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There's still too much waste in construction

I was asked recently to comment on the findings of some research by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) on time management, writes Richard Cork.

Unfortunately, the findings make very disappointing reading, telling a story of poor control of time generally, ineffective use of available software tools and substantial time delays on a high proportion of projects.

Why have the planning tools we have been using for 20 years not resolved all the issues and given us better control over our projects? The problem is not so much the tools as the way they are used.

Even in my early days as a sitebased planner in 1985 we had network-based and resourceloaded project plans, both at the ‘master programme’ and ‘shortterm planning target’ level.

Yet the CIOB’s report finds little evidence of effective short-term planning on the 2,000 or so projects covered by its research, despite much more powerful tools being available at a fraction of the cost.

Is this very fact the root of the problem – with the universal availability of bar charting tools today there is a tendency to believe you can learn planning on a two day software course, without the five years training that we took for granted a generation ago. There may be some truth in that and the role of the planning engineer has become devalued as a result. Maybe it is this that has lead to the loss of time control on site.

So let’s assume the construction industry wakes up one day and recognises the vital importance of time management. Will that be enough to reverse the apparent trend and put our projects back on track?

Probably not, particularly on the larger and more complex projects identified for special attention in the CIOB report. Time and resource management needs to be brought in line with the management of the project as a whole and not looked on as a side issue.

Joined-up planning

Planning onsite activities is just a small part of the planning process because every line on the master programme bar chart is related to dozens, or even hundreds, of pieces of supply chain information. Construction time management is inextricably linked with the management of the project as a whole and the tools used for time management on a complex project need to be similarly integrated.

Time management must be thought of alongside financial and resource control, contract and subcontract management and procurement.

Modern planning tools have a part to play here, but their power is limited if they are run standalone as point solutions. They really only come into their own when they form part of an integrated management system, covering all facets of project management. Despite the tales of doom and gloom the industry does still have its successes and it is well equipped to have more in years to come. For example, at the same time that Wembley was suffering such massive delays that did so much harm to construction’s reputation, only a few miles away the Emirates Stadium was being delivered on time and budget to wide critical acclaim.

If we want the major projects of the future to be delivered on time and budget then we cannot afford to overlook the importance of time management again.

Richard Cork is business development manager (project centric industries) at IFS and serves on the Members Advisory Board of the UK Construction Industry Computing Association