structures created in controlled environments. Many companies, including McDonald’s, now build off site to standard configurations to avoid delays on site where space is tight, conditions more variable and factors such as weather can affect productivity.
4D scheduling and sequencing tools meanwhile are helping the industry carry out different stages of projects concurrently, creating far better managed and faster jobs.
However, with so little leeway or contingency now built into timelines, an unforeseen delay can undo any performance gains achieved by these advances.
Getting the job done on time
Every company involved in the supply chain has a responsibility to invest in this transformation and deliver on time, however peripheral their role. Suppliers must avoid being the weakest link, as a late delivery at an early stage can have a significant knock-on effect on the client downstream.
“While the availability and reliability of equipment have always been important, these factors are now critical”
Suppliers need to recognise and address the productivity issues faced by their partners. They must be prepared to make their own investment in systems, equipment, people and logistics, to ensure they can enable the success of customers’ projects.
While the availability and reliability of equipment have always been important, these factors are now critical. To plan accurately, construction managers need to know that equipment is available within their timescales, and that it will be reliable when received.
The industry increasingly faces restricted delivery times to site, which puts increased pressure on project programmes and suppliers, with the prospect of increased downtime if deliveries have to be turned away from site and rebooked.
Delayed deliveries can result in highly paid tradespeople waiting on site for the right hired tools and equipment. Alternatively, if larger equipment arrives too early, there may be a lack of space on site, potentially obstructing the public and resulting in fines.
At the same time, contractors need flexibility and to be able to change schedules at short notice if, for example, weather conditions bring work to a halt.
Forced to change
As the industry adapts to leaner and more efficient ways of working, suppliers need to up their game.
As consumers in the age of Amazon, we’ve grown accustomed to being able to have our chosen item delivered within 24 hours at a time of our choosing.
“If the industry is under pressure to become more efficient, productive and profitable, it needs to bring its surrounding ecosystem up to speed alongside it”
This level of service and efficiency is increasingly what contractors are demanding from the supply chain. Methods such as BIM and offsite, alongside strong supplier relationships, will accelerate the move towards a more ‘real-time’ industry model.
For equipment hire suppliers, this model requires a focus on end-to-end service at all stages of customers’ projects; approximate or delayed delivery times, or incomplete deliveries, are unacceptable. If a hire equipment supplier can be totally relied upon, then there is a basis for a trusted partnership.
If the entire industry is under pressure to become more efficient, productive and profitable, it needs to bring its surrounding ecosystem up to speed alongside it.
The need for near real-time service and reliability, alongside the latest technologies, is here to stay.
Russell Down is chief executive at Speedy Hire